- Available for £25,000
- 2.0-litre four or 3.0-litre V6 (petrol or diesel), all-wheel drive
- Incredibly accomplished on or off the road
- Looks aren’t to everyone’s taste
- Some fairly nasty reliability skeletons in the closet
- Which you’d hope will have been sorted on your one
If for whatever reason you wanted to rub shoulders with the most patient people in the world, here’s a tip: try a Land Rover owners’ event. Any LR buyer’s guide will tell you that the gap between box-fresh design excellence and real-world ownership can be maddeningly wide. Landies have been delighting and disappointing owners in probably equal measure for three-quarters of a century now.
You’d think the supply of patience would have run out decades ago, but it hasn’t. Whenever a new Land Rover comes out there’s never any shortage of buyers. Moreover, when the old one is nearing the end of its run, you’ll generally see a nostalgia-based sales spike. It’s a kind of magic. Or madness. Minority Report for cars.
Has the Discovery 5, the subject of today’s guide, been another test of mental fortitude for owners? It shouldn’t have been. By the time it came out in 2017, over 1.2 million Discoveries had been sold and Land Rover had had 28 years to get both the concept and the everyday ownership proposition right. Did they though? This is the question we’ll be pondering here.
The brief for the Discovery 5 was ambitious. In terms of what it set out to do both on and off the road, it was going to be the biggest, poshest and most accomplished Land Rover ever, Full Fat Range Rover excepted of course. Central to its new skillset was a switch from the old Discovery 4’s steel-body, ladder-frame design to a Range Rover Sport-style aluminium monocoque. Considerable weight savings ensued – the lightest 5 was nearly half a tonne lighter than the lightest 4 – but those weight savings weren’t exclusively frittered away on reducing the headline kg number. Some were used to embiggen the vehicle to near-Audi Q7 dimensions, turning it into a vehicle that could genuinely be occupied by seven adults rather than the usual five adults and two children.
Each new Discovery from the first one in 1989 has successively brought new levels of comfort, refinement and technical wizardry, and the L462’s Terrain Response traction and stability control systems didn’t disappoint, setting new standards for unlikely off-road feats. Although the 5’s ground clearance was about an inch lower than the 4’s, its wheelbase was slightly longer, and the wading depth went up to a whisker short of three feet. That’s not far away from the height of an average bloke’s belly button. Just imagine walking through a river at that depth. Adjustable air suspension was standard, with double wishbones at the front, LR’s ‘integral link’ multi-link at the rear and a foot and a half of wheel articulation.
There was a good choice of engines too, in the shape of Ingenium four- or six-cylinder units (no V8s) drinking either petrol or diesel. The twin-turbo diesels were a 240hp 2.0-litre SD4 or a 258hp 3.0 TD6 which was replaced in 2018 by a nicer 306hp 3.0 SDV6. That’s the model we’ve chosen for our Specification data panel below. Petrol choices included a 300hp turbocharged 2.0-litre Si4 and a supercharged 340hp 3.0 V6 Si6, but you’ll do well to find used examples of those in the UK. Of the 500-odd Discovery 5s on sale on PH Classifieds fewer than ten were phase-one (pre-2021) petrols. All engines came with a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission.
Four equipment levels began with the S, which had air conditioning, air suspension, 19in alloy wheels, a 10in touchscreen with DAB, six-speaker audio, a powered tailgate and a heated windscreen. SE added leather upholstery, heated front seats, sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, 10-speaker audio and electric folding and heated door mirrors.
HSEs had Windsor leather, a panoramic glass roof, keyless entry, a rear-view camera, heated front and rear seats, electrically reclining middle seats, powered back seats, 20-inch wheels, and 380w Meridian sound. The top-of-the-range HSE Luxury took the audio amp up to 825w and added electric opening to the sunroof, heated/cooled seats, four-zone climate control, heated steering wheel, rear-seat entertainment, 360-degree camera, and 21-inch wheels.
Two special editions went on sale in 2019 to mark three decades of the Discovery. The SDV6 SE-based Anniversary Edition was limited to 400 units for the UK market only and had three exclusive paint options. Shortly after that the SD4 or SDV6-based Landmark unlimited edition was released.
