2023 Land Rover Discovery S D250 image

Family Overlander

Most people looking at a Land Rover in the Philippines generally has their sights on only two models: either they go Defender or go all out with a Range Rover. That's just the way it is; either you go classic (or modernized classic) or you go for the luxury model.

But Land Rover isn't a one-trick pony... well, two-trick. Yes, they're known for off-road, but they have more in store for other types of customers with different tastes and needs. They've got smaller models, and they have models dubbed Sport.

Right smack in the middle, however, is the Discovery. It's kind of the Land Rover that many glossed over, then went for something else in the lineup.

That's kind of unfortunate, as I think this middle child could very well be the sweet spot in the Land Rover model range. And it's eager to impress.

When Land Rover first launched the Discovery line in 1989, it literally was the middle child. At the time, LR only made the 90 and 110 (which wasn't called Defender yet) as well as the classic Range Rover. The Discovery was literally in the middle, but what made it special was that it was supposed to be a family car with 4x4 credentials rather than a 4x4 with family car credentials. That in itself is a major defining characteristic of the Discovery range, one that it carries to this day.

2023 Land Rover Discovery S D250 image

This is technically a third-generation Discovery even though it is considered the Series 5. LR likes using the term series, and the Roman numeral Series I and II are of the original first generation, while Arabic numeral Series 3 and 4 are of the second generation. I'm actually surprised they didn't go and call it Discovery Five just to mess with us.

Throughout its model life, the Disco has had a rather unique body style compared to its more well-known peers. For one, it has looked more vertically oriented like a Defender but has the gentrified design cues of the Range Rover. There's also that stepped roof that is slightly elevated where the third row would be (like a Gurney bubble), as well as an asymmetric tailgate design.

For the Series “Five” that has been in production since 2017, a lot of these design cues remain, albeit modernized. The 2022 model (they're calling it 23MY now) is already an updated one, and the front end really does look neat; line a slightly narrower Range Rover. The side of the Disco is rather slab-ish, but the optional satin film does look good over the gray. If you look at the roof, it does have that step, but minute compared to previous generations.

The tailgate still has that asymmetrical garnish like before, though it is largely a cosmetic throwback now. The purpose of the design was because of the spare tire on the tailgate. It's no longer mounted on the back but underneath the third row since the Series 3. Also, the tailgate is only hinged at the top instead of the split like its predecessors had.

2023 Land Rover Discovery S D250 image

The version of the Disco that we're driving is the S 250, and I have to say it's quite posh inside. The dashboard, the seats, the steering wheel, the plastics, leather, everything just comes together nicely. It's so clean and neat that you kind of notice any speck of dust or lint or smudgy fingerprint on any of the surfaces. This begs to be detailed and stay detailed all the time.

I did mention that the Discovery first debuted in 2017, and the 2022 model we're testing out is already the updated model where the biggest update is with the center of the dashboard and what's going on between the front seats. The screen is bigger and definitely better. It's the new Pivi Pro system of Land Rover, and yes it's very impressive. It's fast, the image is crystal clear, and the sound is fantastic. Perhaps my favorite change is with the shifter or drive selector; before it was a round knob that wasn't intuitive or ergonomic. Now they've gone for a stubby T-style selector which is definitely much more preferred.

2023 Land Rover Discovery S D250 image

What really sets the Discovery apart from its fellows in the LR stable is that it's a family car through and through. That's why its primary configuration is a seven-seater with two in front, three in the middle, and another two in the back. The first two rows are indeed quite nice to be in, though the last row can seem tight for adults.

Storage is something that is very much a priority in the Disco. You'll find all kinds of pockets and compartments on the doors and dash and center armrest, but if you look closer you may spot a few more. There are compartments next to the shifter, plus another one on the upper glove box, and even on the third-row windowsills. There are also various charging ports around the cabin so just bring the necessary adapters and cables and you'll be fine.

If you need to visit a home depot or did a bit of a splurge on the last three-day sale, don't worry because the Disco has you covered. It's easy to fold down the third row (provided you tuck the headrests first) as well as the second row. That gives you a nice and long space for things like a new 50” TV and some flat pack furniture to go along with it.

