1 Apr 1991
As the iconic Range Rover (RR) grew in price and prestige, so a gap broadened between it and the utilitarian Land Rover (LR) Defender original.
So, to great critical and commercial success, LR conceived the permanent 4WD Discovery.
Initially available only as a single model two-door station wagon known as the V8i, the alloy-bodied Discovery was developed from the steel box-section RR chassis and shared many of that vehicle’s features – such as the long-travel coil spring suspension and front door apertures – although many more components, like the body design, were designed principally for this application.
Power came courtesy of the long-lived Rover alloy V8 engine producing 115kW/260Nm from 3.5 litres, tied to a dual-ratio five-speed manual gearbox (no auto was available at first) with drive via a transfer box with a lockable centre differential.
With a novel raised rear roof for extra carrying capacity and a spacious, airy cabin, the Discovery sat five adults in comfort, while the driver faced an attractive, functional dashboard. Power steering and electric mirrors was standard while two extra seats were optional.
In October ’91, the long-awaited four-door Discovery arrived in base V8i and luxury HL versions. Both featured central locking, electric windows, headlight washers and heated door mirrors, while the latter added alloy wheels, air-conditioning, driving lights and improved audio.
An 83kW/265Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel TDi variant was also introduced.
In early ’93 a four-speed automatic option was added to the range while the HL disappeared. From December ’93, petrol-powered Discoverys saw some mechanical improvements.
The RR’s 134kW/304Nm 3.9-litre V8 engine displaced the 3.5, resulting in better performance and refinement, while a bigger fuel tank (up from 81.7 to 88.5 litres), larger anti-roll bars and hardier brake pads were also incorporated.
The lavishly equipped ES four-door wagon from early ’94 featured seven seats, dual airbags, anti-lock brakes, cruise control, a CD player, leather trim and a dual sunroof.
To coincide with a wide-range trim facelift, dual airbags, anti-lock brakes, roof racks and keyless entry became standard on all models from April ’96.
In February ’97 LR realigned the Discovery range with an entry level S, mid-level SE and luxury SE7.
The two-door models disappeared equipment levels increased and there were minor changes to the air-conditioning and security system.
Limited edition Discoveries included the Rossignol from mid-’93 (200 examples) and mid-’95 (100), and the V8-only LS from early ’98.