In the 4 years since the launch of the Discovery it has become a huge seller for Land Rover, over 120,000 being exported to some 89 countries worldwide, making it even more successful than it's bigger brother the Range Rover and one of the brightest stars in the Rover firmament, an enviable reputation and a success story that was undoubtedly one of the features that attracted the acquisitive intentions of new owners BMW.

Driving the car again it's little surprise that the Discovery has caught on in such a big way, not only is it much cheaper than the prestigious Range Rover, which has moved steadily upmarket each year, it offers all of the abilities of that car in a size acceptable to a wider audience. But after four years Land Rover have decided that it's time to ring the changes and hundreds of detail improvements have produced a car with even more refined driving manners than before.

Although the body has not greatly changed there are new, more efficient, light clusters front and rear, new damage resisting bumpers and a redesigned grille.

Inside and under the skin there are, however, much greater changes with better soundproofing making even the diesel very quiet, an extensively re-engineered gearbox that is lighter and smoother and a much more user friendly clutch action.

The interior now has very comfortable seats with built in headrests, the spacious cabin is much quieter than before, there are many improvements to the dashboard and instruments, to the driver's benefit, and there is that high driving position which gives a commanding view of the road.

Such a spacious cabin allows vast amounts of head and legroom and cabin stowage, with the rear seats all folded down there is a whopping 70 cubic feet of load space, all under a tonneau cover, to maximise this area's use the rear bench seat is split 60/40 and there are a pair of inward facing jump seats ingeniously folded into the rear wheel arches.

One of 3 engine options, the test car was powered by the 2.5 litre turbo diesel engine and there has been considerable - and very effective - work on refining and quietening this power plant. It now a much more smoother drive and feels quite sprightly, more like a petrol engined version, with 111 bhp and a massive 196 lbs/feet of torque available.

Available with a choice of 4 speed automatic gearboxes or 5 speed manual gearboxes, power is transmitted to the permanently engaged 4 wheel drive system via a hi-lo ratio transfer box with differential lock for real pulling power, indeed it can tow a massive 4 tons.

As before, the 3.9 V8i and 2 litre Mpi petrol engines are options in the range which includes both 3 and 5 door versions, in 2 trim levels, all ranging from the 3 door Mpi at £17,640, through the numerous combinations, to the V8i ES at £26,765.

The car which I drove had the optional 5 Star package which, for £1190, adds wider tyres on 5 spoke alloy wheels, twin sunroofs of a much improved design, roof rails and a CD multi-player. That lot adds to an already impressive standard features list which includes tilt adjustable steering, remote central locking, an alarm and immobiliser system, power steering, power windows and mirrors and a good 4 speaker stereo. Dual airbags and ABS are on the options list.

With some detailed suspension improvements, the ride is now much smoother with better handling and much improved roll characteristics although, for my tastes, the steering is still a bit light and vague but given the large wheels and tyres it is hardly surprising and a common feature of off roaders.

Braking is very substantial with an all disc set-up and there is an ABS option.

Off road or on road the Discovery is a winner and fast becoming a cult vehicle, it's as happy on the motorway at speed as climbing a 34 degree incline or fording a steam up to half a metre deep, it's as easy to drive as a family hatch and with a footprint of a similar size yet can fight it's way through the roughest terrain as easily as carry the family shopping home or fetch the kids from school. How many family cars can do that? The new Discovery is a mark of excellence made better.


  • PRICE AS TESTED £22,738
  • TOP SPEED 92 M.P.H.


First Published 1994 - Article © Graham Benge 2007

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