New Land Rover Discovery gets design evolution, tech revolution

Seven-seat SUV still has mega off-road capability but gains engine efficiency, connectivity and comfort

THE NEW 2021 Land Rover Discovery has just been made available for order and the updated seven-seater SUV, now in its fifth generation, has been given mild cosmetic tweaks but a lot more technology and convenience features, as well as new, more efficient mild-hybrid engines.

Improvements mostly focus on bringing the Disco’s tech up to date with that of the widely lauded new Defender, the more hardcore 4×4 option, which caused something of a sensation when it finally hit roads earlier this year for its on-road manners as well as its slick infotainment system.

2020 Land Rover Defender review

The Defender’s underpinnings and excellent infotainment system now makes its way onto the Discovery, which remains the more family-friendly option as it adds extra comfort and convenience features, as well as a roomier third row of seats.

New Discovery takes the Defender’s “suite of advanced technologies” including the updated Terrain 2 Response system, Advanced Tow Assist and ClearSight Ground View technology, and is still likely to be mightily impressive off road with a 900mm wading depth and the familiar ground clearance and overhangs. It’s capable of towing the maximum 3,500kg and features Land Rover’s advanced towing assist technologies.

It also gains creature comforts such as the new Pivi Pro infotainment system featuring an 11.4in full HD screen, which is 48% bigger than that found in the outgoing Discovery, and brighter, too. JLR has worked hard on making the system faster and as intuitive as possible, connecting it to a back-up battery so that initialisation is quick and making most functions within two touches so the driver doesn’t have to take their eyes off the road (or field, or mountain or ravine) for too long. The navigation system is smart enough to learn your favourite routes, too.

The interaction between car and smartphone has been enhance with customers able to send new destinations to the navigation system through their device and two Bluetooth devices able to connect at once. The car also comes with a WiFi hotspot so that all devices can connect to the Internet during roadtrips, and second row seats get Click & Go tablet integration. All seven seats have their own power supply and can be heated, as well as folded individually via the touchscreen.

The car can receive updates automatically over the air and the touchscreen will run Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, should you prefer.

The engine line-up has been overhauled, with all three diesel variants currently on offer pulled and replaced with two new ones — boasting 296bhp and 246bhp — based around a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder mild hybrid setup that stores energy usually wasted under braking and then redeploys it under acceleration to boost performance and reduce emissions. This, says Land Rover, means that the new diesels are some of the first seven-seaters to meet stringent RDE2 and Euro 6D Final emissions regulations.

The same MHEV setup also aids the range-topping 355bhp six cylinder petrol engine in the P360 model, while a non-hybridised 296bhp four-cylinder petrol engine completes the set.

Land Rover reveals new Defender powertrains for 2021 including PHEV

Aesthetic alterations will probably only be apparent to those intimately familiar with the looks of the current Disco. New LED headlights have got a bit more angular, the front grille adopts a new design while keeping broadly the same dimensions, while the polarising asymmetrical rear design gets a new, full-width darkened tail light graphic.

There are also new wheel designs in everything from 19-22in sizes, and three new colours: Lantau Bronze, Charante Grey and Habuka Silver.

The 2021 Discovery, then, brings with it no real surprises: tech has been brought up to speed with the Defender, powertrains have got cleaner, and aesthetic changes are unremarkable. However, the fifth generation of the vehicle could be the most impressive to drive and practical yet, with some of the best off-road capability of any family SUV. For large families with £53,090 available to them, the Land Rover Discovery remains a steadfast option.