The collective automotive world winced when Land Rover announced its new seven-seat Discovery 4×4 would not only look poles apart from the boxy Discovery 4, but would also be offered with four-pot diesel power.
As much as we got excited by the prospect of a Discovery for the 21st century when this car was announced, the fact that the lower end of the powertrain scale would be populated by four-cylinder diesels instead of a smooth V6 made alarm bells ring.
Land Rover then assured the world that, due to the Disco’s new aluminium construction, it’s 480kg lighter than the cast iron girders and granite used to make the old 4, so four cylinders would be more than enough.
Can it get out of its own way? We hopped behind the wheel in the UK to find out. The car we tested here was a Discovery sD4 HSE Luxury, priced at a frankly ludicrous £74,355.
Yes, you did read that right. This particular Discovery sD4 is a top-spec HSE Luxury, priced at £62,695, with a whopping £11,660-worth of options on it. That is quite a bitter pill to swallow for a Land Rover with only four cylinders pumping away underneath the long bonnet.
In context, it’s also almost as expensive as a Porsche Cayenne GTS or a basic Range Rover. For the same money, you could even get an all-new Audi SQ5 and a Ford Fiesta ST as a two car garage.
But you’re in the lap of luxury at that price, right?
Oh, absolutely. The seats are big and soft – if lacking a little lateral support – and the whole cabin is a great place to be. The materials used are both robust and suitably luxurious, but they should be if you’re paying almost-Range-Rover money for them.
HSE Luxury trim includes kit like rear seat entertainment screens, Meridian sound system, powered third row seating and a 360-degree camera system as standard. Go mad with the options list (like this test car) and you can treat yourself further to luxuries like massage seats, a TV and a head-up display.
So, that sD4 engine…
Yes, let’s talk about the not-as-big-as-it-could-be elephant in the room. This is Jaguar Land Rover’s twin-turbo 2.0-ltire 4-cyl Ingenium diesel unit, which produces 237bhp and 369lb ft of torque. It’s seen use elsewhere in JLR’s range, including the Jaguar XF and Range Rover Sport.
Those power figures are down on the SDV6 used in the Disco 4 but, thanks to the trimmer kerbweight, it’s actually quicker on paper: 8.8 seconds to 60mph for the V6 4, compared with 8.3 seconds for the car we tested here.
From a standing start, the sD4 pulls away with a bit of strained fuss. Despite being faster on paper, the engine feels a little stressed under hard acceleration and doesn’t feel any quicker in real terms than the old Discovery 4’s V6. There’s a slightly gravelly engine note which diminishes the ambience a bit, too.
Let’s not forget, though, that your average Disco driver isn’t going to be doing launch starts as if they’re on a drag strip. The engine quietens down considerably at a cruise and is still capable of towing a 3500kg braked trailer.
Behind the wheel of the Discovery sD4
Other than the engine, it’s pretty much exactly like the rest of the Land Rover Discovery range; the steering has some great weight to it and the eight-speed ZF automatic (your only gearbox choice) swaps cogs smoothly. There’s a manual mode with steering wheel-mounted paddles, if you want a bit of say on which gear is used.
The standard air suspension had to fight with the huge 21-inch alloys on our OE66 XSP test car. For the most part, it’s as soft and pliant as the old Disco 4 but those dustbin lid-sized rims like to send a few unwelcome jolts into the cabin.
Throw it around a corner at some pace and considerably body roll can leave you holding on to the steering wheel for dear life as you slide around in your leather armchair.
Drive it like a normal human being who’s not in a hurry, however, and it’s still a plush car to be behind the wheel of – even if the ride has a sharper edge to it than its forebear.
That said, the air suspension will easily cater for those keen to wander off road and into Bear Grylls territory. The 283mm ground clearance, 500mm of wheel articulation and 900mm wading depth means the Disco Five is still a proper Land Rover.
The big Disco will still win the hearts and minds of many middle-class families for a long list of reasons. It’s hugely capable, almost as comfortable as the old one, requires little effort from whoever’s behind the wheel and feels as much at home at a country park as Kensington High Street.
The sD4 engine feels a little strained and coarse at times, but it’ll still pull the skin from a rice pudding, and a 3500kg trailer. Surely few Land Rover Discovery buyers will care that their seven-seat luxury SUV feels a bit slow; that’s not the point, is it?
Engine: 1999cc twin-turbo 4-cyl diesel, 237bhp, 369lb ft
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Performance: 8.3sec 0-62mph, 121mph, 43.5mpg, 189g/km
Weight: 2230kg/aluminium and steel