The Discovery is a Four wheel drive on-road and off-road vehicle from the British car maker Land Rover. There have been three generations of the vehicle, which is less expensive than the company's top Land Rover model. The Discovery was introduced in the late 1980s and is the most popular model from Land Rover. It is less utilitarian than the Land Rover, but it is very competent off road. The current Discovery Series III is marketed in North America as the LR3.
Discovery Series IEdit
The Discovery was introduced into the British in 1989. The company code-named the vehicle "Project Jay", and came close to calling it either "Highlander" or "Prairie Rover" until the decision was made to improve the overall branding strategy, eventually leading to the Land Rover name becoming detached from any specific model (at the launch of the "Defender" name.) The new model was based on the chassis and Drivetrain of the more upmarket Range Rover, but with a lower price aimed at a larger market segment and intended to compete with Japanese offerings.
The Discovery was initially available in a three door version, partly to avoid eating into the market of the more expensive Range Rover. The five door became available the following year. Both were fitted with five seats, and an option was made available to have two further seats fitted in the "boot" area at the back of the car. In a move almost unique at the time, Land Rover employed an external consultancy, Conran Design Group in London, to design the interior. The brief was to ignore current car interior design and position the vehicle as a 'lifestyle accessory', a new concept in the late 80's which was enormously influential in automotive design in the years to follow. Discovery's Mk 1 interior incorporated a number of original features, though as with all design projects, many ideas shown on the original interior mock-ups constructed inside a Range Rover bodyshell at Conran's workshops were left on the shelf, such as a custom sunglasses holder built into the centre of the steering wheel (these were pre-airbag days). Despite this the design was unveiled to critical acclaim, and won a British Design Award in 1989.
A two-seater, three-door Discovery Commercial version, lacking rear windows, was later offered by Land Rover Special Vehicles. Pre-1994, the Discovery was available with either the 2.5 litre 200 Tdi engine or the 3.5L Rover V8. Early V8s used a twin SU carburettor system, moving over to Lucas fuel injection in 1990. In the UK, V8 models are comparatively rare, the majority of Discovery owners preferring the more economical diesel engines. Consequently, resale prices of V8-engined vehicles are lower than the more popular diesel counterparts. In the North American market, the only engine available was the V8. A two litre petrol engine from the Rover stable was briefly available in a model known as the 2.0 Mpi I4. This was intended to attract fleet managers, since UK (and also Italian) tax laws benefited vehicles under two litres. A combination of changes in taxation and the engine being underpowered for such a heavy vehicle led to the demise of this engine, despite the kudos of being the engine fitted to several Discoveries supplied to the British Royal family, most notably driven by Prince Philip around Windsor Great Park, in his position as Park Ranger of the park.
In 1994, many changes were made to the Discovery I; the 200Tdi and 3.5L V8 engines were replaced with the 2.5L 300TDi 4-cylinder and 3.9L Rover V8 engines, the 300Tdi introducing a Bosch electronic emissions control for certain models and markets. At around this time a stronger R380 gearbox was fitted to all manual models. The newer models featured larger headlamps and a second set of rear lights in the bumper. The new rear lights had the wiring changed several times to meet real or expected European safety legislation. Some vehicles are left with an arrangement where the vulnerable bumper contains the only working direction-indicator lights; other examples have these lights duplicated in the traditional rear pillar location.
The designers of the original model had been forced to economise and use the "parts-bin" of the then parent-company, Rover. The 200 series used the basic bodyshell structure from the Range Rover, door handles from the Morris Marina, tail lights from the Austin Maestro van, and interior switchgear and instrumentation from the Rover "parts bin". The favour was returned when the facelifted Discovery dashboard was also fitted as part of the final facelift to the first-generation Range Rover, though with minor differences reflecting the vehicle's higher status, such as an analogue rather than digital clock.
1995 (model year) marked the first year that the Discovery was sold in the United States. Airbags were incorporated into the design of the 1995 model to meet the requirements of US motor vehicle regulations, though they were not fitted as standard in all markets. 1995 models sold in the US utilised the 3.9L V8 from the Range Rover SE models, later models saw a displacement increase to 4.0L. 
As with all Land Rover vehicles designed since the Land Rover models which had switchable two and Four-wheel drive, the transmission is a permanent Four wheel drive system, with a locking centre Differential (automotive) at the transfer box. In common with much of the rest of the Land Rover range, the handbrake acts on the transmission at the back of the transfer box.
In Japan, a badge-engineered version of the Series I was offered, called the Honda Crossroad. (The Rover (car) companies had cross-holding relationship with Honda U.K. since early 80's. The relationship ended after Rover was taken over by BMW in 1994.) (Honda revived the nameplate 'Crossroad' in another small sport utility vehicle in 2007.)
Discovery Series IIEdit
The Series II Discovery debuted in 1998. Landrover promoted that the Discovery 'Series II had been extensively modified to the extent of no less than 720 'differences', albeit most were very subtle 'The interior and exterior was re-worked to be less utilitarian, but it was still very similar to the Series I. However, every body panel was new (and incompatible) except the rear door outer skin. The rear body was extended to improve load space but at the expense of added rear overhang, which adversely impacted off-road ability. However, overall off-road ability remains impressive and in practical terms, choice of tyres is far more relevant. Changes to the diesel engined models saw the 2495 cc Td5 (in-line direct-injected 5 cylinder) engine introduced, in line with the updated Defender models. This electronically managed engine was smoother, producing more usable torque at lower revs than its 300 Tdi predecessor. The Td5 engine is often mistakenly attributed to BMW but the engine was derived from the Rover L-series passenger car engine and developed by Land Rover. The 3948cc V8 petrol version was given a revised intake system, and rebadged as 4.0 litres at the same time, despite no actual increase in cc over the previous "3.9". ACE (Active Cornering Enhancement, an electronically controlled hydraulic anti-roll bar system) was fitted to some versions, which reduced cornering roll to insignificant proportions. Self-levelling air springs were fitted to some models and European type-approval for 7-seat vehicles was only given for air-sprung cars.
