First Drive: Land Rover Discovery

There are few vehicles that have a presence like a Land Rover, their rich history, rugged good looks, and luxurious appointments have made them an automotive icon. I have always loved Land Rovers, so if you are looking for an unbiased review, sorry this isn't going to be one. Land Rover has always been a cornerstone of the sophisticated country lifestyle, both stately and rugged, at home in the backcountry or downtown, and they generally age well. 

The Discovery means a lot to me because it is the Land Rover that was most common when I was growing up, introduced in the late 80s, the Discovery would find its way to North America in 1994, I was in 8th grade at the time. Growing up in a more rural farming community, most moms drove minivans, but the cool moms had a Discovery, plus it was the closest thing we could get to the Land Rover Defender in the US which was in nearly every action or adventure movie in the 90s. 

As I started to travel around the world, one thing that I found nearly everywhere, from the streets of Tokyo to the remote jungles of Nicaragua, was a Land Rover. It is a brand that is universally revered, both for its utility and timeless style. As much as I have always loved the Land Rover brand, as many as I have driven, and having even ridden along with the Land Rover BAR Academy Racing Team's sailboat, I have yet to own one. So, when I had the chance to test the latest Discovery, I was excited to see if it would live up to my lifelong daydreams about the Land Rover lifestyle.

To find out I picked up my girlfriend and we headed to the only place I thought would do a Land Rover justice, the Aggieland Safari park. Soon we would see how the Discovery faired in its natural habitat, the jungle park. The drive out was uneventful, smooth, comfortable, and everything you would expect from a luxury SUV priced right around $80,000. The price didn't seem to faze my girlfriend once she found it that the seats were not just heated and ventilated but also included what might be the best massage function of any car I have yet to test.

We had pre-arranged our visit to the park and had permission to exit the vehicle to take photos along the way, however, they don't recommend that you get out of your vehicle. The tour took about 45 minutes and the Discovery ate up the dirt roads just as you would expect it to, we even got into a little bit of a creek and without even a bit of a struggle, it drove as if it was on dry pavement.

Inside the Discovery is as luxurious and comfortable as you would expect a Land Rover to be, with both power-folding 2nd and 3rd rows, loading up larger items is as simple as pushing a button. If you are going to be using that 3rd row, just know you won't have much cargo space, so if you were planning a family vacation for seven, you better plan on picking up a roof box.

While the cargo area is cramped with the 3rd row up, the legroom is surprisingly good making it possible to take seven average-sized adults if needed. The fit and finish of the interior is impressive, with the piano black finish on the center stack and console, rich leather throughout, and aluminum accents. Slip behind the wheel, push the start button and watch as the shift select rises like magic from the center console. The large infotainment screen also provides a split-screen function that allows the driver to control a number of functions without having to minimize the media screen.

This model was the HSE Td6, the 3.0-liter V6 turbocharged diesel produces 254-hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. Meaning while it might not be the fastest off the line, the Discovery can tow over 7,700 lbs, and delivered 27 mpg highway. Our average over the week was an astonishing 25 mpg. Impressive figures for a seven-passenger SUV.  Most of the competition doesn't offer a diesel option and return gas mileage figures in the 12-18 mpg range, which is what you expect from a larger SUV.

I suppose my main takeaway is that Land Rover has done what they have always done, they built a real solid SUV that knows what it is supposed to be. It's not a trying to be everything to everyone, a sports car, a minivan, pickup truck, it is a Land Rover. Stylish, comfortable, roomy, that inspires confidence behind the wheel. The T6D diesel is quiet and smooth providing plenty of power for a vehicle of its size, it drives like a refined SUV should.

The Land Rover Discovery did live up to its reputation, in fact out of all the SUVs I have driven this year, this one is at the top of my list for SUV of the year. For me, Land Rover is about a certain lifestyle, the country gentleman, something I have someone adopted since moving to a small town in Central Texas. From the streets of Austin to the dirt roads of Aggieland, the Discovery is the one vehicle that can do both, and it does it very well.    

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