The Land Rover Discovery 5 Is Deceivingly Good Off-Road
Like the original Discovery, it's a solid middle ground between the Defender and the Range Rover.
The new Land Rover Range Rover and Defender might hog most of the attention aimed at the brand, but the company’s lineup includes six other models for various corners of the crossover and SUV market. Possibly the most overlooked model is the latest-gen Discovery, otherwise known to LR nerds as the Discovery 5.
The latest Discovery has been around since 2017, after Land Rover called its two predecessors the LR3 and LR4 in the U.S. market for some odd reason. It’s also the first unibody Disco, and it shares parts with both the Range Rover and Defender.
This got me thinking about the company’s history. For the U.S. market, does the 2022 Land Rover Discovery R-Dynamic S fit into LR’s current lineup like my previously owned Discovery 1 did back in the early ’90s? Is it still a better-insulated Defender, with near-Range Rover niceties on the inside, and the same amount of capability? It is and it can ironically even be had in a similar color as my old Disco.
Where the Discovery Sits in the Rover Pecking Order
When you start comparing the latest Disco to the latest Defender, there are some interesting similarities. They’re both based on Land Rover’s D7 platform, with the Disco called the D7u and Defender denoted as the D7x. The Range Rover is also a D7u car. Each can be had with Jaguar Land Rover’s turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 with mild hybrid assist. The engine, classified as the P360 powertrain in the Disco, is a torque monster with 355 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. It’ll help the big lug reach 60 mph from a stop in 6.2 seconds, which ain’t bad at all for a 4,035-pound SUV.
In my opinion, the Discovery looks a tad narrower than the Defender, thanks to the Defender’s boxier shape and pronounced wheel arches, but the Disco is actually a tad bigger overall. The Disco’s total width with the mirrors out (that’s how it rolls down the trail) is 87.4 inches, whereas the Defender measures in at 82.9 inches. The Defender’s overall length is only a hair longer with its spare wheel attached, too, at 197.6 inches compared to the Disco’s 195.1.
However, the Disco has a shorter wheelbase than the Defender 110 at 115 inches compared to the 110’s 118.9. The Defender 90’s is a far shorter 101.9 inches, but that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison because it’s the two-door variant.
Inside the Discovery, there are similar accents and materials as those in the Defender, including a massive and deep center storage abyss under the arm rest. They share the same infotainment system, however some switchgear is different, like the joystick you operate to switch between park, reverse, and drive. The Discovery, as tested, features a little more plushness, though, including more soft-touch leather surfaces and an overall upmarket feel. This includes a wonderfully comfortable door arm rest to plop one’s left elbow on, and it features Range Rover-like window switches.
As it was back when my old Discovery 1 was new, the Discovery 5 is based on the same platform as the Rangie and Defender, features similar measurements as its sibling the Defender, can be optioned with the same powerplant, and is better-appointed inside than the Defender. Though, it’s not as nice as the Range Rover.
But what about capability? I’m here to happily report that experience is similar as well.
Deceivingly Good Off-Road
I say deceivingly because it seems like the current Discovery is even less likely to see trails than the new Defender. Still, it comes equipped with air suspension and Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 suite of off-road traction control and driving aids. Even the base trim, which comes in at $56,500 before destination fees, has these as standard. It reminded me of how the base SD-trim Discovery 1 had a center-locking differential and high and low gear sets as standard. The trim that I tested was the R-Dynamic S, which added the P360 powertrain but retained pedestrian Pirelli all-season tires.
While ripping along on trails at my home away from home, Hungry Valley OHV Park, the Discovery felt just as unstoppable as the Defender 110 or 90. Terrain Response 2 had to work a tad harder on account of not having proper all-terrain tires, but otherwise it took everything I could throw at it like a champ. The Disco sliced through deep sand and gravel trails like it was tarmac, climbed and descended some gnarly hills with ease, and rode so comfortably over washboard and whoops-filled sections. Only after some ham-fisted inputs with the steering wheel did it lose traction and/or understeer at speed on gravel roads, and underbody clearance was never an issue. The only time it made light contact with the ground was when I forgot to air-up before embarking on the first technical trail of the day.
Switching between Terrain Response 2 modes, airing the suspension up and down, engaging Hill Descent Control, and swapping to the low gear set were all idiot-proof to configure, and again, the thing didn’t bat an eye at the variety of trails that were on the docket. Like it was in every other modern Land Rover I’ve wheeled at Hungry Valley, Hill Descent Control was a very comfortable and stress-free experience heading down my favorite gnarly descents.
I saved the extra-gnarly stuff for another day due to not having all-terrains mounted up. Even though I had a feeling it’d do just fine, I was still pleasantly surprised at how well the Discovery would shake out on mild-looking all-season tires. After all, an aired-up Discovery boasts 34-degree approach, 27.5-degree breakover, and 30-degree departure angles. These aren’t as capable as the Defender’s 38, 28, and 40 degrees, respectively, but they’re still quite good.
Inside, the Disco was a quiet, cozy place to be. There were a few minor squeaks and rattles, but otherwise it mimicked my experience in the Range Rover, which was hilariously cozy while trampling across trails. While I didn’t get a chance to rip past passers by and judge their reactions like I could in the Range Rover, I like to think I would’ve received almost-as-puzzled looks. Who actually wheels these things as new in 2022?
Befitting of Its Heritage
It’s wild how much the dark blue 2022 Land Rover Discovery R-Dynamic S resembled my old dark blue 1997 Land Rover Discovery. Like I mentioned in my final Disco 1 project blog, perhaps this was the Car Gods smiting me for selling it. It would’ve been so cool to bring both of them to Hungry Valley OHV to photograph and film together.
They both fit in the same slot in the Land Rover lineup and both share the same platform as their Range Rover and Defender siblings. They even come equipped with the same suspension and engines, albeit those vary depending on trim levels. Like the old Disco, the current Disco is underrated to the Defender, too.
They’re also both incredibly capable in stock form. While I only knew the feel of my old Disco with good all-seasons mounted up, publications had positive things to say back in the day with less-serious tires factored in. For those in the know, none of this is surprising. But because of how much Land Rover is built up in people’s minds as European luxury first, it seems like people forget about, or just don’t know, how they tango off-road. They did back then and still do now, which is quite cool and commendable.
More people should wheel these things in the dirt. Some do, but not enough. Heck, this generation has been around since 2017, so the used market is decently stacked with options. It’s possible to find a real peach with some mileage that fits the bill quite nicely and acts as a comfortable on-road daily to boot.
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