There’s a single question I simply can’t stop asking myself after spending a week with the 2022 Land Rover Discovery.
What has to go so catastrophically wrong in such a short span of time that this brand consistently ranks at or near the bottom of industry-wide quality and reliability surveys?
Granted, this test was only a week long, and there’s simply no way to simulate every facet of the ownership experience in just seven days. But whatever the reasons are behind Land Rover’s long-standing struggles, none of them materialized during this test. In fact, by all relevant measures this sport utility is a perfectly pleasant – albeit expensive – premium offering.
User Friendliness: 9/10
In fairness, infotainment issues – which, it’s important to point out, can include user comprehension concerns – remain the biggest pain point across the auto industry as whole when it comes to these satisfaction surveys; and in other products across the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) portfolio, a case could easily be made based on complexity alone. But the interface in the Disco is downright simple.
Input response could be a little quicker, but connectivity is second to none, as is feature count. Off-road information like pitch and roll angle or wading depth are among the unique functions found here, while integrated Amazon Alexa assistant and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connections ensure hands-free access to familiar favourites. But best of all, setup is breezy, while those phone projection systems occupy virtually the entire 11.4-inch touchscreen.
The twin temperature dials on the centre stack serve triple duty, with fan speed called up by a gentle pull, and seat climate settings accessed via push. Those are complemented by a smattering of related haptic controls between them bearing obvious labels, plus there’s straightforward switchgear on the steering wheel and centre console. In short, nothing this side of resetting the trip computer is especially complicated. (That’s done via a button on the end of the signal stalk, for those wondering.)
Land Rover’s been all about luxurious utility for decades now, and that’s still very much a part of the makeup of modern models like this one. For starters, maximum towing is capped at an impressive 3,500 kg (7,716 lb), while this R-Dynamic tester and its air suspension offers as much as 283 mm (11.1 in) of ground clearance, should it be required. Of course, that’s paired with all-wheel drive with selectable low-range gearing, plus the brand’s terrain response system that tailors the drivetrain to various conditions.
In spite of those rugged characteristics, the Discovery is easy to enter and exit – aided, again, by the air suspension that automatically lowers to a so-called access height when parked – and offers (mostly) good outward visibility. Adult occupants in the back will undoubtedly obstruct what can be seen through the back glass, as do the headrests themselves when the seats are empty. Unfortunately, the brand’s slick camera-based rearview mirror that shows a live look behind the vehicle isn’t available here.
Otherwise, there’s more storage inside than Marie Kondo’s kitchen, with two gloveboxes, a tiered console bin, and hidden cubbies beneath the cupholders and behind the HVAC controls. Cargo room behind the second-row seats is good, too, with a maximum of 922 L, while this tester’s various powered mechanisms – tailgate, floor extension, and air suspension – make loading or unloading that much easier.
However, with the third-row seats upright, storage space shrinks to the point of negligibility, with just 172 L to work with. It’s fine for a few grocery bags, but it’s not especially useful otherwise. That’s where the Discovery’s fixed roof rails might come in handy, with 80 kg (176 lb) of capacity to take care of any extra cargo that might be required on the trip to the cottage.
That this midsize SUV offers seating for seven shouldn’t be misinterpreted. While the stowable third-row seats are helpful now and then – when the in-laws are visiting, for instance – they aren’t ideal for everyday use. Accommodations in the second row are expansive, though, while the seats themselves are fairly comfortable and feature optional ventilation (second-row heat is standard with the range-topping HSE package, with ventilation adding $300 to the price).
The range-topping trim’s front seats also feature three-stage heat and ventilation, plus 20-way power adjustability. While the bolstering is a little narrow, the driver’s seat withstood a 280-km round-trip evaluation drive with no complaints – as one should with an SUV that starts at nearly $90,000. Likewise, the overall build quality was up to par with the price, without so much as a creak emanating from the cabin, while outside interference was equally a non-issue.
For what might seem on the surface like little more than a boring black cabin, a tasteful mix of materials makes the Disco look and feel fantastic. Perforated leather upholstery with contrast piping and stitching, neoprene surfaces on the dash and doors, and just enough aluminum to set the entire look off in a way that’s equal parts modish and classic all makes it a pleasant place to spend time.
Optional black accents outside, including the roof ($900), roof rails ($450), and wheels ($350), as well as the badging and wheel arches, add just enough menace to the otherwise understated styling of the Discovery. It’s certainly distinguishable as a Land Rover product, but it does little to stand out next to the overtly rugged Defender – especially not with a grey paint finish like this.
Wireless phone connections, subscription-based data, heated front seats and steering wheel, leather upholstery – it’s all standard, right from the base trim. So, too, is all-wheel drive, as well as adaptive dampers. From there, it’s all about budget, with virtually no limit to the way the Discovery can be decked out. Want four-zone climate control or a cooler in the console? No problem. What about massaging front seats, heated third-row seats, or a locking rear differential for off-pavement adventures? The options are seemingly endless.
