When the fifth-generation Land Rover Discovery first launched back in 2017, it quickly reassured the Discovery as being just about the best off-road family car out there.
The catch with this new, modernised model was that it isn’t exactly the most handsome car out there, especially next to the Disco 4 it replaced, but if you could get past the questionably-styled rear end, you’d find a fantastic car underneath the outer shell.
For 2019, Land Rover has revamped the Discovery range, but not by changing the styling in any way. No, this update simply changes what didn’t appear to need changing – the way the thing drives.
Gone is the entry-level single-turbo four-pot diesel, as is the previously range-topping single-turbo V6. In their places, the twin-turbo four now becomes the base power unit, and a new twin-turbo version of the same 3.0-litre V6 diesel now sits at the top of the range.
So, to see if this new, more powerful engine is worth stepping up to, we grabbed the keys to the Discovery SDV6 HSE and hit the open road to Keith, nearing South Australia’s eastern border with Victoria, to take it to meet one of it’s ancestors – an old military Land Rover Defender that’s been stuck on top of a pole.
While the fancy orange paint and huge 21-inch alloys of my tester did help to elevate the looks of this big behemoth somewhat, I can’t say the Discovery’s styling has grown on me all that much despite it having become more familiar over the past few years.
I will say that I don’t mind the front – it perhaps looks aggressive in way that fits its rough-and-ready character – but the sides that appear to be melting at the skirts, the multi-tiered roofline, and the lop-sided tailgate still don’t do it for me that much.
Thankfully, you don’t have to look at it while you’re driving it, and inside the Disco is exactly where you want to be – not just to escape the scary exterior, but because it’s a wonderful place to spend time.
The Discovery’s interior is everything you’d expect from a modern Jaguar Land Rover product. There’s basically the same fully-digital instrument cluster that’s being fitted to every other model the company produces, along with the same InControl Touch Pro infotainment system – both of which have very clear displays and are as simple as you like to use.
While I have heard some complaints about the infotainment system in particular, I’ve had few issues with it in any of the cars I’ve tested it’s been fitted to, especially as the map is big and clear and it now has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility built into it.
Although the Disco doesn’t sport the full Touch Pro Duo system of it’s more expensive Range Rover relatives with a second touchscreen for controlling the car’s various functions, all of the switchgear you get instead feels great to use and is all where you’d expect it to be, and the climate control panel even folds down to reveal a hidden storage space.
One of the biggest highlights of the Discovery’s interior for me is the quality of the leather on the seats. With my tester fitted with the optional Windsor leather, which is worth every dollar, it feels better than what you get in just about anything else for the money. The seats themselves are pretty good too, although the side bolstering did feel perhaps a little on the tight side for my liking.
On the topic of seats, my tester was only the five-seat model, but I have previously tested a seven-seat variant as well. The third row is on par with the rest of the class, and the seat squabs are elevated slightly as you go back each row with the aim of eliminating the effects of car-sickness.
That’s especially handy on long and incredibly boring trips like the mundane drive down the Dukes Highway to Keith, which was a trip the Disco’s pleasant interior helped to make that bit more bearable.
But what matters most with this 2019 update is what’s under the skin, as that’s where the real changes are, especially when it comes to this new twin-turbocharged SDV6 variant. Thanks to that second puffer on the side of the engine, power is now up significantly compared to the old V6, with it now putting out 225kW and 700Nm.
As before, the fantastic ZF eight-speed torque-converter automatic is the only transmission available, and dual-range full-time four-wheel drive is standard, too.
On the road, that extra grunt is instantly noticeable as the Disco moves with a lot more vigour than you’d expect from such a hefty bus. With the 0-100km/h sprint now down to 7.5 seconds keeping it right alongside warm hatches, it really does shift, and the brute force of that newfound torque makes itself clearly known.
Overtaking is a doddle, as its in-gear acceleration is most impressive. I’m not sure exactly how quickly it’ll get from 80-120km/h, but it certainly doesn’t feel like a particularly long time.
Most impressive about this engine, however, is not the power but incredibly how quiet it is. For such a big diesel donk, it simply makes no noise – both on idle and with your foot in it. What little there is that can be heard isn’t diesel-like at all, either, with it simply sounding like there’s a petrol V6 somewhere off in the distance.
It revs like a petrol engine, too, spinning up to just shy of 5,000rpm both quickly and smoothly, but mercifully it still sips like a diesel, as this big six used a very reasonable 9.6L/100km over the course of over 1000km behind the wheel. The overall refinement of this unit in every respect then is seriously impressive.
Were it not for the huge 21-inch alloys shod in skinny tyres, the ride quality would be just as excellent as well. With it riding on air, the Disco’s bump absorption is very impressive, but the big wheels do make it feel more coarse than it needs to be. Certainly, it’s not uncomfortable, but trust me when I say that the 19s are the way to go.
Given that it’s not exactly a dynamic performer, either – it rolls through the corners as much as you’d expect and the steering can be a tad ponderous at times – there’s honestly no real point in going for the low-profile tyres other than for looks.
But despite the skinny rubber and big alloys, I made sure to really put it through its paces off-road on some of our usual testing routes around the Adelaide Hills, as when the going gets tough, the Discovery really does get going.
The air suspension allows you to jack it up to a very impressive height that provides practically enough clearance to get over most small hatchbacks, and it manages to put down the V6’s torque easily almost regardless of how little surface traction there is.
About the only thing you need to be aware of then, given how much ground clearance it has, is damaging those alloys. Thankfully, you don’t have to have the 21s, and the smaller 19-inch wheels will make far more sense for anyone planning to off-road one of these with any regularity.
Now, I won’t pretend for a second that this much car comes cheaply, as the SDV6 HSE’s base price of $111,078 which was bumped up with some options to $133,378 as tested here, but if you need something that can do it all, there’s not much else out there.
Rather importantly, it puts it right next to rivals like the Lexus LX 450d when it comes to money, meaning it’s certainly not overpriced, and it’d be even less expensive than an LX if you miss a few of the more expensive extras like the silly wheels.
Look past the looks and it’s a seriously good car, the Discovery. And now, with some real muscle under the bonnet, it only feels even better than it did before.
2019 Land Rover Discovery SDV6 HSE List Price: $111,078 | As Tested: $133,378
Pros: Torquey twin-turbo engine, good ride quality and ground clearance, spacious and well-trimmed interior
Cons: It’s not exactly what you’d call pretty, not the most dynamic through the bends, gets pricey with options
In a nutshell: A fabulous long-distance cruiser and off-road beast – it’s just a shame about the styling.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Land Rover Australia for a week with a full tank of fuel. All additional fuel expenses were covered by the author.