Hypermiling the 2019 Land Rover Discovery

can be reached at kyle.edward1@gmail.com
can be reached at kyle.edward1@gmail.com
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The 2019 Land Rover Discovery is an extremely capable vehicle, but not one known for its fuel-efficiency. Can we push it to greater heights?

  • The 2019 Land Rover Discovery is the brand’s largest vehicle by seating capacity with room for 7.
  • It has three trim levels, starting at $52,950 for the base SE, $59,700 HSE and $67,200 for the top trim HSE Luxury.
  • There are two engine options available on the Discovery, a supercharged petrol engine, and a diesel offering.
  • The petrol engine is rated by the EPA at 16 mpg city & 21 mpg highway, while the diesel offering is rated at 21 mpg city & 26 mpg highway.
2019 Land Rover Discovery. Photo (c) Kyle Edward

Land Rover has long held a reputation for producing large gas-guzzling SUV’s, with a hefty price tag to match. While the high price remains, Land Rover aims to change consumer perceptions of the brand’s commitment to fuel-economy, while still maintaining their image of producing powerful vehicles.

Many manufacturers are working towards electrifying their fleet in order to accommodate stricter fuel economy and pollution laws, and Land Rover is no exception. In recent years the company has made inroads in electrification, diesel powertrain and supercharging technologies, all of which allow for an increase in fuel economy. Their latest engine combines a six-cylinder supercharged engine with a small battery that works at slow speeds to increase efficiency.

Engine Details:

Weighing in just shy of 5,500 lbs, the Discovery is a considerably heavy vehicle, and all that mass takes a toll on fuel-economy. However, a new aluminum architecture introduced in 2017, allows the Discovery to shed over 400 lbs. That weight reduction accounts for the 2020 Discovery’s improved fuel-economy figures.

Our vehicle was equipped with the supercharged 3.0l V-6 petrol engine, which cranks out 340 hp @ 6500 rpm and 332 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm. I found the powertrain to be solid overall, although it was a bit jumpy when cruising around the city at low speeds. The car really liked to take off quickly, and I had to feather the throttle a bit to make sure I did not give it too much, otherwise, I’d find myself shooting down the road much quicker than expected.

Discovery dash. Photo (c) Kyle Edward

The Discovery can rush from 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds, which is quite good considering just how much this engine has to haul around. In order to really get moving, it did require me to put my foot down.  Between the noise of the engine and the body lurching backward, you’ll know when you’re trying to go fast. The Discovery is not like some other vehicles (the BMW X5 for example), which just move smoothly throughout acceleration. It’s not really something to be concerned about though, as I doubt many of you will be racing in your Discovery between stoplights.

All of this power is routed through an 8-speed automatic transmission, which offers manual shifting and sport mode. It’s a smooth transmission but not incredibly quick to shift, like one might expect to find in an Audi.

Driving Dynamics:

In our assessment of the Discovery, let’s not forget that we are looking at a vehicle designed to forge rivers, cruise through mud, and crawl up mountains. That 11.1 inches of ground clearance is great for climbing over things, but not so much for cruising the highway. Granted those 11.1 inches only become available when the air suspension setting is set to high, but even on lower settings, it rides high. On the plus side, the Discovery does give a wide, commanding view of the road.

With that fact in mind, the steering and handling is focused on off-road manners, not highway cruising. There is an off-road-friendly dead zone at the center of the steering wheel, which requires more corrections at highway speed, but this grey-space is smaller than in previous models and the steering is otherwise moderately quick and precise.

Discovery on the road. Photo (c) Kyle Edward

Thankfully, the Discovery’s air suspension makes for a smooth ride and it will leave your passengers very satisfied. It remains comfortable over long road trips or extended travel over rough surfaces.

If you do decide to take the family on a road trip, the Discovery is a solid choice: after all, you can fit seven people in this guy.  You’ll also be happy to know it can tow up to 8,201 lbs, which is about the weight of the average large trailer. Plus you’ll be able to leave the ATVs at home, as the Discovery can traverse some pretty rugged terrain.

The Test:

Now it comes down to seeing just how many miles per gallon we can squeeze out of this mammoth SUV. The Discovery is technically equipped with stop/start technology, but I found it to be so intrusive that I had to turn it off.

First I ran the vehicle at 65 mph for 10 miles down a flat California highway. The results were quite impressive, as I was able to achieve 26 mpg during my test. That’s 5 mpg more than advertised by the EPA. However, those figures came from running at 65 mph and hovering around 1,500 rpms, the engine’s sweet spot.

In a second test, running at 70 mph over those same 10 miles, the efficiency dropped quickly to 22 mpg.  At that speed, the rpms also jumped to around 1,700.

Discovery steering wheel. Photo (c) Kyle Edward

Let’s face it, many of us do not drive the posted 65 or 70 mph speed limit. Instead, we generally cruise around at 75 to 80 mph. When keeping up with this real-world pace in the third test, our numbers dropped significantly, falling below the 20-mpg mark to just 18.7 mpg. The main reason for the Discovery’s abysmal efficiency at those speeds is the additional fuel needed to make that 7th to 8th gear switch.

When it comes to highway driving, if you operate the Discovery efficiently and run in the 65 and 70 mph range, can comfortably get 1 to 2 better than the 21 mpg rated by the EPA.

Ah, city driving, the petrol engine’s worst night mirror. The Discovery doesn’t sound too bad on paper, getting an EPA-rated 16 mpg around town. However, during our downtown San Francisco 10-mile road test, I averaged just 13 mpg. Granted, this test was done in dense traffic, never going above 35 mph.  But they do call it city driving for a reason. As part of the test, I was also cautious to never jump over 2,750 rpms during my 10-mile jaunt through the hilly streets of San Francisco.

While the Discovery did not meet the EPA’s rated city efficiency in our real-world test, 13 mpg is about average compared to other 7-seater SUV’s on the market when put through similar driving conditions.

When Land Rover’s new highly anticipated 6-cylinder electric assisted motor lands in future Discovery packages, it should help those city fuel-economy numbers dramatically.

Final Thoughts:

The 2019 Land Rover Discovery lives up to its name, sporting legendary off-road capabilities coupled with room for seven passengers. The diesel engine option is best if you are looking for extended range and better overall fuel economy, while the petrol engine is more powerful and, if you play your cards right and make sure to cruise in the sweet spot often, you can still get a few extra miles per gallon better on the highway than advertised.

Land Rover badges. Photo (c) Kyle Edward

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can be reached at kyle.edward1@gmail.com
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