2023 Land Rover Discovery S D250 image

The Discovery S D250 isn't a small vehicle by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it a light one at 2.3 tonnes, but that doesn't seem to be a problem at all for the engine. The 3.0L V6 turbodiesel's 600 Newton meters of torque makes quick work of all that weight. An 8.1-second acceleration time to 100 km/h may not sound quick, but it feels sprightly.

Even around the city, it's easy to maneuver the Disco, especially with the huge windows to see out of and the commanding driving position you can set from behind the wheel. The front and rear sensors tend to get panicked by the sheer number of motorcycles in our cities during rush hour traffic, so I found myself turning it off. There's also a 360-degree camera which is quite nice and very useful in malls. The fuel economy on my daily route is at 8.5 kilometers per liter (average 19 km/h) and 14.2 km/l on the expressway (90 km/h average).

What has really changed (if you're used to previous generations) is the ride. On smooth asphalt, the Disco has a very composed ride even if you take it on the notoriously rough and tumble truck lane on C-5. It's not Range Rover level yet, but it is reminiscent of contemporaries like the GX, Q7, and X5.

2023 Land Rover Discovery S D250 image

The reason for that change in how the vehicle feels is the platform. In all previous series/generations, the Discovery was strictly body-on-frame like a pickup truck. In 2017 that all changed as Land Rover saw fit to switch over to a new platform, and by that we mean a unibody. That change also means a totally different suspension: this Disco has fully independent suspension for all wheels. Yes, just like your crossover. That's not unusual because since 2012 the Range Rover has been a unibody, but try telling an owner of the L405 that they've got a crossover and they probably won't appreciate it.

The change results in a ride that is far better and far more composed than the previous generations. Actually, try taking the Disco on a winding road and you'll be surprised at how well you can manage the body roll if you're hustling it around corners. A Land Rover this big shouldn't feel this confident, but it is; the reason is that they chopped off a lot of weight from the previous generations. Yes, it's still heavy, but not as heavy as it could have been had they stuck with a ladder frame.

2023 Land Rover Discovery S D250 image

The sacrifice for a vehicle that drives better on the road is with its capability off-road. 4X4 enthusiasts swear by solid axles and body on frame, and the Disco has none of those now. But the articulation is still outstanding at almost 500mm (useful for uneven surfaces like elephant holes), the approach angle is at 29.5 degrees while the departure angle (even with the spare under the third row) is at 29 degrees.

What they couldn't make up for in the suspension department (solid axles are still the robust choice for 4x4), they made up for in electronics. There's actually quite a lot in the Discovery to help novice drivers get through difficult obstacles without prior training. You've got a variety of modes depending on the surface, and all you have to do is drive it sensibly.

2023 Land Rover Discovery S D250 image

Sometimes you have to blip the throttle and use the torque (that comes in very early) if you're trying to get up a ledge or a rock. There's even a system that detects the depth of the water that you're driving through, though I would really recommend you ascertain the depth before actually driving through; hopefully, you don't exceed the maximum 900mm.

Land Rover hasn't forgotten why people go to them, regardless of which model they opt for. As for the Discovery S D250, it's a change in the formula that is about keeping the off-road capabilities while enhancing or gaining attributes that such a vehicle never had before. They had to adapt to move forward, and we're seeing that with the change in the Range Rover as well as with the Defender.

2023 Land Rover Discovery S D250 image

As for the Discovery, it's still about being a family vehicle that can really do 4x4, but they really stepped up the on-road aspect of the vehicle. If anything, the Disco would be one of my first choices if I was looking for a truly comfortable and well-equipped vehicle for overlanding or even just casual camping on weekends.

If you're in the market for one of these, the Disco starts at PHP 6,190,000. Yes, it's pricey, but that was to be expected from a vehicle that has to be imported all the way from Europe (Slovakia, to be exact). The actual vehicle we're driving retails for PHP 7,128,000 because it has a variety of options like the wrap and the wheels.

  • Make: Land Rover
  • Model: Discovery S 250
  • Engine: 3.0-liter DOHC 16-valve Inline-4 Turbodiesel
  • Max Power: 249 PS @ 4000 rpm
  • Max Torque: 600 Nm @ 1250-2250 rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed AT, AWD
  • Price as Tested: ₱7,128,000