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Car reviews - Land Rover - Discovery - 3-dr wagon

Our Opinion

We like
Great off-road, reasonably capable on-road
Room for improvement
Some early durability and reliability issues thirsty engine

18 Jun 2003

HAVING established a tradition of ruggedness and practicality with the Land Rover and then producing arguably the most luxurious and capable off-road vehicle on the market in the Range Rover, the Rover Company found the need to bring in a new model.

It had to be priced under the Rangie - which was rapidly escalating in price as it became better equipped and refined - to fill the gap between the basic four-wheel drives and the luxury sector.

The Discovery was introduced in Australia in 1991, five years after initial design started in the UK.

With its distinctive stepped roofline, large glass areas and upswept C-pillar, the Discovery instantly became recognisable as related to, but different from, the Range Rover.

In a market dominated by Japanese models, it was refreshingly different.

The Discovery succeeded the County which shared the same successful chassis and suspension design of the Range Rover, but with a no-frills boxy body.

For the Discovery, the stylists used computer-aided design to produce a fresh and innovative look with an integrated theme for the interior which is quite distinctive.

The low dash, large grab handle, high driving position and novel finishes give the Discovery a unique character.

It is available in two or four-door body styles, both on a wheelbase of 2540mm.

Engine options are the tried and true 3.5-litre alloy V8 or a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged diesel, both with five- speed manual gearbox only.

From 1993 the petrol engine size was increased to 4.0-litres and a four-speed automatic became an option.

The Discovery 4x4 two-door wagon is powered by an alloy V8 engine of 3528cc with electronic hot wire fuel-injection. Using a low compression ratio of 8.13:1, it can operate happily on 91 octane fuel.

The five-speed gearbox drives all four wheels constantly through a transfer box and lockable centre differential, eliminating the need to manually lock up the front hubs from outside the vehicle if sticky conditions are encountered.

The suspension system of the Discovery is inherited from the Range Rover and the County.

With beam axles and coil springs all round and exceptionally long wheel movement, the off-road capability is the best around.

The box section ladder design chassis is also traditional Range Rover and is specially corrosion proofed to match the rust resistance of the aluminium body panels.

Brakes are power-assisted discs all round with the drum type handbrake acting on the transfer box rear shaft.

The interior has a luxury feel with tweed cloth upholstery, fitted carpets, front and rear side storage pockets, roof storage slots and nets, split/fold rear seat and centre console shelf.

Standard features include air-conditioning, security-coded radio/cassette player, full instrumentation and tinted glass.

Luggage space is generous with a large rectangular carpeted load storage area with side storage bins. The rear tail gate also has storage pockets and the split rear seat back can increase storage room even further.

On the road, the Discovery is a bit of a mixture. Performance from the V8 is leisurely rather than stirring and the body roll in corners can be quite alarming until one becomes accustomed to it. This feeling is accentuated by the high driving position, although vision is superb.

Off-road, the vehicle is quite remarkable with the long travel suspension soaking up undulations and bumps in effortless fashion.

In outback conditions, the car gives the impression of being able to go absolutely anywhere - in comfort.

The Land Rover Discovery is a vehicle with considerable character.

Quite different in feel to its Japanese counterparts, it has a few quirks which require adjustment by the driver but the overall performance, particularly off-road, is very good.

Some features take getting used to but the differences, combined with outstanding off-road ability, are what make the vehicle so interesting.

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