It's midlife facelift time for the Land Rover Discovery 5 and not only does it get new looks and an improved interior, but there's also a suite of inline six-cylinder engines, all of which come with mild-hybrid technology.
In the metal
Subtle touches are the order of the day when it comes to updating the Land Rover Discovery 5 four years after it launched, which is not a bad thing unless you've got mild OCD and that offset rear number plate continues to make you feel a bit queasy. We're not bothered by it, so otherwise it's as you were in the main, with the principal changes being: LED headlights with a new signature for the daytime running lamps and also Matrix 'selective dipping' functionality; a fresh front radiator grille design; chunkier bumpers fore and aft on R-Dynamic derivatives; new LED taillights; and a full-width, darkened graphic for the number plate surround on the rear hatch. As usual with midlife facelifts, different designs of 19- to 22-inch alloys are added to the roster for the 2021 Discovery models, while three additional body colours are Lantau Bronze, Charante Grey and Hakuba Silver.
Inside, the glorious 11.4-inch Pivi Pro infotainment system is the centrepiece, joining the Discovery's ranks just as it filters into many other Jaguar Land Rover products like the Jaguar F-Pace at the same time. We said it in our review of the F-Pace, and we'll say it again now for the Discovery: it's a huge improvement on what went before, with 90 per cent of the main functions available with two taps of the screen so that the ergonomics are helpful, not a hindrance. A subtle tidying of the centre console and the climate control switchgear to accommodate the curved-glass screen is also drafted in, while second-row seat comfort is claimed to be improved by Land Rover. Incidentally, the Discovery remains the group's only full-sized seven-seat SUV... for now. Both the Discovery Sport and the mighty Defender 110 can have seven pews within, as can some models under the Range Rover banner, but they're all classed more as '5+2s' as the extra seats are quite small. Inside and out, the revised Land Rover looks and feels like a quality item, sure to delight the very customers it is so clearly targeted at.
Under the bonnet are new mild hybrid drivetrains, based on inline-six configurations. This means the old V6 supercharged petrol and turbodiesel lumps have gone, for a more refined powerplant specification. There's a petrol-powered P360 model, too, with 360hp and 500hp, courtesy of a twin-scroll turbocharger and a 48-volt electric supercharger, and it actually undercuts the D300 tested here, in terms of pricing.
That D300 engine develops 300hp and 650Nm, these numbers making it broadly comparable to the outgoing SD6, which is muscular enough to see both 0-100km/h dispensed with in 6.8 seconds and also the Discovery 5 D300 run on to a top speed of 209km/h, where permitted. That it will also purportedly return 34mpg if driven steadily is a testament to the efforts of the 48-volt hybrid gear - essentially, a belt-integrated starter-generator and also a claw-pole motor, plus a modest lithium-ion battery pack. Impressively, despite the addition of all this part-electric goodness and in the main thanks to the general weight-loss programme that all fifth-gen Discovery models have demonstrated since they arrived in 2017, this D300 MHEV tips the scales at 2,437kg. Now, that's not exactly sylph-like, but when Discovery 3 and 4 vehicles were as near as makes no difference three tonnes, it's a significant drop in bulk.
This translates into an effortlessly charming driving experience. At no point does the Discovery D300 feel particularly sporty, with notable body lean evident if you start tipping it adventurously into corners and steering that is geared for lightness, not feel. Nevertheless, on twin-axle electronic air suspension, the ride is beautifully cosseting and supple, oozing the Discovery's big shell over rough roads with no difficulty whatsoever. This, then, is a luxury SUV in the best traditions of luxury SUVs: it doesn't try and impress you with any half-baked attempt at dynamic acuity, and instead just majors on rolling comfort and refinement.
It's a great new drivetrain, too, as this is a turbodiesel that loves to rev. Make it spool out to 4,000rpm and beyond, and the straight-six never becomes coarse or rough. It's nice and linear too, with little noticeable lag in the usual operating areas of the rev counter and masses of easily accessed torque making for swift progress. You can click the stubby new gear lever back for a Sport mode that sharpens both the throttle's sharpness and the wits of the eight-speed gearbox, but there's really no need to do that as the D300 is responsive enough and flexible enough in Comfort mode to handle all reasonable on-road driving requirements. Also factor in that we drove both a P360 Discovery and this D300 on the same day, on the same routes, in the same weather and conducted in the same driving style, and the fact that the D300 felt no slower nor any less involving than the petrol model, while also returning 26.1mpg compared to the P360's paltry 15.3mpg, shows that the inline-six turbodiesel is almost certainly the pick of the revised Discovery range; albeit, an expensive pick (see 'What you get for your money' below).
And off-road? As imperious as ever. Land Rover's PR team does not mess about when it puts on an off-road course and so, when you're casually told at the start of the day that the off-roading 'isn't that difficult', you know that'll be underselling it somewhat. Therefore, we know that the Disco D300 MHEV will happily wade through awful, boggy terrain, can power itself up vertiginous ascents on mud and will also smoothly inch its way down ferocious descents with mu values akin to those of an ice rink with absolutely zero drama. Indeed, all you do is click the Terrain Response 2 dial on the console to your preferred setting, drop the gearbox into neutral and tap the 'Low Range' button if you need it, and then use the Pivi Pro screen to get the cameras showing all the clearances around the vehicle's front end and leading axle. Honestly, brutal off-roading is rarely this stress-free and aside from anything else with either a Land Rover or Range Rover badge on it, no vaguely comparable, sumptuous SUV from a rival manufacturer is going to go half as far into the wilderness as the Discovery 5 will ultimately venture. Whether owners will ever test the tiniest fraction of its redoubtable mud-plugging capabilities, though, is more of a contentious point.
What you get for your money
The D300 SE starts from a robust €108,290, which is hardly an inconsequential amount of money. For that, on top of the standard Discovery spec, which includes LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, Pivi Pro, a 3D Surround Camera and cruise control, this model adds premium LED headlights, front and rear panoramic roofs, 21-inch alloy wheels, a powered inner tailgate to go with the electrically operated main hatch, 18-way electric memory front seats with a captain's armrest, a Meridian 13-speaker, 400-watt sound system, an electrically adjustable steering column and the Blind Spot Assist Pack (Blind Spot Assist, Clear Exit Monitor and Rear Traffic Monitor driver-assist systems, all bundled together), among more. So you have to decide whether the seven-seat capabilities of the Land Rover Discovery and its unparalleled off-road attributes are enough to offset the meaty asking price.
An accomplished prestige SUV is given some spangly new mild-hybrid drivetrains and a far better infotainment system inside, which should mean the 2021 Land Rover Discovery 5 is well worth investing in. But while we do not deny it is a most splendid seven-seat SUV, providing you're not after any particular handling fireworks, then there are two more pressing issues facing the revised Land Rover today: one of them is its price, nearly €110,000 as tested for this desirable D300 drivetrain; and the other is the reborn Defender. Frankly, if we were spending this sort of money on a big, charismatic SUV in this sort of price range these days and we really wanted a Land Rover badge on it, we'd be going for the Defender 110 all day long. And we rather suspect that you might too, instead of opting for this undoubtedly talented, likeable and refreshed Discovery.