The Land Rover Discovery is a mid-size luxury SUV available since 1989. In 2017, the Discovery model switched to a small mid-size luxury crossover SUV platform. The Discovery is now in its fifth generation of design.
Land Rover Discovery Design and Introduction
The first unveiling of the Land Rover Discovery Series I happened at the 1989 Frankfurt Motor Show. It shared many components with the more luxurious Range Rover model, including the same chassis, suspension, and four-wheel drive system, but was offered in a slightly smaller and more economical package. It was available with a 2.5L 200Tdi turbo diesel engine or a 3.5L Rover V8. The V8 started off with a twin SU carburetor system, later switching to a Lucas 14CUX fuel injection system in 1990. Aligned with Land Rover’s off-road history, the Discovery came with a permanent four-wheel drive system. It had a two-speed transfer box allowing for high and low four-wheel drive modes, as well as a locking center differential to ensure performance in the most difficult off-road conditions. Seeking to enter the family-friendly car market, the Land Rover Discovery featured a host of more comfortable interior appointments. These included removable sunroof panels, well-placed hand holds, and a modernized instrument cluster and radio controls.
Early 1990s Updates
In 1992, the Discovery was available with an automatic transmission in the models with a 200Tdi engine, along with new exterior color choices, and the introduction of the SE pack with alloy wheels, roof bars, and front driving lights. A major update to the Land Rover Discovery came in 1994. Some markets called it the Discovery 2. Engine choices now included a 2.5L 300Tdi 4-cylinder engine and a 3.9L Rover V8 engine, providing improved performance across the board in addition to various emissions reductions. The exterior of the Discovery was also modified with larger headlights, and a second set of rear lights incorporated into the rear bumper. The interior received a complete redesign, including a wholly new soft-feel dashboard, airbags, and locking glove box.
Discovery Series II Introduction
A new Land Rover Discovery was introduced in 1998, known as the Discovery Series II. It retained much of the look from the previous generation, but Land Rover touted over 720 differences from the last model. This included the use of the Active Cornering Enhancement system, a hydraulic anti-roll bar system. The body panels had been slightly reworked to provide more interior cargo and passenger space, allowing for adult use of all seven seats, which were now also forward-facing unlike the past with the most rear seats facing the interior. This generation came with a 2.5L Td5 inline-5 diesel engine and a 4.0 Rover V8, later upgraded to a 4.6L Rover V8 from 2003 to 2004.
Discovery 3 Updates
In 2004, the Land Rover Discovery 3, known simply as the LR3 in North American and the Middle East, was introduced. The stepped roofline was carried forward, but must of the model was heavily redesigned. It used an Integrated Body Frame designed method, which started with a monocoque chassis which is later mated to a ladder-frame chassis for the transmission and suspension. The result is a frame that is tough yet still retains some of the weight savings from the monocoque chassis design. The engines were sourced from sister company Jaguar and featured a 2.7L V6 diesel engine with 195 horsepower, a 4.0L Ford V6 with 216 horsepower, and a 4.4L Ford/PSA V8 with 300 horsepower. 6-speed manual and automatic transmission options were available. Full independent adjustable air suspension is used on the Discovery 3, but some coil spring systems were available in base models. It also introduced Hill Descent Control and 4-wheel Electronic Traction Control to provide additional safety in steep or low-traction situations.
Changes to the LR4
In 2009, the Land Rover Discovery 4, or LR4, was introduced. It kept much of the exterior design from the previous generation and is still built on the Integrated Body Frame structure. Most of the changes were made to improve mechanical reliability. The engine choices now included a 3.0L V6 diesel with twin turbochargers with 241 horsepower and 440 lb ft of torque. The V8 engine bumped up to a full 5.0L displacement and an impressive 385 horsepower with 380 lb ft of torque.
Current Land Rover Discovery
The current Land Rover Discovery (L462) was released in 2017. It had been significantly redesigned as a smaller crossover SUV with a more rounded shape. It is now built with the same aluminum unibody chassis as the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, along with aluminum body panels, allowing for a significant weight reduction and fuel efficiency improvement. It comes with a variety of 3.0L V6 engines, supercharged gasoline versions and turbocharged diesel, plus smaller 2.0L turbo diesel inline-4 options. All are paired to an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission.