(The other) 2017 Land Rover Discovery

The softer side of Land Rover conceals a highly capable off-road trailblazer.

By MALCOLM GUNN
www.wheelbasemedia.com

If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, then the Land Rover Discovery Sport that arrived for the 2015 model year should be really flattered.

From any vantage point, the similarities between new 2017 Discovery and the Discovery Sport are startling. Both share the same curvy sheetmetal and forward-slanting rear roof pillar. The Discovery replaces the mid-pack LR4.

So, what’s the difference between the Sport and the new model?

The tape measure reveals that the Discovery is more than 14 inches longer and has seven more inches between the front and rear wheels. That’s enough space for an available third-row seat so that “Disco” owners can transport two more passengers than the five-passenger Sport.

Those seven souls are guaranteed first-class accommodations, including what Land Rover calls “stadium-style” seating that gives everyone aboard an elevated view of the landscape. Additional second-row flexibility allows the three-section bench to be split into two separate bucket seats with the mid-position folded, or configured as a two-person bench with the outer section folded. In fact, both the second- and third-rows can be folded flat, creating an exceptionally spacious cargo area.

An option allows you to power fold/unfold the rear seats to the desired configuration from the dashboard’s touch-screen. It can also be done remotely by using the available smartphone app. Another Discovery trick is an optional drop-down inner tailgate that’s useful as a table or bench.

The Discovery’s mostly aluminum unitized (frameless) structure replaces the LR4’s body-on-frame construction. This means a weight reduction of about 1,000 pounds (to about 4,700 pounds), despite being slightly larger overall.

Carrying over from the LR4 is a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 that puts out 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. Optional is a 3.0-liter V-6 turbo-diesel rated at 254 horsepower, but more importantly, 443 pound-feet of torque. Both engines are mated to eight-speed automatic transmissions.

Despite the weight loss, the supercharged V-6 is rated at 16 mpg in the city and 21 on the highway, which is only marginally better than the 2016 LR4’s 15/19 rating. Opting for the turbo-diesel increases those numbers to 21/26, but, according to Land Rover, that model is nearly a second slower to 60 mph than the gas V-6 (6.9 seconds versus 7.7).

Being Land Rover, four-wheel-drive is standard. Base SE and HSE Discovery trims split the torque 42 percent to the front and 58 percent to the rear in normal driving conditions, but the bias will change if tire slip is detected.

Standard for the HSE Luxury (optional on SE and HSE) is two-speed transfer case with a low range and center-locking differential for tackling steep grades.

The HSE Luxury also comes with an electronic air-suspension that automatically adjusts the Discovery depending on the load and terrain conditions and lowers the ride height by 1.6 inches when parked.

Base Discovery SE pricing starts at $51,000 including destination charges. That gets you a reasonably equipped wagon (leather seats, fixed panorama roof, dual-zone climate control, etc.), but for serious comfort and safety content, the HSE and HSE Luxury allow you to travel in regal style. Or you can save time and trouble, cough up 75 large for the Discovery First Edition and receive virtually every extravagance in Land Rover’s extensive accessories catalog.

Whatever your choice, you’ll be acquiring one of the most competent, comfortable and stylish (thanks to the Discovery Sport) utility vehicles on the market, with a pedigree to match.

What you should know: 2017 Land Rover Discovery

Type: Four-door, four-wheel-drive utility vehicle

Engines (h.p.): 3.0-liter DOHC V-6, supercharged (340); 3.0-liter DOHC V-6, turbo-diesel (254)

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Market position: There aren’t many vehicles that can match the Land Rover Discovery for on-road desirability and off-road prowess. In fact, few owners will ever test the latter, preferring to pose rather than venture into the Great Outdoors.

Points: Hot styling mimics the Discovery Sport, which really isn’t a bad thing. • Rich-looking interior is virtually limo-like. • Optional third row will comfortably fit two adults. • LR4 carryover supercharged V-6 is no fuel-sipper, despite having less weight to move around. • An 8,200-pound maximum towing capacity is a significant advantage over the competition.

Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic alert (opt.); active cruise control (opt.); emergency braking (opt.)

MPG (city/hwy) 16/21 (gas V-6)

Base price (incl. destination) $51,000

By Comparsion

Infiniti QX60 3.5 AWD
Base price: $45,900
A reasonably priced seven-passenger alternative, but not as off-road-y.

BMW X5 xDrive35i
Base price: $58,800
If 300 turbocharged horses isn’t enough, the $100,000 X5 M has 567 of them.

Lexus GX 460 AWD
Base price: $52,300
Beefy, body-on-frame luxury utility that uses a 301-horsepower V-8.