David Motton
Tow Car Editor

See other tow car reviews written by David Motton

It's scooped the top prize at our Tow Car Awards so we know what tow car might the Land Rover Discovery 5 has, but is it a great all-rounder, too?

Overview

The Land Rover Discovery 5 is a big departure from the previous generation.

Aluminium construction has dropped the kerbweight significantly, helping Land Rover address the Discovery’s relatively weak fuel economy and high CO2 emissions.

The square-edged looks of the old car have gone and the interior has received an upmarket makeover.

Buyers have the choice of two diesels and a petrol. We’re driving the 3.0-litre diesel.

What are we looking for? We already know what tow car talent the Discovery has, after its overall win at the Tow Car Awards 2017.

Now we want to spend longer with the car to get to know it better as an everyday drive, as well as a tow car.

Towing

The use of an aluminium monocoque rather than the old car’s steel ladder construction means the new Land Rover Discovery 5 is up to 480kg lighter than the previous model if you opt for the 2.0-litre diesel, which has a kerbweight of 2184kg.

That’s still heavier than most rivals.

Our 3.0-litre diesel test car has a 2298kg kerbweight and a 3500kg towing limit.

So despite the weight loss this is still a hefty car, and a sensible match for just about any caravan.

The Swift Coronette Classic we towed has a Mass in Running Order of 1485kg, well within the 85% matching ratio recommended for safe and stable towing.

So for our assessment of the Discovery’s towing ability we’ve kept in mind our experience with a heavier tourer at the Tow Car Awards.

There’s no substitute for torque when towing, and the Land Rover’s 3.0-litre engine has oodles of the stuff.

With 443lb ft from just 1750rpm, the Discovery accelerates with authority.

Even pulling the heavier Swift during the Tow Car Awards 2017 test week, the Discovery accelerated from 30-60mph in 10.5 seconds.

Some big 4x4s – the Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine, for example – are quicker still.

But the Discovery is more than fast enough to overtake with confidence.

The Land Rover seems to hold speed on steep inclines without any effort, and the eight-speed gearbox unobtrusively chooses the right ratio to maintain brisk progress.

The engine and gearbox combine well when starting out on a hill, too.

The 1-in-6 slope at the test track posed no problem – in fact, even the 1-in-3 gradient could be conquered.

We can’t see many caravanners needing to pull away on a 1-in-3, but it shows the strength of the drivetrain and the traction from the 4x4 system.

The lane-change test, with its violent direction changes, doesn’t necessarily play to the strength of a big SUV.

But other than some body lean, the Discovery handled the manoeuvre brilliantly, staying poised and in control, however hard we pushed.

At motorway speeds in a crosswind or when overtaking high-sided vehicles we sometimes noticed very slight side-to-side movements which the old car might have resisted, but in most circumstances the Land Rover Discovery 5 was absolutely secure.

After testing the Disco 5 against the best new 4x4s at the Tow Car Awards, and having now spent more time towing on the road and track, we’re confident it has the measure of its contemporaries.

Everyday driving

The Discovery’s weight loss is unquestionably a good thing for everyday driving.

The car feels more nimble and engaging, cornering with balance and precision.

One of the old car’s finest qualities was its pillowy ride.

Perhaps the new car’s standard air suspension is a touch firmer, but the trade-off is a more controlled feel at speed.

Not everyone takes to the Disco’s new styling, but it undoubtedly slips through the air more cleanly than the upright and boxy old model.

There’s noticeably less wind noise than before, although the big tyres pick up some road noise over coarse surfaces.

Around town you are always conscious of the car’s huge length and width, but good all-round visibility makes it less intimidating to manoeuvre than you might expect.

And should you venture off-road, the Land Rover Discovery 5 is supremely capable, with a greater wading depth than its predecessor and an updated Terrain Response 2 system to optimise the car’s systems for different situations.

Space

Inside, Land Rover has made great strides in the quality of the Discovery’s cabin and its ease of use.

The Discovery 5 is just as practical as before, but it no longer feels a generation behind the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90.

Climb into the driver’s seat, and the Land Rover Discovery 5 could almost be a Range Rover, with its elegant dash design and much improved materials.

There’s still work to do in some areas, though.

We found the touchscreen a little slow to respond at times and less intuitive than the best infotainment systems in rival SUVs.

