The original disco fever may have died at Chicago’s Comiskey Park on July 12, 1979, but for the last year or so, Roadshow was enrapt in a different kind of Disco fever — the kind that involved our long-term 2017 Land Rover Discovery.
Over the course of approximately one year and 14,000 miles, we experienced a veritable cornucopia of emotion, ranging from frustration to glee and back again. There were some problems, yes, but there were also plenty of good times.
Whether being used for road trips, around-town errands or video production work, our 2017 Land Rover Discovery took a beating and powered through — as it damn well should, considering its $64,945 as-tested price. Let’s take a look back.
Chapter 1: Like Walden, but with more glamping
The Discovery’scame from our fearless editor-in-chief, Tim Stevens, in and around his home in the forests of upstate New York. That was the perfect place for it to start its life — its four-wheel-drive system had no problem tackling weather that would bring major cities to a halt, and its seat and steering wheel heaters made sure the people inside stayed nice and toasty.
Before the weather turned angry, Timup to Maine’s Acadia National Park for a bit of glamping. The Disco’s 8,200-pound tow rating was more than enough to handle the 19-foot Airstream Flying Cloud (about 4,000 pounds with a full tank of fresh water) he took on the trip.
Tim was quick to praise the hitch height, and the Disco’s 3.0-liter supercharged V6 certainly didn’t need every one of its 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque to handle the rig. That said, towing dropped fuel economy to about 10 miles per gallon and windier roads made sure he was at full attention for the whole drive, since it was “a bit of a handful,” as he wrote at the time.
It was during Tim’s trip to the Detroit Auto Show in January when he encountered a weather-related issue that you wouldn’t think would be a problem. After he thought he ran out of windshield wiper fluid, he opened the hood to discover that the tank was still plenty full — however, the wiper nozzles had frozen solid. Sometimes, they’re heated to prevent this, but that apparently wasn’t the case with our long-termer.
The weather also wreaked havoc on our tester’s suite of active and passive safety systems, because it’s hard for radar to see through a wall of snow and salt accumulated on the sensor, but that’s less of a Discovery-specific problem than one that affects all kinds of cars.
But once it landed in Detroit, it was time for the real work to begin.
Chapter 2: Workhorse life and fixing what broke
The last 6,000 miles were not easy for the Discovery. Like our long-term Chrysler Pacifica before it, the Discovery became Roadshow’s video production vehicle in Detroit. It lived like many pack mules do — going somewhere carrying a whole lot of cargo, stopping for a bit, then going somewhere else. Rinse and repeat for a few months, and you get the idea.
As a production vehicle, the Discovery shined. With the two rear rows stored flat, our video producer Nick Miotke had almost 90 cubic feet of space to utilize, and utilize it he did. We crammed hard, heavy Pelican cases through every opening, and it just kept asking for more. Unlike the Pacifica, the durable materials comprising the Discovery’s interior weren’t covered in gouges by the time our yearlong loan was up.
When we weren’t using it to haul cases, we used the wide liftgate opening for car-to-car filming. The only problem there was that the liftgate would slowly lower and block the harnessed-in cameraman as we careened over bumps, but I can’t imagine Land Rover’s engineers had that scenario in mind when designing the liftgate’s hydraulic damper.
It was around this time that we caught on to the notion that something didn’t feel quite right. We couldn’t put our collective finger on it, but the Discovery wasn’t giving us the trademark smooth ride that I loved from its predecessor, the LR4. When we finally took the Disco to the dealership for its scheduled service, we found the root cause.
During service, our Land Rover dealer applied an update to the air suspension, which drastically changed the car’s on-road character, taking it from “just OK” to “as smooth as I’d originally hoped.” The dealer also updated the HVAC module, and it also fixed the motor for the powered luggage flap in the cargo area, which was only working intermittently.
We’d gone to the dealer for three things originally: A tire rotation, a wheel alignment and an oil change. The tire rotation cost $40, and the alignment was about $200 — prices that seemed fair. The oil change, on the other hand, cost a whopping $227.67, which still seems to me like highway robbery.
The remainder of our time with the Discovery was as drama-free as could be. Long road trips from Detroit to Chicago weren’t an issue, and my dogs appreciated the comfortable ride. I will say, however, that if your dog (or child) happens to vomit on the perforated leather, be prepared to stand outside in the cold with a vacuum cleaner and a toothpick to get that leather back to its factory-fresh state. It will take approximately one hour to clean all the perforations in a single seat. Ask me how I know.
Chapter 3: What we liked, and what we didn’t
While dealership costs can be skirted by leasing the car and only driving it a little, or by working with an independent mechanic, there are some annoying things about the Discovery that can’t be avoided.
On the driving front, visibility was occasionally an issue. The Discovery has a bunch of tall glass, which lends to good visibility, but massive headrests in the second and third rows blocked rearward visibility more often than not. After passengers left the car, I had to crawl back there and lower the headrests just so I could see traffic behind me — a button would have been a nice touch. Visibility issues also came from the B-pillar, which was positively massive, although blind-spot monitoring helped make up for that.
The infotainment couldn’t be helped, either. The 2017 version of Land Rover’s infotainment system was not its best. In our extensive time with it, we found the system perennially sluggish, taking its dear sweet time to do just about everything. There was no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but the USB ports charged with enough haste, so, I suppose there was a silver lining.
Let’s end this wrap-up on a high note, though. The Discovery’s seats were properly comfortable, wrapped in soft, perforated leather that held up to some righteous abuse. The 340-hp V6 gave the Disco some proper get-up-and-go, especially with the eight-speed automatic transmission in its sportier S mode. Once the update sorted it out, the air suspension provided a Range Rover-like ride without the commensurate window sticker. It also happens to look like a Range Rover, something Disco buyers probably won’t gripe about.
Even the fuel economy wasn’t too shabby. Over 13,967 miles, we averaged approximately 19.5 miles per gallon, which is 1.5 mpg over the EPA-estimated average for combined fuel economy. That’s not shabby at all, considering how many hours we left the thing idling. That translates to little over 716 gallons of gas consumed — at an average of $3 per gallon for the 91-plus-octane premium gas Land Rover required, we shelled out about $2,148 on gas.
That leaves us with just one question: Would we put the 2017 Land Rover Discovery in our driveways? Ignoring the fact that depreciation will make a ’17 Disco much cheaper than if we bought a 2019 at the dealer today, both Nick and I agree that yes, the Disco makes an excellent case for itself.
It’s a steep-ish price to be sure, but this isn’t exactly a segment where necessity completely trumps desire. Were I in the market for a three-row crossover in this price range, the Discovery would absolutely be at or near the top of my list.
: See how our first round of van time ended up.
: More of the same, but with a plug this time around.