I’ve been a fan of Land Rover’s (LR) Discovery (Disco) family dating back to the Series I, which was introduced in 1989. I still remember seeing these vehicles turn up outside my school through the 90s and was always envious of kids who got into them. Although I knew nothing about those vehicles during my school years, something about the look of them spoke to me – they just seemed so darn cool.
With each subsequent update of the Disco family, my interest in these boxy, ruggedly handsome vehicles remained, so I was quite surprised when LR introduced the third generation Discovery (codenamed L462) in 2017. L462 represented a significant shift in approach and aesthetics for the vehicle family and, for the first time in my life, I wasn’t immediately applauding the new vehicle’s looks.
It’s been five years since the L462 Disco was introduced (and one mid-term update), and I must confess that I still miss the strong, angular design of previous models. That said, when I saw the Truck and Fleet Middle East (T&F ME) Discovery R-Dynamic SE tester parked back-to-back with a 2020 Range Rover in the office parking lot, it was obvious that this design fits perfectly into Land Rover’s overall product design language.
T&F ME’s tester was dressed in ‘Eiger Grey’ and featured attractive looking 21-inch alloy wheels. Our tester was also optioned with black roof rails and a black contrast roof that gave the vehicle a sophisticated overall look. On the rear door, LR has retained the asymmetrically mounted rear license plate as a design cue connecting the new vehicle with older models, and the new Disco also continues the three-row seating set-up, which went from option to standard feature over the years.
Under the skin, the third generation Discovery is far different compared to its predecessors as it’s based on LR’s aluminium architecture, which was first introduced with the L405 Range Rover. The use of an aluminium chassis and body panels has resulted in tangible weight savings of up to 480kg compared to the LR4 (though the new Disco is still a heavy vehicle at roughly 2.2 tons), while LR says the rounder aesthetics have improved the vehicle’s aerodynamics (not a bad thing when you consider today’s petrol prices). This new Disco is also built on a unibody chassis (a first for a Disco) rather than body on frame, which JLR says enhances torsional rigidity with less weight.
On the go, the new Disco is quite a well sorted package. Despite those large alloy wheels and low profile rubber, the vehicle’s on-road manners are impressive; it’s easily far superior to what you’d get from competing SUVs in the same price range (our loaded tester costed AED 351,465 with a five year or 150,000km extended warranty and five year or 65,000km scheduled service & wear and tear plan) or even those that are slightly more expensive.
The air suspension does a brilliant job of keeping the vehicle poised and level in normal driving conditions, and is a master at insulating occupants from all but the absolute worst road irregularities. And being a Land Rover, if you fancy an off-road excursion, the vehicle offers reasonable ground clearance that can be increased significantly by either leaving the vehicle’s incredibly competent Terrain Response 2 system to work out conditions and set the car up, or by manually dialing in your surface preferences via the circular controller handily located south of the gear selector. LR says this vehicle has a wading depth of 900mm. Impressive given this is positioned as a family vehicle.
This Disco is powered by a fairly advanced power-plant, a three litre straight six that is both supercharged and turbocharged. The downside is because of this engine’s design, LR recommends filling the 90L tank with 98 Super petrol (about AED 307 for a full tank at the time of going to press) but the upside is good tractable power (360hp and about 369ft-lb of torque) and, unless you’re being silly with the throttle, decent fuel economy.
At the end of the four day test period, which included a mix of driving conditions (bumper-to-bumper, low speed city driving and high-speed highway), the trip computer showed that I’d averaged about 11.1L/100km, and covered 580.3km with 50km of range still left in the tank. That’s an impressive result when you consider the vehicle’s significant weight, mix of driving conditions, and 44-degree Celsius heat (the AC was on constantly and kept me from being bothered by Dubai’s summer heat despite the vehicle’s significant glass house which includes front and rear panoramic roofs).
The engine has plenty of thrust to motivate the heavy Disco, and it does so without being rough or overly intrusive. Off the line the Disco feels strong and the 0-97km/h dash takes about 6.9 seconds, which is quite impressive given the vehicle’s size and weight. While the straight six is certainly a capable power-plant, this is not a vehicle that’ll prompt you to engage in spirited driving. As good as the air suspension set up is, it can’t take physics out of the equation entirely and the vehicle’s height and weight will make their presence felt in the bends, and on small roundabouts (when making u-turns or left-turns) like the ones we have outside of Dubai Studio City/Dubai Motor City.
Steering feel, like most modern vehicles, doesn’t exist but the rack enables you to place the vehicle with precision and ease. Weighting is spot-on – light enough when you want it to be (when parking or making low-speed turns) and heavier, when you’re driving at speed.
What about that interior?
Climbing into the Discovery R-Dynamic SE is easy thanks to the deployable (optional extra) side steps and trick air suspension that lowers the vehicle when parked. On the inside, the Discovery is what you’d expect of a premium family vehicle – it’s comfortable, spacious (there’s plenty of storage in each of the doors and throughout the cabin), features premium touchpoints, and the technology and features are easy-to-use without having to scramble for a user manual.
Usually, I prefer centre consoles that are crammed with individual buttons and controls so you can interact with the vehicle’s various features without swiping through screens and options, however LR has managed a balance that’s functional and aesthetically pleasing.
There are manual controls for the climate control (our tester was spec’d with the optional four zone system) that let you set temperature, link the front zone together, set recirculation etc, and sitting just above is a high-resolution 11.4-inch touchscreen.
The home screen – by default – is split into three vertical pages that can display useful information (navigation, phone and media for example) that you might want to see at a glance. It also offers focused access to all the vehicle features and functions, a number of which are useful for families with children. I found myself endlessly impressed with being able to manipulate the electric folding rear seats with just a couple of quick stabs of this screen, but, on a more serious note, the ability to lockout rear AC controls and set child security from the front of the vehicle are undoubtedly useful features.
The downside is the screen proved to be a fingerprint magnet and looked a mess after just a few hours. I also have to point out here that the third row seating is only really suitable for young children and, when these seats are deployed, you lose a fair amount of cargo space.
Sitting in front of the driver is a 12-inch TFT that displays the vehicle’s virtual instrument cluster. This display is again quite crisp and does a great job of presenting useful information in an uncluttered fashion. While it’s not as configurable as virtual instrument clusters I’ve seen on other vehicles, I didn’t find myself missing that configurability as the default layout covered all the basis well.
In terms of physical comfort, the Disco is a vehicle you can spend hours and hours in because the seats are supremely comfortable. Both front seats offer 18-way electric adjustment and there’s a memory function for both front seats (four for the driver side). The front seats feature LR’s ‘captains armrests’ which really do make it easy to get ultra-comfortable – it’s a wonder every manufacturer doesn’t include these as standard equipment.
The T&F ME tester was spec’d with an optional centre console cooler that did a brilliant job of keeping drinks cool. I just wished it was a bit bigger because while it could deal with three Pepsi cans comfortably, I couldn’t quite get a 500ml water bottle straight into it (it had to sit tilted and meant I could only get one into it). Considering this is a family vehicle with seven seats, a larger cooler would have been welcome.
Priced at AED 351,465 with over a dozen optional extras (the Discovery R-Dynamic SE P300 starts at AED 272,895), the Land Rover Discovery R-Dynamic SE distinguishes itself from competitors with go-anywhere capabilities, and an upscale cabin that offers oodles of comfort, and useful features for families with young children. While its on-road driving dynamics are solid and what you want from a premium vehicle at this price point, I just wished it was a little more agile for times when you just want to get out and drive.