1989 Discovery launched (three-door only)
1990 Discovery five-door on sale
1994 Discovery facelift
1994 Discovery launched in USA
1998 Discovery II launched
2004 Discovery 3 unveiled and wins What Car? Car of the Year
2009 Discovery 4 launched
SALES TO DATE (to end October 2009): 903,098
DID YOU KNOW? THE LAND ROVER DISCOVERY WAS THE FIRST 4X4 TO COME WITH dual AIRBAGS
DID YOU KNOW? THE INTERIOR OF THE FIRST DISCOVERY WAS BASED ON A CONCEPT BY CONRAN DESIGN
In the mid-1980s, Land Rover began to explore the idea of a junior Range Rover, effectively filling the shoes of the original, which had gradually shifted up-market. ‘Project Jay’ as it was called was loosely based on the Range Rover but with a new body, capable of seating up to seven people, and with a radical new interior design. Approval to proceed was granted in August 1987 and a challenging target was set for a launch in 1989.
To ensure that contemporary design influences were reflected in the new car, Land Rover turned to outside agencies including the highly respected Conran Design Studio to help produce the vehicle’s interior. Similarly, various engine options were developed to provide an economical alternative to the powerful V8. This included a new 2.5-litre turbocharged, intercooled, direct injection diesel engine – the 200 TDi.
The result of Project Jay, the Land Rover Discovery, emerged at the Frankfurt Motor Show in three-door form in September 1989. With the addition of a five-door version the following year, and a facelift in March 1994, the Discovery carved out a new niche for Land Rover as the ‘family 4×4’ and proved to be enormously successful.
In 1995, Land Rover production reached more than 100,000 vehicles in one year for the first time. Its best-seller was now the Discovery, and a version fitted with the 2.0-litre four cylinder petrol engine from Rover’s car range was added to the line-up to take advantage of European tax positioning. The Discovery was now also available with a 3.9-litre V8.
1998 saw the launch of a second-generation Discovery. The Series II shared the 100-inch wheelbase of the original, but was longer overall to enable the sixth and seventh passengers to sit in forward-facing seats. The design was instantly familiar, although the vehicle was all-new. It included a number of new technologies including Active Cornering Enhancement to prevent roll while cornering, and Self-Levelling Suspension, featuring air springs on the rear axle, ensured a level ride under all load conditions.
The first two production Discovery Series II vehicles were driven around the world in the ambitious ‘New Discovery Trek’ which started in London and finished at the Paris Motor Show for the vehicle’s launch in 1998.
A three-car Discovery support team assisted the BMW motorbike team in the 1998 Paris-Dakar rallye raid. Despite having virtually standard engines, gearboxes and axles, they all finished the difficult event. One, now in the Heritage Motor Centre collection at Gaydon, finished in 31st place!
In 2004, Land Rover would raise the bar once again with the launch of the much-admired Discovery 3 at the New York Motor Show. Discovery 3 introduced a new vehicle architecture: Integrated Body Frame technology, which combines the best of monocoque and chassis vehicle designs by using new production methods such as hydroforming.
Discovery 3 has independent air suspension and was powered at launch by a new 2.7-litre V6 diesel engine developed in collaboration with Peugeot. The alternative power unit was a 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine and in some markets a 4-litre petrol V6. The uncompromising exterior design by Geoff Upex featured original Discovery themes such as the stepped roof and asymmetric rear glass. The vehicle was launched in America and the Middle East as the LR3.
Terrain ResponseTM made its production debut on Discovery 3. In the finest tradition of Land Rover, this new system ensures outstanding levels of on and off-road grip on any surface at the turn of a dial.
The 2007 ‘Road to the Clouds’ expedition took a fleet of Discovery 3s to 5000m in north-west Argentina – possibly the highest a Land Rover has ever been driven.
Demonstrating the rapid acceleration in Land Rover production, the four millionth vehicle was built in 2007. The black Discovery 3 was presented to the Born Free Foundation. It helped Land Rover break a production record with nearly 235,000 vehicles produced in the year.
In 2009, the new, fourth generation of Land Rover’s supremely versatile seven-seat vehicle gains a new name – Discovery 4.
Star billing on the Discovery 4 goes to the new LR-TDV6 3.0 twin-turbo diesel engine. This delivers a 9% fuel economy improvement (EU combined cycle) and 10% less CO2 emissions, at the same time as increasing power by 29%, all compared with the existing 2.7-litre engine. Torque increases even more, up 36% to 600Nm – believed to be the highest torque output of any 6-cylinder, production diesel, passenger vehicle engine in the world.
Discovery 4 takes on a softer new front end design making the vehicle look much more sophisticated; the interior is far more premium but still functional and versatile. Yet probably the biggest advancement to this fourth-generation of Discovery is the complete transformation of its on-road dynamics and performance, providing better handling and driving refinement than ever before.
Sportier new lights on the Discovery 4 help give the vehicle new character, and include LED technology front and rear.
A series of safety aids benefit the Discovery 4, including Trailer Stability Assist, Tow Assist, enhanced Under Steer Control, Automatic High Beam Assist and a five-camera surround system for ease of parking and manoeuvring.