2021 was a big change-up year for the Discovery 5, with the launch of the phase two models. Besides the usual cosmetic refresh enhancements like new headlights and bumpers there were sportlicher R-Dynamic bodykits, new trim levels and big wheel choices, an improved infotainment system and a new engine selection with badging that actually told you what fuel it burned, P or D, accompanied by a number to tell you the power in hp. Alongside the continuing D250 four-cylinder diesel were two 48-volt mild-hybrid straight-sixes, the 360hp P360 petrol and the 300hp D300 diesel. There was also a non-hybrid 300hp P300 petrol. These revamped Disco 5s (which started at £52,000 new) will doubtless get their own buying guide at some point in the future. For the meantime though we’ll be sticking to the pre-2021 Discoveries here.
Land Rover’s own launch of the L663 Defender in 2019, just two years after the arrival of the Discovery 5, muddied the buying waters somewhat. Why put yourself through the grief of having to defend (sic) the Discovery’s looks when you could join the cool kids in Defender-ville? Well, because on many levels the L462 was a mouth-watering prospect. It was unbelievably adept both on and off the road. It had tons of space and comfort and a near-Goldilocks blend of luxury and practicality. Some did wonder if it was too big for UK use and, given LR’s less than stellar reputation for reliability, maybe too clever for its own good with many a musing on how long it would take for the complaints to start.
In early 2023 you still had to pay the thick end of £25k for high-mileage (110k plus) 3.0-litre diesels wearing a 2017 reg plate. The same sort of money would get you a 2017 2.0 diesel with under 70,000 miles, and not necessarily a pov-spec one, either, thanks to the usual Land Rover skewing of new orders towards top-spec models.
SPECIFICATION | LAND ROVER DISCOVERY 5 (L462) (2017-21)
Engine: 2,993cc V6 diesel
Transmission: 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 306@3,750rpm
Torque (lb ft): 516@1,750rpm
0-62mph (secs): 7.5
Top speed (mph): 130
Weight (kg): 2,366
MPG (official combined): 37
CO2 (g/km): 202
Wheels (in): 19
On sale: 2018-20
Price new: from £57,000
Price now: from £25,000
(Data given for 2018-20 SDV6 SE)
Note for reference: car weight and power data are hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
The mix of torque and power available from the four engines satisfied just about anyone bar those expecting to find a supercharged V8 in the range. Importantly for those interested in a smooth towing experience, the Discovery’s nicely mannered throttle ensured good low-speed controllability. Diesels were rated at 3,500kg for braked towing and there was a very clever Advanced Tow Assist feature that greatly simplified reversing with a trailer.
The first 3.0 TD6 diesel was only marginally quicker through the 0-62mph run than the 2.0 four-cylinder SD4 diesel and, some would say, degraded the handling a little compared to the lighter, smaller-engined variant. The TD6 was nearly as economical as the four on the official combined cycle at 39.2mpg versus 43.5mpg, but in the real world, you’d be looking at something in the mid-20s for the big six, putting it somewhat behind German rivals like the X5 and Q7. In HSE Luxury form the TD6 was over £17k more expensive than the base SD.
Working alongside a two-speed, low-range transfer box, the Discovery 5’s ZF gearbox had a tendency to hunt around for the right gear. This trait was more evident in the smaller-engined Discoveries. Some 2.0 SD4s exhibited poor idling causing stalling when pulling away from a stop. More seriously, an unknown number of 2.0 SD4s had to have new engines fitted because of metal fragments found in the oil, in some cases we believe as a result of failed piston rings. A lot of early cars seem to have blown at four years old with 35k-45k miles on them. Typical symptoms were a sudden loss of power followed by an oil level warning on the dash, full engine stop and a refusal to restart, a process that could happen in a matter of seconds.
Some engines were found to have no oil in them even though they had been correctly serviced and no oil light had come up previously. It was also reported that some 2.0 balance shafts were running out of true and that engine blocks had cracked. In one case this happened in an 18-month-old car with 9,000 miles on it, requiring the engine to be removed and refitted. One SD4 needed a new block, crank, pistons, oil pump and turbo.
