Review: Land Rover Discovery sees dramatic improvement in 2021 model

As the onetime owners of an early Land Rover Discovery, we've kept an eye on the brand's progress over the years. The word "progress" aptly describes the 2021 model, which we test-drove recently. It should be far superior to the 1994 model that squired our family around for several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but we didn't expect it to be this much better.

In short, it's improved dramatically in every way that matters — engine power, fuel economy, interior accommodations, style, riding comfort. Like the earlier Discovery, it's more than capable off-road, and it shares the 1994 model's flair for the dramatic upon launch from a dead stop.

Our test car was a 2021 Discovery R Dynamic S, featuring a 3-liter inline 6-cylinder engine with mild hybrid boost. This package delivers 355 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Some Discovery aficionados might be disappointed to learn Land Rover has dropped the diesel engine, but the Six and a 296-horsepower turbocharged Four provide suitable alternatives. 

Surprisingly, the big Six is the fuel-economy leader, at 18 mpg city, 24 highway, compared with 19/22 with the Four. The hybrid system in 6-cylinder models makes the difference.

The base 2021 Discovery S starts at $53,900 — $56,600 for 2022. Our test car with the bigger engine, hybrid system and other features, had a base price of $61,900, and came to $73,055 with options.

The smaller but similarly equipped Discovery Sport starts at $43,200, a little less than the least expensive Range Rover, the snappy, stylish Evoque. The Land Rover line also includes the Defender, a smaller but undeniably rugged SUV. The next step up from the Discovery is the Range Rover Sport, starting at $70,900.

There's lots of competition in this segment, but the Discovery has a few advantages over most if not all of the other midsize luxury SUVs.

More Information

2021 Land Rover Discovery R Dynamic S


Price: $73,055
Engine: 3.0-liter inline Six with electric assist, 355 horsepower, 369 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic
Drive: all-wheel, with twin-speed transfer box
Suspension: TRD-tuned MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Ground clearance: 11.1 in.
Curb weight: 5,160 lb.
Wheels: 21-in. alloy, five split-spoke, gloss dark gray
Tires: P275/45R21 all-season
Seating capacity: 7
Luggage capacity: 9.1 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 74.3 cu. ft.
Maximum towing capacity: 7,716 lb.
Fuel capacity: 24 gal.
Fuel economy: 18 mpg city, 24 highway
Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline (recommended)

For starters, it seats seven. It has a 24-gallon fuel tank, endowing it with a range of up to 576 miles. (Premium unleaded gasoline is recommended but not required.) Its off-road capability is without peer in its class, and its towing capacity of 7,716 pounds is another selling point..

From our perspective — we didn't dare take this $73,055 vehicle off the pavement — its most charming aspect was its smooth, composed, quiet (5,160 pounds) made for luxury and off-road challenges, rather than agility and tight cornering.

The Discovery’s climate-control and infotainment systems were top-notch, as well. Critics and owners have had harsh words for the latter system since the current version of the Discovery debuted in 2017, but it was redesigned for 2021. We found it worked well, with no glitches.

Land Rover, a venerable British brand, now builds the Discovery and the Defender, currently the brand’s best seller, in Slovakia. 

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Brookfield, Conn.