Land Rover Discovery (2009-2016) review - does it still make for a great 4x4?

The definitive 4x4 from Land Rover - if you can’t quite stretch to a Range Rover

Evo rating
from £41,600
  • Looks, prestige, utility and huge comfort regardless of what’s beneath the wheels
  • Beginning to feel its age despite many revisions, expensive to run and buy

evo Verdict

Land Rover does icons well, and the big box that is the Discovery ('4' was dropped from the name in 2014) can claim to be exactly that. Staying true to Land Rover’s incredible off-road heritage, but adding prestige, on-road ability, massive presence and enormous practicality in a seven-seat package, the Discovery is a formidable contender in the large SUV marketplace. Its recognition as a brand has spurred Land Rover to create the Discovery sub-brand, so just like Range Rover above it, the Discovery has spawned a Discovery Sport variant. Among the more mature models in the Land Rover line up (ignoring the soon-to-be-pensioned Defender), the Discovery might be getting on a bit, but there’s nothing out there quite like it.   

evo Tip

If you absolutely need a vehicle that will carry you and six others in comfort anywhere the Discovery is a difficult car to beat. There are rivals, but they’re all ultimately more road-biased than the Discovery. Yet, despite its unstoppable off-road ability, the Discovery achieves a level of agility and ability on the road that’s fairly extraordinary when you consider both its size and planet-like weight. Unlike its Range Rover relations there are no V8 petrol engines offered anymore; British buyers of the Discovery get a sole 3.0-litre turbodiesel unit with 252bhp, which does a decent, rather than spectacular job at heaving the big Disco around.   

>Read our BMW X3 review

evo Comment

It might have the off-road ability of a military vehicle, but the Discovery is simplicity in itself to drive. Push a button and the Discovery’s Terrain Response system adjusts the four-wheel drive accordingly, whether that is mud and snow, rocks, sand or pretty much anything else. Hill descent control and air suspension also add to the car’s excellent off-road skills. No antiquated transfer boxes to wrestle with here; it’s push-button off-roading that’s simply incredible from behind the wheel. Locking differentials, river-wading ability and excellent approach and departure angles will have off-road fans in a froth, while ample towing ability means Charlotte’s ponies can be hauled with impunity to wherever the next three-day event meet is. 

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A very prestigious family car then, with capability that’s more field than track as we’d usually like at evo, but the Discovery cannot help but impress from behind the wheel. It’s a bit out of its depth on tight urban streets, but that doesn’t stop legions of people buying them. It's like a rolling panic room that’s utterly unstoppable, if not always entirely reliable.    

Performance and 0-60 time> Unlike some of its more powerful German rivals, the Discovery can't offer many thrills off the line. But performance is effortless and perfectly suited to challenges off road. Read more about the Land Rover Discovery's performance and 0-60 time here

Engine and gearbox> All Discoverys get Land Rover's SDV6 3.0-litre engine with a respectable 252bhp and significant 442lb ft of torque. Read about the Land Rover Discovery's engine and gearbox here

Ride and handling> All models come with air suspension, which helps to mix the Discovery's talented off road capabilities with admirable on road handling. It can't hide that 2.6-ton kerb weight at speed, however. Read about the Land Rover Discovery's ride and handling here

MPG and running costs> That hefty weight figure ensures running costs are relatively high. MPG struggles to reach the mid-20s, though emissions are well below the highest tax brackets. Read about the Land Rover Discovery's MPG and running costs here

Prices, specs and rivals> The Discovery is becoming increasingly unique as its rivals - like the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5 - focus more heavily on on road performance. Read about the Land Rover Discovery's prices, specs and rivals here

Interior and tech> Land Rover's terrain response might be several years old, but on the rougher stuff, it's still amongst the very best. There's plenty of room inside, too. Read about the Land Rover Discovery's interior and tech here

Design> The current-gen Discovery has been with us since 2004, though updates have ensured its handsome exterior remains modern. Read about the Land Rover Discovery's design here