Type to search

Land Rover Discovery Through the Years

The Land Rover Discovery has always been a rugged off-roader, but what most forget is the journey it’s taken to become the lifestyle accessory it is today.

A Rocky Beginning

The Land Rover Discovery is more than 30 years old and over those 3 decades, it’s always maintained a deep tie to its roots. Those roots provide a rock-like foundation that allows owners to go almost anywhere without fear while being encased in one of the most comfortable and advanced vehicles on the road. Through 5 generations, multiple brand owners, and controversial design changes it’s still a popular and successful platform that, in many ways, brought Land Rover back from the brink of failure in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Today we’re going to take a deep dive into the world of the off-roading family hauler affectionately known as the Disco.

First Generation (1989 – 1998)

1989 Land Rover Discovery Series 1 - Classic Car Auctions on YouTube.com

1989 Land Rover Discovery Series 1 – Classic Car Auctions on YouTube.com |  Shop Land Rover Discovery on Carsforsale.com

  • Original Discoverys were sold only as 3-door models to ensure no cannibalization of sales to the Range Rover.
  • Honda liked the design so much that they bought a 20% stake in Land Rover and sold a rebadged Discovery in Japan as the Crossroad.
  • Land Rover Discoverys were available in 5 or 7-seat variants with the two final seats facing one another in the rear-most portion of the SUV.
1989 Land Rover Discovery Series 1 - Classic Car Auctions on YouTube.com
1989 Land Rover Discovery Series 1 - Classic Car Auctions on YouTube.com
  • Those seats required the roof to be raised in the back and for added lighting, Land Rover then added the alpine windows the vehicle is so well known for today.
  • In 1990, a 5-door model arrives and the rear-most seats in the 7-seat variant are turned forwards.
  • The interior was designed by Conran Design Group to be a “lifestyle accessory”. To that end, the interior is far more detailed and unique than most vehicles of the time period.
  • The Discovery comes to America in 1994.
  • The kink in the rear window of the original Discovery is there to aid the driver when in reverse since it offers just a bit more of a view.
1996 Land Rover Discovery - carsforsale.com
1996 Land Rover Discovery - carsforsale.com
  • In general, this generation is derided as terribly unreliable in part due to the parts bin nature of production. Morris Marina door handles, a borrowed engine and drivetrain from the Range Rover, and headlights borrowed from a van are just some examples of the thrifty build nature of the SUV.
  • The 3.5L V8 used was almost identical to the Range Rover, except that it wasn’t fuel injected. A 2.5L turbodiesel was also offered and provided nearly 200 ft-lbs of torque.

Second Generation (1998 – 2004)

1999 Land Rover Discovery - carsforsale.com
1999 Land Rover Discovery - carsforsale.com
  • Now BMW owned, 2nd generation (Series II) Discoveries are much better built and share nothing with their predecessor but the rear hatch.
  • The 3-door version is no longer available.
  • Two distinct versions are available, one focused on off-road performance and the other made to dominate on the road.
  • A center locking differential was installed on all 2nd gen Discovery models, but wasn’t available in functional form until 2002.
1999 Land Rover Discovery - carsforsale.com
1999 Land Rover Discovery - carsforsale.com
  • A new turbodiesel is offered with 135hp and 221 lb-ft of torque.
  • A 3.9L gasoline-powered V8 is also available with 185hp and 251 lb-ft of torque.
  • The entire vehicle is modernized further with stiffened chassis and an even more comfortable interior quality.
  • Active Cornering Enhancement or ACE is introduced to inhibit body roll in corners.

