Road test: the 2021 Land Rover Discovery is the Range Rover for families at play

With more comfort, tech and showroom appeal than ever, are we still sure this is Land Rover?

The specs

Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder MHEV

Power: 360bhp

Torque: 500Nm

Transmission: eight-speed automatic

Price: from Dh282,870

On sale: now

The latest evolution of the Land Rover Discovery has served only to add to the confusion first instigated by the arrival of the current-generation car in 2017, upon which two questions immediately arose: was it still a Land Rover, and is that rear number plate not quite in the middle? To which the answers were: yes and yes.

To elaborate, it was indeed a Land Rover, the core attribute of which is the ability to leave the blacktop and wander at will over all terrain. While it was the first in the LR3 / LR4 / Disco lineage to not be constructed in the crude and conventional body-on-frame 4x4 fashion, it shared its platform with the more upmarket and elegant Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, and could easily match their astonishing off-road prowess and then some.

As for the offset rear number plate, observers clearly forgot that its predecessors did the same, as something of a remnant from when a spare wheel would perch on the posterior of the original 1990s car, pushing the registration number to the side.

Yet there was something else; that muddling of DNA with its more well-to-do siblings meant it had abandoned its simpler but rugged squared-off design for a sleeker, fluid form that more closely resembled, well … a Range Rover.

Design cues

By contrast, both the classic and brand-new Defender models proffer design language that define the military-grade persona of the Land Rover brand. Did the manufacturer then utilise this update to align the Discovery with the new Defender’s styling cues? Quite the opposite, actually.

Disco not only retains its Rangey-like silhouette, but has also adopted a sophisticated new front grille, LED headlights, slinky DRLs, sportier-looking bumpers (in R-Dynamic guise), and alloy wheel options ranging up to a massive 22 inches. As for the rear number plate, it sits stubbornly askew, but stylists have tried to confuse you by giving it broader blacked-out surrounds.

Inside, the upgrades are more apparent, significant and, you guessed it, Range Rover-like. There's a new steering wheel with a smaller centre hub, matte-surface spokes and better thought-out touch buttons.

Talking of which, the transmission is now operated by a stubby lever rather than a knob and sits in a much sparser centre console. This feeds up into a cleaner, less interrupted fascia that not only retains the “secret” compartment, but now sports a huge 11.4-inch touchscreen.

This boasts Jaguar Land Rover’s latest Pivi Pro infotainment system from where you can also access the car’s 4WD systems and surround-view cameras.

These are particularly helpful for off-roading, as displays reveal what the drivetrain is doing in terms of which wheels are working and what diffs it is locking and unlocking, as well as provide close-up views to the sides and directly out in front. Thus, you get an earlier warning of the oblivion that lurks over that ridge, rather than careering into it.

Capable, on and off road

The off-road ability is set to 11; so, whatever you think it can do, it can probably go one better. However, while it matches the Defender with a 900-millimetre wading depth, its ground clearance, approach, departure and breakover angles are less.

On the road, this is a cruiser. It has no sporty pretensions and hence no sport mode as such. But that’s not to say it’s a slouch. Even the P300’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder 300bhp engine will accelerate from rest to 100 kilometres per hour in 7.3 seconds.

The P360 MHEV (mild hybrid) features a 360bhp 3.0-litre straight-six engine that employs a 48-volt electric supercharger system to aid with smoother stop-starts and better acceleration, giving it a 0-100 time of just 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 209kph.

Reassuring grip ensures competent handling, which you might only be discouraged from exploiting due to a light helm and floaty ride. But this is not a sports car; it’s a family hauler and can accommodate seven adults with improved rear seating, four-zone climate control and charging points for everyone.

And now we get to the crux of it. This is a Land Rover for families who don't spend their lives overlanding, but partake in the occasional desert safari; that won't mind dirt, dust and occasional dings on their pride and joy; who like niceties and fine leather upholstery, but shy from a Range's ostentatiousness (and price – even the equivalent Velar would be Dh80,000 more).

Suddenly the Disco ends the confusion: it’s a Range Rover at Land Rover money – ergo, a no-brainer.

The specs

Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder MHEV

Power: 360bhp

Torque: 500Nm

Transmission: eight-speed automatic

Price: from Dh282,870

On sale: now

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