Land Rovers are the real thing. They were around before sport-utilities were a glimmer in the eyes of the world's marketeers. Land Rover earned its legend in Africa and the Australian Outback, bounding over rocks and hills, fording creeks and rivers, thundering along the savanna, creeping through tall grasslands among prides of lazy lions sulking in the sunlight.
Land Rover Discovery's suspension articulation, four-wheel-drive, and extensive off-road technology must be experienced in extreme conditions to be truly appreciated. Land Rover Centres are staffed with outdoor enthusiasts committed to customer satisfaction. Most have attended Land Rover University in Maryland to learn how to exercise that commitment and to sharpen off-road driving skills.
The Discovery was born in England in 1989 and introduced to North America five years later. It immediately set about spreading the Land Rover experience, by driving overall sales from 4906 in 1994 to 23,826 by 1997. Discovery was redesigned for 1999, and a new chassis and suspension made the Discovery Series II a smoother highway vehicle without compromising its off-road capability. Discovery Series II boosted overall Land Rover sales another 30 percent. Land Rover invested $190 million in its factory in England in 2001, taking advantage of the resources and technology of its parent company Ford, and improving quality control.
The 2003 Discovery gets a more powerful engine, a proven 4.6-liter V8 first introduced in the upscale Range Rover in 1996. There are some 350 other changes to the 2003 Discovery, most notably new headlights and front-end styling, and refinements to the suspension and brakes. But the vast majority of the improvements are details.
For 2003, Land Rover has revamped the equipment packaging and Discovery model lineup. There are now three Discovery models: S ($34,350), SE ($38,350), and HSE ($40,350).
All three models use the new 217-horsepower aluminum 4.6-liter V8, with a sophisticated four-speed electronic transmission with Normal, Sport and Manual modes. Every Discovery uses a permanent (full-time) four-wheel-drive with a two-speed transfer case. It comes standard with traction control, ABS with electronic brake force distribution, and Hill Descent Control. Also standard are a power driver's seat; dual zone climate control; rear window washer, wiper and defroster; and rear fog lights.
Standard equipment with Discovery S includes seats covered with Duragrain, a tough, attractive vinyl-like material that comes in black or beige; an Alpine 100-watt AM/FM/cassette audio system with six speakers; and 16-inch alloy wheels.
SE and HSE come with black or beige leather seats and burled wood trim. Both offer six-disc CD changers, the SE using a 220-watt Phillips/Lear 12-speaker system, and the HSE using a 320-watt Harman Kardon system with 11 speakers. Both come with 18-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, dual power sunroofs, headlight washers, a cargo tonneau cover, and a Class III tow hitch.
HSE adds a GPS navigation system, power front passenger seat, rear park distance control (a convenient beeper that gauges relative distance to contact), and a self-leveling suspension with rear air springs, good for heavy loads.
Options for all models include a heated windshield and front seats, rear air conditioning, a third-row seat package consisting of two Duragrain jump seats and a hydraulic step for entry from the rear, and Java Black paint.
An optional Performance Package ($1700) for the SE and HSE includes Land Rover's Active Cornering Enhancement system. For 2003, a headliner-mounted DVD system is available.