Third Generation (2004 – 2009)

2004 Land Rover Discovery - carsforsale.com
2004 Land Rover Discovery - carsforsale.com
  • Ford now takes ownership of Land Rover and completely redesigns the Discovery.
  • The vehicle is now called the LR3 in North America and Middle-Eastern markets as the third major generation of the Discovery.
  • In an all-new design architecture, the new Discovery uses a monocoque body mounted on a ladder-frame.
RECOMMENDED:
New vs Used: Ford Expedition
2004 Land Rover Discovery - carsforsale.com
2004 Land Rover Discovery - carsforsale.com
  • Unlike the previous versions that used solid axles, the LR3 featured a completely independent air-based suspension.
  • That suspension can actually detect how closely the under-carriage is to the ground and automatically raise the vehicle to its maximum without driver interaction.
  • The tailgate kink moves from the left side of the vehicle to the right now since the Discovery sells best in left hand drive markets.
2004 Land Rover Discovery - carsforsale.com
2004 Land Rover Discovery - carsforsale.com
  • Engines are derived from Ford-owned Jaguar including a 2.7L diesel that makes 195hp and 325 lb-ft of torque.
  • Off-roading remains a major part of the DNA with electronic aids like hill-descent and terrain-select.
  • This is the first generation to be available with a DVD player, navigation system, and Bluetooth phone compatibility.

Fourth Generation (2009 – 2016)

2013 Land Rover Discovery 4 - media.landrover.com
2013 Land Rover Discovery 4 - media.landrover.com
  • Now onto another owner, Tata from India. The Discovery becomes known simply as the LR4 here in America and gets mostly minor upgrades and additions throughout the generation.
  • One major upgrade is a 5.0L V8 with 375hp. Overall the mechanical reliability of the vehicle is improved across the board.
  • In 2011, a diesel 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 is also introduced with 241hp and 440lb-ft of torque.
2013 Land Rover Discovery 4 - media.landrover.com
2013 Land Rover Discovery 4 - media.landrover.com
  • Rock Crawl mode arrives as the most advanced version of Terrain Response than ever before.
  • The interior is dramatically restyled to better keep with other trends the Range Rover had been updated with.
  • Some 1,800 Discoveries were sold in 2014 as a special XXV or 25th-anniversary edition with every available option at the time and unique design elements.
  • Land Rover builds an armored Discovery called the Sentinel built for UK Government officials.

Fifth Generation (2017 – Present)

2018 Land Rover Discovery - media.landrover.com
2018 Land Rover Discovery - media.landrover.com
  • The styling of the 5th generation Discovery is perhaps the most controversial of any Land Rover product ever.
  • The license plate position is directly intended to call back to the kink in the rear window of all previous Discoveries.
2021 Land Rover Discovery - media.landrover.com

2021 Land Rover Discovery – media.landrover.com |  Shop New Land Rover Discovery on Carsforsale.com

  • The roofline is ever so slightly stepped over the third row but alpine windows are no longer a part of the design.
  • Thanks to the heavy use of aluminum throughout, this Discovery is some 1,000 lbs lighter than the outgoing model.
  • Terrain Response 2 is the most advanced form of on and off-road stability and braking control ever for the Discovery.
2021 Land Rover Discovery - media.landrover.com
2021 Land Rover Discovery - media.landrover.com
  • For the first time, Terrain Response has an “automatic” setting that will actively select the best setting for the current road conditions.
  • Ultimately what started out as a vehicle meant to be a lifestyle accessory has found that purpose as its touchstone in this generation. While still capable off-road, the latest Discovery continues the tradition of bridging the gap between hardcore enthusiasts and high-brow Range Rover drivers.

Related Review Articles

Retro Review: Porsche 944

2022 Toyota Tacoma Review

New vs Used: Genesis G70

Tags:
Stephen Rivers

Stephen is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion. In his free time, he’s usually at a hockey rink, walking his dogs, or on a road bike. His automotive tastes lean towards cars that oftentimes seem to take a pound of flesh for the ethereal pleasure they provide: things like the Lamborghini Diablo, TVR Cerbera, and a C4 Corvette turned into a street-legal go-kart. He drives his Bugeye Subaru WRX in Autocross, Rallycross, and track day competitions throughout the year and daily drives a twin-turbo BMW 535i.

  • 1

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share
Tweet
Pin