Even as some manufacturers build performance-oriented SUVs capable of ever more egregious offenses against the laws of physics, it’s nice to find one that unashamedly prioritizes comfort and utility over outright speed. The new Land Rover Discovery Td6 diesel is respectably brisk for something of its shape and size, but we can be certain it is never going to be sent to attempt a Nürburgring record. Rather, it’s a supremely laid-back hauler, capable of dispatching long journeys without breaking sweat.
the four-cylinder Jaguar F-Pace 20d and the XE and XF 20d sedans. We know that the company is working on a new diesel inline-six as part of its modular Ingenium powertrain family, but for now the Disco makes do with the far more old-fashioned 3.0-liter V-6 that we’ve already seen in both the Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport. Trace the diesel six’s ancestry far enough and you’ll discover that this engine was originally created for a long-forgotten joint venture between Ford and the PSA Group (manufacturer of Peugeot and Citroën), but over the years it has gained brawn and reduced emissions and was cleaned up to pass United States EPA standards through the use of urea injection (a.k.a. diesel exhaust fluid, or DEF). As with its Range Rover sisters, Land Rover estimates that the Discovery’s onboard DEF tank should suffice for up to 10,000 miles between fills.
The TD6 engine is more expensive than the supercharged V-6 that’s standard in the new Discovery, yet it makes a strong case for paying the upcharge. The Td6 is available in both HSE ($59,945) and HSE Luxury ($66,945) grades and costs $2000 more than the gasoline equivalents. While down on horsepower compared with the gas engine, making only 254 rather than 340, it boasts much more torque, with its peak 443 lb-ft available from just 1750 rpm, against the gas V-6’s 332 lb-ft at 3500.
That number, unsurprisingly, defines the way the Td6 drives. Although ultimate pace is some way short of that provided by its petrol sibling, the diesel boasts superior everyday drivability thanks to its low-down muscle and the intelligent shift strategy of the standard eight-speed automatic. The result is a car that feels satisfyingly brisk without ever venturing beyond the first quarter of the accelerator pedal’s travel. Under gentle use the Td6 emits nothing louder than a muscular hum that only the keenest ears will be able to distinguish from the sound of a direct-injected gasoline engine.
Under pressure, the Discovery loses some composure. The engine gets loud under hard use, and the narrowness of its powerband is exposed—although the rev counter shows a redline set at 4800 rpm, the engine won’t pull beyond 4100 even in the gearbox’s manual mode. All-out urge is respectable but completely unexceptional for something this shape and size: We recorded an 8.0-second zero-to-60-mph time, half a second slower than our former long-term Range Rover Td6 managed over the same benchmark when new. Both cars recorded the same 5.8-second time in the 50-to-70-mph passing test, a more relevant challenge for their typical duty cycle.
we last measured for the Discovery’s predecessor, the LR4), and chunky Goodyear all-terrain tires resulted in some indifferent grip and braking numbers. We measured 0.71 g of stick on the skidpad, which only looks good next to the LR4’s dismal 0.65-g performance. And it needed 187 feet to stop from 70 mph, with the brake pedal feeling progressively mushier on repeated stops, a poorer result than the LR4’s 174-foot braking distance.
When driven at a respectful pace, the Discovery manages to disguise its bulk impressively well. The soft suspension settings yield excellent isolation from rough road surfaces, defusing larger bumps with a generous dose of suspension travel. Tellingly, the Terrain Response mode switch has only one setting intended for asphalt, with all the others for different off-road surfaces; there’s no facility to tighten it up through a Sport mode. The steering is light but accurate and delivers linear responses, and the Discovery is predictable and easy to place. Although overall grip levels are modest, the Discovery resists understeer well; the acute roll angles mean that any passengers will beg the driver to surrender long before the chassis does.
The Discovery remains a supreme family hauler with the power-folding third-row seats, available for $2150 on the HSE and standard on the HSE Luxury. The option cost includes the air springs and two-speed transfer case, in addition to the third row. There’s little cargo space left behind these—only two carry-on bags fit with both seats up—but they motor up and down individually without drama, and the second-row seats power themselves out of the way when necessary. (The three-row Discovery has just 9 cubic feet of cargo room behind the back row but 45 cubes with it folded.) While legroom is tight back there for any occupant old enough to remember a world before social media, space up front and in the second row is generous. The Td6’s base HSE specification is well equipped, including a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights, leather seats, a power liftgate, and a 10-speaker, 380-watt Meridian audio system that is further upgraded to a 14-speaker, 825-watt rig in the HSE Luxury.
Although we didn’t test this particular Discovery’s off-road credentials, we know from previous experience that the model’s talents in that realm are considerable, with the range-topping HSE Luxury fitted with the two-speed transfer case as standard. There are 11.1 inches of ground clearance, and Land Rover claims the Disco can wade through 35.4-inch-deep streams—beware if it’s a full three-feet deep, though. While other automakers are happy to dilute the Utility to maximize the Sport in their SUVs, Land Rover is still determined to ensure its vehicles can cut it in the wilderness. The diesel engine’s low-down urge and gentler throttle response make it particularly well suited to such uses.
But it’s on road that the Td6 makes the strongest case for itself—and not just in terms of boosted economy. We recorded 22 mpg overall, just 1 mpg shy of the EPA combined rating, and in our 75-mph highway fuel-economy run, the Disco returned 28 mpg, which is 2 mpg better than the EPA highway figure. The engine suits the car’s laid-back character almost perfectly and, if you can afford it, more than justifies the relatively modest upcharge.