In-warranty Discovery 5 engines were usually if not always replaced, but life wasn’t so easy for those that were out of warranty, or for those that had not been exclusively serviced by an LR-approved dealer. Even one out-of-network service – a tempting route to take as independent specialists were significantly cheaper than LR dealerships, and were at least as switched on as them when it came to product knowledge – could mess things up. Afflicted owners might be presented with bills of between £11.5k and £17.5k for the supply and fit of either recon or new engines. Some were granted half of the quoted sum back on goodwill. One owner uncovered by our research was promised full recompense only to be told later that there’d been a mistake and that they’d have to front up 20 per cent of the cost.
LR servicing costs could seem high, but on the plus side items that would often be treated as add-ons in other manufacturers’ service plans (like new coolant or brake fluid) were included in LR bills. Discovery 5s with the SD4 engine had a 2 year/21,000-mile service interval, with costs typically running on an ascending scale from around £450 to over £1,700, but you’d only have five of them over a 10-year period. Six-cylinder cars ran on a 1 year/16,000-mile schedule, the first six invoices fluctuating between £400 and £1,000 but averaging out at £500-£550 a go. A new cambelt took the cost of the seventh service up to around £1,500.
Earlier on we said that the more powerful 2018-on SDV6 3.0 diesel was nicer than the earlier TDV6 3.0, but the fact is that they have not been trouble-free. Restricted performance has been experienced by some owners, sometimes after a cold start or more scarily on the motorway, Worse, a number of 3.0 SDV6 engines have destroyed their cranks. Action to try and stop this included making sure that the oil pump was replaced at the same time as the cambelt and flushing the gearbox oil at 40,000 miles.
Talking of gearboxes, the dash warning ‘gearbox fault detected’ has spoilt the day of more than a handful of Discovery 5 owners. Sometimes it would be a faulty trans module valve. One box was reported to have blown up just out of the three-year warranty at 14,000 miles, generating an £8,500 repair bill.
In March 2018 there was a recall for 1,537 Land Rovers built between May 2016 and January 2018 to sort out potential fuel leaks. Only Discovery 5s with the 2.0-litre petrol engine were included in that. Another LR recall in April 2019 took in 4,800 cars built between March 2015 and July 2018 to put right excessive CO2 emissions caused by faulty software. Some cars have had to have partial rear wiring loom replacements. Batteries have been known to flake out at the three-year point.
Belying its visual impersonation of a car on stilts, the Discovery 5 was perfectly comfortable on the road. It hummed majestically along motorways and handled surprisingly well on smaller roads thanks to its bump-absorbing suspension and a steering rack from the Range Rover Sport that was heavy enough to give you reasonable confidence if you were in a hurry. In all honesty however you’re not likely to see too many of these being bullied along the Stelvio Pass. For more overt sportiness with an LR badge you’d be better off looking at the £15k cheaper (when new) RR Sport.
If most of your motoring is of the urban variety, you should think very carefully before taking the Disco 5 plunge as no amount of parking sensors will get around the fact that this is a very large vehicle that will have you breathing in when negotiating congested roads and flinching whenever something is coming the other way.
Even on 22in wheels the Discovery 5’s ride was excellent, but serial LR owners or buying guide readers won’t be surprised to hear that leaks from the air suspension system are not unknown and that suspension pumps have failed. Some Discovery owners have reported vibrations at 65-75mph, usually traced back to one of the front driveshafts being out of balance. Front suspension ball joints could wear out more quickly than you’d expect at below 50,000 miles versus the quoted life expectancy of 80,000 miles.
Aluminium wasn’t the only material used for the 5’s structure. Traditionalists bemoaned the dropping of the old picnic-friendly split tailgate in favour of a single-piece composite item, but others saw that move as one less thing to go wrong.
It would be an understatement to say that the asymmetric rear-end design was not universally loved or even admired. Everyone has to make their own judgement on that. All we’ll say is that this design feature seemed to work really well on the 3 and 4. Not sure what happened next.
The height of the 5 combined with the low headroom of some multi-storey car parks makes this one of those cars that you need to check above the glassline for body damage. Then get down low to seek out scuffs caused by adventurous stroke over-ambitious previous owners. Although LR did its best to smooth out the car’s aero profile there was only so much it could do with that height and uprightness so you will notice some wind noise at speed.
