For those off-road enthusiasts who want the best of both worlds - toughness in the dirt and luxury on the road - the Land Rover Discovery may be just the ticket. Land Rover has a long tradition of producing vehicles that fit both these criteria, and the company's top-of-the-line Range Rover may be the pinnacle of off-road luxury. The Discovery, introduced as a new vehicle in 1994, doesn't have quite the hefty price tag as the Range Rover (base Discoverys go for $34,000), but does have plenty of creature amenities and is a very capable off-roader. Last year, Land Rover introduced the Discovery Series II, a bigger, better, improved Discovery that would take the marque into the next millennium. Major changes over the original Discovery include a longer body, a wider track, more braking ability, added horse-power, and upgraded suspension cues.
A wide variety of features team up in the Discovery Series II to make it a capable and comfortable vehicle. Motivation is provided by a 4.0L V-8 powerplant pumping out 188 hp and a beefy 250 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to a ZF four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with a locking torque converter. The permanent four-wheel-drive system uses four-wheel Electronic Traction Control (4ETC) and a two-speed transfer gearbox. Land Rover's Hill Descent Control (HDC) is now found on the Discovery, a very useful tool for off-roaders. When traveling down steep slopes, simply push a button on the dashboard, select Low range, and the HDC goes to work, restricting downhill speed to a safe, slow rate - you can keep your foot off the brake and just steer.
Additional mechanical features of the Discovery Series II include a four-channel braking system, the use of Range Rover-type axles for a wider track and longer service life, and an available Active Cornering Enhancement (ACE) system. The ACE automatically adjusts two-piece antisway bars during cornering. The system is designed to virtually eliminate body lean as much as 0.40g of lateral acceleration.
The Discovery's body and chassis construction is ready for almost any challenge, using a 14-gauge, boxed-steel ladder frame with five crossmembers and a welded steel monocoque underbody mounted to the frame at five rubber-insulated points. The outer body panels are double-sided galvanized steel and aluminum alloy.
While the Discovery's mechanical attributes combine to give it excellent on- and off-road capability, interior amenities and creature comforts team up to provide a memorable driving experience. Some of these features include new seating designs with new lumbar adjustments and fold-down armrests, optional English leather, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Add in such luxuries as dual temperature heating and air conditioning; available 320-watt spatial sound system; power windows; backlit controls; dual power sunroofs; auto-dimming rearview mirror; heated power exterior mirrors; and generous interior lighting and you have all the makings of a comfortable and capable ride.
During a week-long test of the Discovery Series II, we had ample time to fully test the vehicle's features and capabilities. Land Rover vehicles have a unique feel and ride, and this latest Discovery is definitely a family member in good standing. The interior fit and finish is always a hallmark of Rover vehicles, and the Discovery did not disappoint with ample use of leather and interior appointments. What impresses you when you enter the Discovery's interior is the sheer airiness of the cockpit. With dual sunroofs, a pair of Alpine windows in the back, and eight additional windows for light and air, the overall feeling is very spacious.
One feature of the Discovery we were very anxious to test was the Active Cornering Enhancement system, which is the first automotive application of this type. Similar to most sport utilities, the Discovery is prone to lean and sway, especially when taking hard corners. We pushed the vehicle hard into a few corners during a testdrive and are happy to report that the Discovery remained fairly level, even during radical maneuvers. This greatly added to the vehicle's on-road compliancy, which is quite acceptable for an SUV. Off-road, the Discovery is known for its gutsy nature and for the past few years has been the vehicle of choice for the Camel Trophy, an off-road competition/adventure/challenge that pits drivers and vehicles against the roughest terrain in the world. Once in the dirt, the Discovery impresses with its tenacity and go-anywhere attitude. The new HDC (Hill Descent Control) is a great asset when traveling down steep slopes, and incidentally, is also found on the Land Rover Freelander (only available in Europe) and the brand-new BMW X5 sport utility.
The Discovery may not be to everyone's tastes and does carry a somewhat hefty price tag (our tester came with all the goodies and checked in at $43,375), but for off-roading in style, it can't be beat. All in all, the Discovery Series II is definitely a bit of British charm with a stiff upper lip.
|2000 LAND ROVER DISCOVERY SERIES II|
|Base price||$34,150 (as tested: $43,375)|
|Length x width x height||185.2x74.4x76.4 in|
|Track, f/r||60.6 in/61.4 in|
|Curb weight||4,576-4,630 lbs (depending on configuration)|
|Base engine||4.0L V-8|
|Horsepower, SAE net||188|
|Transmission||ZF four-speed electronically controlled automatic|
|Suspension||Solid axles, coil springs, optional Active Cornering Enhancement|
|Tires||255/55HR18 (on tester), 255/65HR16 (standard)|