Pros: Transmission with Sport/Normal choice, Commanding view, Free Maintenance
Cons: Lack of passing power, Gas Mileage of a V8
Land Rover introduced to the US market in its first generation body style in 1994, which, mechanically speaking, closely resembled the 1995 and previous Range Rover Classic model. The vehicle went through significant upgrades in 1999. The new design shares no body panels with the previous style, yet retains the classic benchmark European theory of evolution in place of revolution. American and Asian carmakers have yet to learn this school of thought. In addition to the new body style, the interior (Seats, dash, switchgear, stereo, steering wheel, center consol, and cargo area) was significantly updated to bring the vehicle into the 21st century. The engine's output was increased thanks to a new highly efficient Bosch Motronic engine management system and intuitive ZF 4 speed automatic, both of which are from BMW 5 series cars, a result of BMW's brief ownership before selling Land Rover to Ford's Premier Auto Group (Jaguar, Aston Martin, Land Rover).
More power and revised front styling are among 388 improvements for Land Rover's 2003 Discovery. The headlamps feature a setup that looks more like the new Range Rover. It is a square fixture, with two circular housings in which the high and low beams are contained. The rear tailights have also been updated, providing a mid-model run updating. All of the Discoveries now use a 217-hp 300 lb-ft of torque 4.6-liter V8, which replaces a 188-hp 4.0 V8 and adds 50 lb-ft of torque. The grille, headlamps, and front bumper are restyled for '03, and instrument graphics are revised. These upgrades make a world of difference, giving the vehicle a new feel and further enhancing its striking appearance.
In price and dimensions, Discovery falls between Land Rover's Freelander and Range Rover. It comes in S, SE, and top-line HSE models. The available 3rd-row seats increases passenger capacity from five to seven, adding a "7" suffix to the badge. Also included in the 7 seating model is a convenient hydraulic step, allowing rear seat passengers to enter through the rear door with ease.
SE and HSE have wood and leather interior trim and dual sunroofs. The most expensive and most lavish HSE model includes Navigation system, optional on the SE, and an exquisite interior. A rear-obstacle-detection system is new and exclusive to the HSE. Rear DVD entertainment also is available, offering hours of entertainment for passengers through the powerful Harmon Kardon stereo system. Land Rover is always at the forefront of creating classy interior. The steering wheel rim is done in the color of the interior leather, and the color of the dash and steering wheel center match the piping on the fine leather clad seats. This provides a dramatic and classy look that only the British could craft.
Carried over as standard are the 4-speed automatic transmission, antilock 4-wheel disc brakes, and all-wheel drive with low-range gearing and traction control. Included in the optional Suspension Package is Land Rover's Active Cornering Enhancement (ACE), which uses hydraulic suspension levers to reduce body lean in turns. This feature is gives the vehicle an impressive feel whilst cornering. Body lean, which has plagued Land Rovers due to their immense suspension travel for off road purposes, has been a problem for decades. This system works remarkably to keep the vehicle feeling flat even whilst taking corners at high speeds. The package also includes rear self-leveling suspension, evening out the vehicle regardless of the payload situation, ensuring that the vehicle does not excessively squat due to a heavy rear load under towing or cargo transportation.
The S model has 16 inch alloy wheels, the others have stylish 18 inch wheels, similar to the ones that appeared on the 4.6HSE Range Rover. Braking, aided by large, reverse ventilated discs and brake force distribution, is solid and confidence inspiring, especially for a vehicle of this mass. Hill descent control, a Land Rover innovation which later spread to other vehicles, is helpful when descending steep, slippery slopes. Instead of risking loosing traction by human error using the breaks, this system keeps the vehicle around 3mph using engine breaking and computer smarts.
Towing capacity is an impressive and class leading 7,700 pounds. I have a trailer of two 3 person wave runners, and the weight doesn't affect the power delivery.
Complaints on my vehicle are few, but the quirkiness is part of the charm. The vehicle, despite its new engine, labors under highway passing. It is capable of passing, it just doesn't do it with the aplomb that you would expect from a 4.6 litre V-8 engine. Also, new for this year are larger cupholders that always remain exposed in addition to the retracting ones in the dash. Although more useful than the smallish dash holders, they take away from the stylish interior design. The rear swing out door is difficult to use. It is one piece and rotates open on side mounted hinges much like a barn door. I would like to see this changed to a two piece vertical aperture found on the Range Rover. Gas mileage, an inherent problem of big V8s, is poor. I average 15 in town and slightly above 20 on highways.
An added bonus to purchasing this vehicle in the US is the tax benefits one can obtain. Being that the vehicle's GVWR exceeds 5,999 pounds, the vehicle qualifies for great tax deductions allowing business owners to depreciate the vehicle at a very advantageous rate.
Owning a Land Rover is quite an experience. Dealer treatment is regal. Loaner cars are available, and because the dealerships started selling high priced Range Rovers before the more affordable models came about, they exemplify customer service. Warrantees durate for 4 years or 50,000 miles. All scheduled maintenance is included, a major reason to consider this vehicle over its American and Japanese competitors.
Land Rover Centres offer off road driving courses that enables customers to test drive the vehicle of their choice's capabilities in a closed, tested course. Land Rovers are well renowned for their unbeatable durability and off-road prowess. Always at the top ranks of the world's off road challenges, Land Rover remains the pioneer in what SUVs are supposed to do. This offers the owners a piece of mind, something that the newfangled car-based 'tall wagons' can't offer. What of it if you should never so much as take your vehicle onto an unpaved roadway, you will always know that your vehicle was built to the most extreme criteria, and that alone is motivation enough to drive a Land Rover.