The Discovery’s smooth exterior styling and posh cabin are a good match for its polished powertrain. Two new turbocharged engines are available for 2021: a 296-horsepower four-cylinder (the P300) and a 355-hp six-cylinder; the diesel has been canceled.
I tested the six-cylinder, which roars to life with a throaty, mean exhaust note, but it doesn’t provide quite as much gusto as it sounds. After a brief lag, acceleration is strong from a stop and adequate on the highway.
The eight-speed automatic transmission quickly and smoothly delivers more power when called upon, but it becomes less adept and more awkward on deceleration, where shifts lag and feel clunkier.
On the road, the Discovery has a solid, stout presence, but handling occasionally feels clumsy — like in corners where there’s a lot of body lean. It’s not agile by any means, and you’ll never forget that you’re driving a tall, heavy vehicle, but it’s comfortable overall. Composure is good over bumps, likely thanks in part to the standard air suspension.
Where it shines — I’d imagine — is off-road. I tested it only on pavement, but the Discovery’s long list of off-road goodies is impressive. Aside from standard all-wheel drive, there’s also the Terrain Response 2 system with adventure-ready modes such as Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl. There’s also a new Wade mode for crossing rivers that uses the Discovery’s 35.4-inch wading depth capability. A locking rear differential is also available, and a two-speed transfer case is standard on six-cylinder models but isn’t offered with the four-cylinder engine.
While the Discovery bests competitors in terms of off-road ability, it lags others in eco-friendliness, with a mediocre EPA rating of 18/24/21 city/highway/combined mpg with the six-cylinder engine. That’s similar to the V6 MDX AWD’s 19/26/22 mpg rating.
The Discovery’s six-cylinder engine is classified as a mild hybrid by the EPA — a 48-volt battery pack augments the engine’s power — but Land Rover doesn’t offer any full alternative-fuel versions of the Discovery. Volvo, meanwhile, has a plug-in Recharge version of the XC90, which is good for 18 miles of electric-only range and 27 mpg combined after the battery is drained. Acura could also do better: The brand canceled the hybrid version of the MDX for the 2022 model year, and there’s no word yet on its return.
Safety and Price
The 2021 Land Rover Discovery starts around $55,000 for a base four-cylinder P300 S. My P360 S R-Dynamic six-cylinder version had extras that bumped it to around $73,000. Its base price is similar to the Audi Q7’s but a few thousand dollars higher than the MDX and XC90.
The Land Rover’s base price includes standard safety and driver assistance features such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, a 360-degree camera system, lane keep assist and blind spot warning. Adaptive cruise control is an additional $1,325.
Meanwhile, the MDX offers more standard safety features, such as a Traffic Jam Assist system that enables lane-centering steering down to a stop, as well as traffic sign recognition and a driver attention monitor.
With solid road manners, an inviting cabin and loads of capabilities on roads less traveled, the Discovery does some things well. However, drivers looking for a less fussy control setup and a better balance of people space and cargo room should look elsewhere. The Discovery could leave you holding the bag (probably on your lap).