New & Used Land Rover Discovery: In Depth
2003 Land Rover DiscoveryEnlarge Photo
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The Land Rover Discovery was a five-door sport-utility vehicle that became the second mainstream offering in Land Rover's U.S. lineup (discounting the military-grade Defender). It joined the Range Rover in showrooms in the 1994 model year, and has occupied that niche for 20 years--if you count the successor LR3 and LR4 models.
Equipped with an automatic transmission, a 3.9-liter V-8, and four-wheel drive, the rugged-looking Discovery quickly gained a reputation for hardcore off-roading, which Land Rover encouraged through events that put the vehicle through extraordinary terrain and circumstances--events like the Camel Trophy and jungle expeditions in Belize. Outfitted with a locking differential and proper tires, the Discovery proved to be an agile off-roader--and at about $35,000 base, a much less expensive vehicle to bash around in versus its regal Range Rover sibling.
The Discovery had been sold in other markets prior to 1994, but because of U.S. safety regulations, it couldn't be offered until after a mid-cycle revamp that incorporated dual airbags.
The SUV was updated extensively for the 1999 model year, with the goal of reducing its complexity and increasing its reliability, which had been a sore point with the first generation. At the same time, Land Rover was transitioning from ownership by BMW to ownership by the Ford Motor Company. With the new model came a longer body (by 6.5 inches) on an unchanged wheelbase, and a long list of new technology features including traction control and hill-descent control. A new suspension design helped the top-heavy Discovery behave more stably, and a new 4.0-liter version of the old Rover V-8 (which had its origins at Buick, of all places) was rated at 188 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque.
Gradually, the Discovery was adapted for better on-road behavior, losing its locking center differential in 2001, and going through yet another reskin in the 2003 model year. That model year brought a new front-end look and an upgrade to the Range Rover's powertrain--a swap of the Buick-derived V-8 for a BMW-engineered 4.4-liter V-8 producing 300 hp. Land Rover also added free maintenance for the first four years or 50,000 miles of the vehicle's life, to convince fence-sitters. In its last years on the U.S. market, the Discovery had seen improved third-row seats, too, though its back chairs always were a seating position of last resort.The Land Rover Discovery was superseded by the replacement model, the Land Rover LR3, in the 2005 model year. The LR3 name lasted through the 2009 model year, when it was redesigned and rebadged the Land Rover LR4.