2003 Land Rover Discovery Road Test Review
by Denise McCluggage
might be said that Land Rover for 2003 has simply jacked up the 13-year-old Discovery
name and driven last season's Range Rover under it. With some up-dating and refinements
and strictly Disco touches, of course.
good deal, considering the Range Rover is priced in a $70,000 neighborhood and
the Discovery lives more around the $30,000s. Such is the steady march of enhanced
has transpired this third-generation Discovery is more a pleasure on the highway
than it ever was. And in keeping with Land Rover's intention to maintain its position
as king of the off-road the 2003 Discovery is probably as adept at the muddy and
miry, rough and rocky, steep and oozy, as it ever was. (And will be even more
so with the likely addition of a locking differential in the nonce.)
as an owner long ago (mid 1960s) of a Land Rover I am of mixed emotions over the
progressive gentrification of the vehicle's four square utilitarian appearance.
But then my favorite feature - the so-called safari roof, an elevated second roof
leaving about an inch of ventilation space between the two roofs, had long since
more recent Land Rover owners might also miss the extreme-games look of the Camel
Travel Discos, but surely these loyalists will be beguiled by the smoother, quieter,
more powerful, nicer-mannered Discovery of 2003. And, too, there's the definite
improvement in build quality and reliability gained as Land Rover passed through
the stewardship of BMW on its way to the Ford stable where it resides today.
2003 Discovery has full-time four-wheel-drive with a two-speed transfer case for
the demands of serious off-roading. Interior capacity is five seats with an option
Land Rover folks, for the precision minded, claim 368 changes in the new Discovery.
Among them a power boost of 17% and a torque increase of 20%. The performance
improvement is thanks to the new engine - a 217hp 4.6-liter electronically fuel-injected
V8. The engine, late of the Range Rover, means a top speed capability of 116 mph
and, of more real-world significance, a 0-60 time of 9.5 seconds, handy for safer
merging and passing.
standard four-speed automatic transmission operates in a useful dual-mode, one
for quick and precise gear changes in Sport mode for general use, and an automatically
engaged Manual mode in low range for steady crawling over tough terrain. Another
welcome feature for those who hate touchy throttle pedals in rocky climbs is the
Discovery's way of smoothing that to a controllable touch. Neat.
Rover wants its name to mean go anywhere, rough or smooth. Only an estimated 5%
or so of SUV owners actually aim their machines into serious off-road territory.
Land Rover can claim some 25-35% of its owners seek out the adventures of serious
backcountry driving rather than just using their vehicle for bad-road and bad-weather
reason that Land Rovers really rove the land is that the company sponsors organized
adventures into the near-wilds. (True wilds are out-of-bounds to all motorized
vehicles.) Buying a Land Rover can mean joining a club of active users accenting
the "sport" of sport utility.
The Discovery can thank an alphabet
soup of special features for its new aplomb - ABS, ETC, HDC and ACE.
recognize as "anti-lock brakes" and these work on or off road, high
or low range.
is "electronic traction control" which means no worrying about slipping
wheels because the power simply transfers to a wheel that has a grip on things.
is "hill descent control" and is a device to keep a plunge down even
steep hills eerily controlled, slow and steady, as long as drivers keep the faith
and keep from fiddling with the brakes while the landing is in process.
is "active cornering enhancement," another clever device that accounts
for the relatively flat, roll-free progress on curving highways even with a moderately
heavy foot on the go pedal. Quell pleasure.
considering something priced around $30,000 range well-equipped in the crowded
SUV market has got to have a Land Rover Discovery prominent on the list of look-ats.
It is distinctive and capable. Grinning good fun, with mud on its handsome new