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First look: All-new Disco fever hits Land Rover

Ford first:This is the first Ford-engineered Land Rover and uses mostly Jaguar-sourced engines.

A radically new Discovery should help Land Rover better rival Toyota’s popular Prado

6 Apr 2004

LAND ROVER has released the first details of its third generation Discovery just before its unveiling at the New York motor show this week.

Australian deliveries are expected to start in the last quarter of this year, following a Sydney motor show debut in October.

A radical departure from before, the Discovery Mk3 marks the arrival of a new platform that dispenses with the current model’s separate chassis construction.

A completely redesigned body and cabin, fresh drivetrain components and high-tech electronics aim to place the Land Rover at the forefront of the medium 4WD segment.

It is also expected to underpin Land Rover’s new premium Range Stormer sports-luxury 4WD range next year.

Details are still sketchy, but Land Rover does say that the full-time 4WD Discovery Mk3 offers "class-leading breadth of capability, innovative user-friendly technology and new levels of interior space".

A substantially bigger body, longer wheelbase and larger side door openings back up the latter claim, while the broader boot area will benefit by a low loading lip, taller ceiling and collapsible second and third row seating.

All should also make the seven seat-capable Mk3 significantly more comfortable and versatile than before.

Current Range Rover styling cues include the quad headlight nose (with optional round-corner lighting), chunky geometric sides, deep windows, wide track stance and split tailgate function.

Land Rover says its 4.4 unit benefits from better low-down torque characteristics

Land Rover has also incorporated traditional Discovery trademarks such as the stepped roof (that benefits rear headroom) and an asymmetrical rear window design, while the wide set (and lower-placed) tail-lights and Volvo V70-like profile will be new to older generation Discovery owners.

In the engine room, a Jaguar-sourced 224kW 4.4-litre V8 will finally lay the 40-plus years old GM Buick-based 136kW/340Nm 4.0-litre OHV V8 to rest.

In 4.2-litre guise in the Jaguar XJ8, it produces 420Nm of torque. Land Rover says its 4.4 unit benefits from better low-down torque characteristics, has improved water and dust sealing and water-wading capabilities, and can operate in acute angles.

Other powerplants will be the US Ford Explorer-derived (but significantly altered) 153kW/339Nm 4.0-litre V6, as well as Ford’s new 142kW/440Nm 2.7-litre common rail turbo-diesel V6 that debuted first in the latest Jaguar S-Type sedan.

All will be available with a six-speed automatic transmission, while the latter also comes with a six-speed manual option.

"Best in class off-road" and "great to drive on-road" are the bold promises made by Land Rover, the upshot of the new Discovery’s car-like monocoque body construction.

Also adding weight to the claims are the fully independent coil suspension that uses height adjustable air springs on more expensive models, as well as high-tech electronic driver aids known as the "Terrain Response" system first unveiled in the Range Stormer concept at January’s Detroit motor show.

With weight, rigidity, refinement and space efficiency benefits, the former is a first for the series and should see the Discovery easily match the class leading Toyota Prado.

On the driving front, the patented Terrain Response system employs five dashboard settings according to the specific driving environment: Normal and traction-enhancing Slippery for on-road driveability, and Mud/Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl for more serious off-road progress.

The system then works with the various electronic trickery such as the traction and stability controls, Land Rover’s anti-lock brake-based Hill Descent control, ride height function, engine torque response and transmission settings for maximum efficiency progress.

The new Discovery is the first Land Rover developed wholly under the guidance of Ford, owner of the English brand since buying it off BMW in early 2000.

The previous edition was launched in 1999 but was a substantial redevelopment of the 1989 Discovery Mk1 range devised by then owner British Aerospace.

Much of that car’s hardware and underpinnings were derived from the original Range Rover of 1970 to 1994.

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