Halfway up a wall of rock that our shiny orange 2017 Land Rover Discovery was expected to climb—using what's basically off-road cruise control, no less—rested a decked-out long-wheelbase Defender 110. Even without its meaty off-road rubber and a winch, this Defender, a member of Land Rover's corporate fleet, was a drool-worthy reminder of this brand's unparalleled four-by-four heritage. In the southern Utah desert landscape, the chunky utility vehicle that has only incrementally changed since the 1940s looked at home.
When I remarked to the Land Rover-provided guide, dressed in more company swag than the accessory department at a dealership, that perhaps the Defender would be better matched to this task than a sleek new Discovery, he lowered his sunglasses and said with a straight face that we were in the more capable vehicle.
This latest Disco replaces the boxy LR4 and represents a return to the Discovery nameplate for the American market, but its anonymous crossover looks don’t suggest at first glance that it will carry on the model’s off-road legacy. As it turns out, appearances are deceiving. With a high-tech traction control system cribbed from the Range Rover line, locking center and rear differentials, and height-adjustable air suspension, it remains a formidable off-roader. Yet for the first time ever, the Disco is plush and genuinely refined—not to mention a formidable family-hauler with three rows of seats.
2017 Land Rover DiscoveryEnlarge Photo
For once, Land Rover’s offering against the Volvo XC90, Audi Q7, and BMW X5 excels as a family-hauler. A third row of seats remains optional, folding away at the tug of a lever or, optionally, the press of a button to reveal a flat surface when not needed. A fold-and-slide second row provides class-average access to the rearmost seats, but once back there, even adults will find acceptable room for shorter jaunts. The second row offers much the same, even if it doesn’t deliver the quite commanding stadium seating-style view of previous Discoverys.
Up front is where the action remains, of course, and drivers are afforded a fantastic view outwards and materials fitting with the SUV’s $50,000 to $70,000 price range. No shortage of tech is on offer; pay more and you’ll get a 10-inch infotainment and navigation system that truly operates like a tablet, a choice of 380- and 825-watt Meridian audio, and even a bracelet that “active” drivers can use on a hike or jog that lets them access the vehicle so they don’t have to carry a bulky key fob.
SE models sit at the bottom of the lineup at $50,985 (including $995 worth of destination). They’re hardly basic, but the lineup climbs from there before topping out around $75,000 for the limited-run First Edition. Most buyers will find an HSE with a few nice options like a surround-view camera system, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, heated seats, the air suspension, and a suite of off-road traction aids for around $64,000. At that price, it's almost indistinguishable inside from a Range Rover Sport.