At least the air-con relies on good old buttons and dials.

The driving position is tall and commanding, and we found the seat left us ache-free after a long day behind the wheel.

Even with our test car’s twin sunroof, headroom was very generous.

There’s lots of space in the middle row, too, enough for a tall adult to comfortably sit behind a lanky driver.

Air vents in the door pillars, ceiling and floor should keep everyone at a comfortable temperature.

Anyone heading for the third row faces a bit of a clamber, but there’s enough head and legroom for adults to be comfy enough on short trips.

The middle seats slide forward on runners, so if those in the second row don’t mind losing an inch or two of legroom, long journeys won’t be a chore.

With all seven seats in place luggage room is modest, but with the third row stowed the load space is huge.

On HSE and HSE Luxury cars the third row folds at the touch of a button.

Fold the middle row as well and you have a luxurious, go-anywhere removals van.

Running costs

The Land Rover Discovery 5 in HSE Luxury spec, as tested, is priced at £64,495, which is serious money, when deciding what tow car to buy next.

Choosing HSE spec brings the price down to £58,795 without compromising on equipment too much, and that’s what we’d recommend.

Trailer Stability Assist is standard, and there are some clever towing aids on the options list, including Advanced Tow Assist.

This helps the driver to reverse a caravan or trailer. Lines on the touchscreen show where the caravan is heading, and the driver uses the Terrain Response rotary controller to adjust its trajectory.

It avoids the need to steer the car in the opposite direction to the trailer to start the turn.

It’s by no means a unique system, but it is the most intuitive of its kind.

However, it has to be combined with the Surround Camera, 360° Parking Aid and Capability Plus Pack.

The cost varies depending on the trim level because some of these features are standard on high-spec cars, but even on HSE Luxury you’ll pay £1270 on top of the £365 for the system itself.

Excellent resale values draw some of the sting from the total cost.

What Car?’s experts predict the car will be worth 55% of the original price after three years and 36,000 miles. That’s good news for private buyers.

If you plan to run a Land Rover as a company car then the Discovery 5’s lower emissions are a plus.

However, with a CO2 output of 189g/km, the 3.0-litre Discovery 5 sits in the 37% tax bracket, 4% higher than the equivalent Audi Q7.

Technical specs

Engine size2993 cc
Kerbweight2298 kg
85% KW1951 kg
Towball limit195 kg
Maximum towing limit3500 kg
Power254.0 bhp
Torque443.0 lb ft
Official MPG39.2 mpg
Towing MPG24.2 mpg
CO2189 g/km
30-60mph10.5 seconds
30-0mph11.1 m

Verdict

The more time we spend with the Land Rover Discovery 5, the more we like it.

We knew from our Tow Car Awards 2017 testing what tow car might it had, but more time behind the wheel proves that it really is a superb all-round SUV.

It comes from a long line of brilliant tow cars and it does that lineage proud.

From hill starts to acceleration to the lane-change, the Discovery mastered every one of our test track manoeuvres.

It’s a stable and reassuring car to tow with out on the road, too.

Perhaps it’s not as impervious to blustery weather as its much heavier predecessor, but it’s more than a match for any rival SUV we’ve tested.

As an everyday drive, Land Rover’s engineers have found a near-perfect balance between comfort and control.

It’s a satisfying car to drive on a twisty B-road, and a relaxing one on a long journey.

The Discovery is as practical as ever, but its clever and flexible cabin is now easier to use with push-button control for the folding seats.

There’s more space in the third row than you’ll find in most seven-seaters, and so long as the third row of seats are folded away the boot is huge.

It’s good to see that the Discovery 5’s weight loss and better aerodynamics have contributed to improved economy and emissions.

However, company car drivers will still be better off choosing an Audi Q7 or Volvo XC90.

For private buyers, though, strong resale values help offset the Land Rover’s high price.

Much has changed, then, but one thing has stayed the same: the Discovery is still our favourite big 4x4.

Conclusion

Pros

  • It is a fantastically capable all-rounder
  • The 3.0-litre diesel engine is strong and torquey
  • Trailer Stability Assist is standard – and there are more towing aids on the options list

Cons

  • It's still an expensive car
  • Company car drivers will be better off in rival products
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