When you think of a car being designed today, you probably imagine someone hunched over a computer screen in an office, high up in a gleaming building in some large city.
Which is why there’s something charming about the fact that the original Land Rover was designed on a farm.
It was the late 1940s, and it’s likely the Land Rover was inspired by the recent success of the American Jeep in World War II. The earliest Land Rovers were even painted with leftover supplies from the war effort, so they were all shades of green.
We’ve come a long way, and so has the Rover. Today it’s the one that’s gleaming, with sleek, modern lines and high-end materials. But it never lost its original farm bones; it’s not afraid to veer off the pavement and take you across country, bounding through fields and up slopes.
Just give it a good scrub afterwards and it’ll be ready to take you back to the country club later that evening.
The vehicle has had several owners through the years, including British Aerospace (yes, aerospace), BMW, and Ford. Today it’s part of a collection with Jaguar, and owned by Indian car-maker Tata Motors.
The Land Rover is available in various models, including Discovery, which is the model I drove for a week.
Those can be broken down as well into three different trim levels. The base SE and the HSE trim come standard with seating for five, but a third-row package is available.
On the HSE Luxury trim the 7-seat package is standard. All of the Discovery models offer you two choices of engines: a supercharged 3.0-liter gasoline V6, and a turbo 3.0-liter diesel V6.
I drove the HSE Luxury with the diesel engine.
With each of these there are also multiple variations of options packages, so that between the different models, trim levels, and options, you could build a dazzling variety of Land Rovers.
My first look at the exterior design gave me pause, and I’ll admit my initial reaction was less than complimentary. But within a day or two of my test drive I’d become quite fond of the look. With so many luxury mid-size SUVs all looking the same, the Land Rover stands out.
You’re engulfed in excellent materials and large, comfy seats. The designers made sure that, even though it’s happy on the off-road trails, the Land Rover will accommodate long highway trips.
There’s plenty of room inside, and I doubt any of your passengers would complain about space, even your taller friends. But even with that space there were times I felt like my arms and elbows were held in unnatural positions.
The gauges and screens are all set in good positions, everything is easy to find and manipulate, and visibility is good out the front. I found the blind spots to be tough, but some of the tech gear can make up for that.
Speaking of visibility, one thing I’d recommend is either lowering or removing altogether the center headrest from the second row. It acts like a big block in your rear-view mirror view.
The shifter is the kind that rises from the center console upon starting the vehicle. All the other trimmings inside are first-class, too, including the layout of the cockpit.
Storage space up front is great, with a nice deep well between the seats and other convenient cubbies. There’s even two glove compartments, which was cool.
Cargo space in the way-back is generous, and with automatic folding seats — which, by the way, also lay flat — you have more than enough room for hauling.
The Land Rover delivers a smooth, comfortable ride. I found a decent amount of get-up-and-go from the diesel engine.
Steering is dynamite, a pleasant experience when I took it out on some windy roads. Handling is also above-average, especially considering this is not a small vehicle. Braking was about average.
The ride is quiet, too. The traditional diesel ping wasn’t overbearing at all, and, if anything, provided a sense of strength.
There’s a fair quantity of driver assist features that come standard, but many of your favorite toys will be found in the options.
That includes adaptive cruise control, the popular 360-degree camera, and the head-up display on the windshield.
You can also choose the (deep breath) Seven Seat Luxury Climate Comfort Package. Whew. That brings you four-zone climate control and seats that massage, if that’s important to you.
With its Smartphone Pack the Land Rover now has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
I had some connectivity issues here that cropped up throughout the week. Although it worked, at times it was a bit wonky. I don’t expect those issues to last with a luxury brand like this.
Through the years Land Rover has relished its dual identity, a luxurious ride for the well-to-do that can roll up its sleeves and get muddy going off-road.
Those things haven’t changed. It’s still a beautiful piece of machinery, and it still is quite happy leaving the pavement.
With its generous cargo space, smooth, comfortable ride, and distinct exterior styling, the latest Land Rover is a solid choice for families in the market for a mid-size luxury SUV.
2019 Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury
3.0-liter turbo diesel V6
(gasoline engine also available)
8-speed automatic transmission
Fuel economy: 21/26/23 combined
As tested: $80,915
Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer