- Polished interior
- Masterful off-roader
- Commanding seating position
- Tight third-row access
- Tight third-row space
- Lacking in cargo volume
It was only four years ago when the Land Rover Discovery was a finalist for MotorTrend’s 2018 SUV of the Year. This time, the Disco is back with a few key changes, including a new line of engines and interior updates. With its standard air suspension and robust unibody architecture, the 2021 Land Rover Discovery remains one of the most capable three-row SUVs on the market.
Land Rover also updated the Disco’s exterior styling, but those changes are subtle. Items like the new 11.4-inch infotainment screen, which brings a modern ambiance to the cabin and enhances the overall experience, are more important. In the past, we’ve criticized the Disco for its poor infotainment performance, but the 2021 iteration fixes most of those issues, with a setup that’s simpler to use and faster to respond.
In addition, the updated cabin’s clean and elegant design came in for praise. “The interior has come a long way,” guest judge Gordon Dickie said. Our Discovery’s two-tone interior got props for its upscale aesthetic, satisfying materials, and USB port placement, but the experience wasn’t as excellent aft of the B-pillar. Every judge had difficulty accessing the third row due to the effort required to slide the seat forward and the narrow opening between the second row and the C-pillar. Once back there, it’s quite cramped, too.
The Discovery S R-Dynamic trim we tested arrived with the midcycle refresh, and it bundles plenty of standard features with a mild hybrid 3.0-liter turbocharged I-6 making 355 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. Judges had mixed feelings about the powertrain, which was smooth for around-town driving but struggled with the portly Discovery when tasked with hilly terrain. The Discovery displays plenty of body roll on twisting roads, but in typical Land Rover fashion, those motions are well controlled.
The Disco truly impressed during our off-road evaluations, where it never even broke a sweat. Whether it was deep sand or the frame-twisting section with alternating deep holes, the Discovery stayed true to its purpose. “This thing feels unstoppable off-road,” buyer’s guide director Zach Gale said. Simply select the appropriate off-road mode for the terrain, and the Discovery will deliver.
“It’s happy to go fast or slow; come to a stop in deep sand and continue on; whatever you like,” technical director Frank Markus said. So, the Land Rover’s marks for engineering excellence and performance of intended function were high, and the Discovery’s $73,000 price is spot-on these days for a three-row luxury off-roader, giving it a decent showing in terms of value.
In the end, however, although the refresh brought needed improvements, there wasn’t enough across-the-board goodness to make the updated Discovery a finalist. “It requires too many compromises in terms of livability and ergonomics to make it a serious option for buyers,” senior editor Greg Fink said, “and it fails to move the ball forward enough to be our SUV of the Year.”
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