Graciously, most advanced safety features are standard. Rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, an exit alert that can warn of traffic approaching from behind, surround-view cameras, and lane-keep assist are all included across the lineup. While adaptive cruise control is included with the HSE package, it’s a $1,550 option elsewhere in the lineup. It’s also not the smoothest system on the market, constantly alternating between throttle and brake inputs when following a preceding vehicle rather than smoothly matching its speed.
Also optional regardless of trim is what powers the 2022 Discovery, with the choice of turbocharged four- and six-cylinder gas engines. This tester, which is technically called the P360 R-Dynamic HSE, relied on the latter – a 3.0L straight-six that serves up sultry smoothness across the rev range. Officially, it makes 355 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, both of which are competitive with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class and its available straight-six or the similarly powered BMW X5 xDrive40i. Like the engines in those Germans, this 3.0L employs a 48-volt mild hybrid system that uses electrical energy to power accessories, reducing the load on the gas motor.
Driving Feel: 9/10
Paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission that’s usually all but unflappable, some inconsistencies presented themselves during this test, hesitating occasionally in low gears when accelerating before settling down. While the issue was a little more obvious with the ignition stop-start system that shuts the engine off when idling (stoplights, etc.), it wasn’t bothersome enough to be much more than a footnote.
More importantly, the rest of the Discovery’s drive is superbly premium and poised. Again, the air suspension is incredibly likable, absorbing uneven surfaces with ease despite this tester’s massive 22-inch wheels and the low-profile tires they’re wrapped in. What’s more, working in conjunction with the adaptive dampers, there’s barely a hint of body roll to contend with – impressive given the upright stature of this sport utility.
The steering rack is tremendously responsive, too, with a directness that’s dialled in with excellent resistance for an SUV like this. It’s neither too truck-like nor too sporty, instead feeling like a nice balance between the two that doesn’t require too much effort but also doesn’t betray the Discovery’s size. There’s also standard torque vectoring that improves turn-in response by imperceptibly braking the inside wheels, helpful when hustling around a vehicle that weighs upwards of 2,300 kg (5,071 lb).
Fuel Economy: 6/10
Disappointments were few and far between during this test, with only fuel consumption leaving something to be desired. And to be fair, the full-time nature of the all-wheel drive system requires adjusted expectations; but don’t expect this midsize machine to be especially miserly.
Officially, this version is rated to return 12.8 L/100 km in the city, 9.8 on the highway, and 11.4 combined. That makes the 10.4 L/100 km I averaged during my highway-heavy 280-km evaluation drive seem reasonable, as does the 10.5 over the course of about 650 km racked up over the course of testing. Again, most of those were accumulated on the highway. It needs premium-grade gas, too.
What makes it most disappointing is the lack of hybrid or electric powertrain options, although the brand is promising plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and battery-electric options are on the horizon. Whether the Discovery is part of those plans remains to be seen, however.
There’s also the question of value, perceived or otherwise, that comes with this range-topping tester in particular. Starting at $89,050 before tax – that includes a non-negotiable freight charge of $1,950 – the Discovery P360 R-Dynamic HSE is expensive, although similarly equipped rivals can easily cost more. Take the Mercedes GLE 450; with stuff like air suspension and third-row seats, plus other options, the price can easily eclipse $100,000 before tax. The same goes for the X5 xDrive40i from BMW.
That takes at least some of the sting out of the $93,750 this tester is stickered at, though it’s still not enough to declare this SUV especially affordable. Even so, those seeking rugged luxury should also check out the Mercedes E 450 All-Terrain wagon, which is equally as impressive but perhaps a little more unique, or the similar A6 Allroad from Audi.
Far be it for me or anyone else to dismiss the warning signs thrown up by the likes of J.D. Power’s popular quality and dependability studies, which have long been Land Rover’s kryptonite. But then there’s no guarantee that experiences documented by either are universal.
In the case of the 2022 Land Rover Discovery, first impressions were absolutely fantastic, and I wouldn’t hesitate to reach for the keys for at least another week. Particularly in range-topping guise, it has all it needs to compete in a segment it helped create more than three decades ago. Whether that will translate into a hassle-free ownership experience is another matter altogether, but there’s certainly reward that comes with the risk.
|Engine Cylinders||Turbo I6|
|Peak Horsepower||355 hp @ 5,500–6,500 rpm|
|Peak Torque||369 lb-ft @ 1,750–5,000 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||12.8 / 9.8 / 11.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||172 / 922 / 1,997 L behind 3rd/2nd/1st row|
|Model Tested||2022 Land Rover Discovery P360 R-Dynamic HSE|
|Price as Tested||$93,850|
$4,700 – Eiger Grey Paint, $950; Four-Zone Climate Control, $900; Black Contrast Roof, $900; Black Roof Rails, $450; Heated Windshield, $450; Wireless Charging w/Signal Booster, $400; Black Painted Wheels, $350; Heated and Ventilated Second-Row Seats, $300