One notorious issue on D5s, especially early ones, has been water coming in through the pano roof but more annoyingly and inexplicably through the top of the windscreen. This was caused, so it is said, by the glass coming away from the bond along the top edge. This water ingress could lead to additional problems with dash or A-pillar airbag electronics. In at least one case even a replacement screen (at £850) didn’t fix the problem. LR’s official line on this was that it wasn’t covered by the warranty. The leaking problem, along with condensation issues, was still happening on 2019 cars.
The Discovery 5 was slightly narrower than the 4, enhancing the towering sensation of height you got behind the wheel. It was a real 7-seater with progressively raised ‘stadium’ seating to improve the lot of those in the back but the egalitarian sharing out of longitudinal space meant there was a small price to pay in front legroom. If you’re above average in the leg department you might want to try out the Volvo XC90 (which also trumped the LR for legroom in the middle row), but if you’re a regular-size person with a recurring need to take more than five people on long journeys the Discovery 5 may well be perfect for you.
With the possible exception of the fabric seats on un-optioned S models Discovery materials were high quality, creating a luxurious but also very practical environment. Land Rover said that it was as quiet inside a 5 as it was in the FFRR. It also had a wealth of cabin storage opportunities. The intelligent seat-folding option let you fold away all five back seats from the boot, from the infotainment screen or even from a Land Rover InControl Remote Premium app. When all five seats were down you had over 2,400 litres of cargo space to play with. Most owners were more than happy with the 1,100-plus litres that were available in a five-seat configuration.
The 8in- or in HSE and HSE Luxury specs 10in-screened InControl Touch Pro infotainment system wasn’t the most intuitive and was prone to bugginess. It’s important to make sure that all the updates have been put in place on any car you’re buying. Refreshed models came with the improved Pivi Pro system. There was a recall in late 2016 to remedy potentially non-functioning front passenger airbags on 452 vehicles built between July and October ’16. Parking sensors randomly going off has been reported.
On or off the road, the Discovery 5 was a comfy, confident and classy act, but there are two questions you should always ask yourself before splashing out on a used one.
The first one is ‘do I actually need everything this car offers?’ For most owners, the 5 will be over-specified in just about every way. It has the ability to get you out of terrains you’ll rarely, if ever, dare to go anywhere near in the first place. It has huge internal space, but that means huge external size – and that’s not something you’ll always appreciate on British roads. If you need seven seats but aren’t over-bothered about the ‘specialness’ of a Land Rover, you could try something more functional like a Kodiaq. If seven seats aren’t a must-have, a Touareg will do the job. Outside of those two, you’ve got the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Volvo XC90 and of course the Range Rover Sport.
The second question is ‘can my wallet and mental well-being survive the experience?’ Running costs won’t be low and if you’ve read this story all the way through, you’ll realise there are some things to think about. Keeping your wits about you is an essential part of any used LR purchase. That goes even for recent models like the Discovery 5, which is a shame. Anecdotal evidence suggests that LR is getting its act together, with the post-2021 phase two 5s being less troublesome than the phase ones that we’ve looked at here. The usual accumulation of mending knowledge has sprung up around the phase ones, which is a useful resource, and you’d like to think that most if not all of them have gone through their various baptisms of fire by now and will have had all their faults rectified. Perhaps now would be the time to mention that Land Rover’s approved extended warranty costs around £900 a year.
So, having either answered both these questions to your satisfaction or ignored them altogether because you’re dead set on a Discovery 5 no matter what, you’ll end up with something that, in correct running condition, will be a fabulous all-rounder. To whet your appetite, here’s a selection from PH Classifieds at the time of writing (February 2023). Mind yourself when you’re looking through ads for Discovery 5s as they often get lumped in with other non-5s. Ping up a back-end view to make sure you’re looking at the right ones.
The cheapest Disco 5 on PH as we went to press was this 2018 one-owner 3.0 TD6 SE, at a tempting £24,995. There is a catch: it’s done 118,000 miles. It seems to be bearing up well though which is good to see for the long term. The lowest price SDV6 is a 122,000-miler at £29k, but you’ll need to add VAT to that. Without getting our LR-branded calculator out that might make this 76,000-mile HSE Lux the cheapest SDV6 on PH. Finally, here’s the most affordable SD4 2.0 diesel. It’s a 2017 car and just an S but the mileage is good at 68,000. Yours for £26,695.
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