The locking centre differential was still fitted, although the linkage to operate it was not attached, as Land Rover believed that the Traction control and newly-developed Hill Descent Control would render it redundant. The mechanism itself was retained because the differential lock was needed to allow the Discovery to use single-axle rolling roads. Whilst the traction control system worked every effectively, it did not offer the same level of control and smooth operation as the vehicles fitted with the diff lock. Aftermarket manufacturers began offering kits to allow the lock to be fully operational. Customer demand saw the diff-lock controls fully reinstated as a cost option only (standard on top of range HSE/ES vehicles) on UK/Irish models. The "face-lift" models are easily identified by new "pocketed" headlamps which matched the Range Rover and face-lifted Freelander models. As with earlier models, however, this can be deceptive since kits are available to modify 1998 - 2002 vehicles with the newer lights.
A small number of Discovery II Commercial models were produced by Land Rover Special Vehicles, this time based on the five-door bodyshell but with the windows rendered opaque to give van-like appearance and security. Normal vehicles were exported to Republic of Ireland, where the rear side windows were smashed and rear seats were destroyed in the presence of a Revenue official, to offer a model that avoided the usurious Vehicle Registration Tax (saving approximately 40%).
In the final production run of the Discovery II, only two models were offerd for sale in the UK market, the 'base' Pursuit, which still retained a high level of equipment as 'standard' and the 'top spec' Landmark, which offered all Leather interior, twin sunroofs, ACE (Active Cornering Enhancement) 6 Disc CD player and Heated Windscreen. The final vehicles left the production lines in late May 2004 to make way for the all new Discovery 3 (LR3) models
The Commercials released by Special Vehicles came with rear self levelling suspension as standard, and on the 02+ facelifted vehicles the rendered windows are fixed in place so a retrofit of seats is not viable without significant effort. The last revision of this vehicle still had a high spec and came with climate control, roof bars, alloy wheels & marine ply boarding in the loadspace as standard.
Discovery Series III / LR3Edit
On 2 April 2004, owners Ford Motor Company introduced a new Discovery 3 (or LR3 in North America) for the 2005 model year.
The Series II Discovery was long over-due for replacement. Although still a capable and popular vehicle, its chassis, coil-spring suspension and beam-axle layout had changed very little since the launch of the original Discovery in 1989. In turn, that vehicle used essentially the same underpinnings as the original Range Rover, launched in 1970. The Discovery II was beginning to lose sales to more sophisticated 'working' 4x4 vehicles from Japan (such as the Toyota Land Cruiser and Mitsubishi Shogun) and 'sports' 4x4s from Europe (such as the BMW and Mercedes-Benz M-Class). A replacement vehicle had been planned for many years, but the project had been delayed many times due to the break up of the Rover Group in 2000 and the need to replace the Range Rover in 2001.
The Discovery 3 was an entirely new design, sharing not a single component with the outgoing model. Its styling is still traditional Land Rover, with function dictating the look, rather than fashion, and with lots of horizontal and vertical lines. It retains the key features of the Discovery, such as the stepped roofline and steeply-raked windscreen. The LR3 name was chosen for North American markets due to negative quality associations with the Discovery name and (according to Land Rover) a preference in the American market for alpha-numeric model designations (the Freelander 2 would also be re-designated for the North American market- in this case as the LR2).
Construction-wise, Land Rover developed an all-new method which they called Integrated Body Frame (IBF). The previous Discovery models had used a traditional, strong ladder-frame chassis. Whilst tough in off-road use, these are heavy and detract from the on-road handling of the vehicle. Monocoque vehicles are more rigid, giving improved high-speed handling, but can be damaged by the stresses involved in heavy off-road use. In the IBF the body, engine bay and passenger compartment is built as a monocoque, which is mated to a basic ladder-chassis holding the gearbox and suspension. It claimed to combine the virtues of both systems, but does make the Discovery 3 uncommonly heavy for its size stunting on-road performance and off-road agility, especially in soft ground such as sand. This was one of the reasons that the new Discovery became the first Land Rover to be offered with a rear locking.
Another big change was the fitting of Fully Independent suspension (FIS). Like the Series III Range Rover, this was an Air suspension system, which allowed the ride-height of the vehicle to be altered by simply pumping up or deflating the air bags. The vehicle can be raised to provide ground clearance when off-road, but lowered at high speeds to improve handling. FIS has been seen as inferior to the older beam-axle when off-road due to its tendency to make the vehicle ground out. Land Rover developed 'cross-linked' Air suspension to solve this problem- when needed, the suspension mimics the action of a beam axle (as one wheel drops, the other rises). Further more, if the chassis of the vehicle contacted the ground when the suspension was at its 'off road' height, the system sensed the reduction in load on the air springs and raised the vehicle an extra inch. In the UK and European markets, a coil-spring independent suspension system was offered on the base model. This model was unique in the range by having only 5 seats and only being available with the 2.7-litre diesel engine. This model lacked the Terrain Response system (see below).
All this was designed to make the new vehicle suitable for a changing 4x4 market. Ultimate off-road ability was becoming less important compared to refined on-road manners. Land Rover were determined that the Discovery 3 would retain the brand's reputation as a top-performing off-road vehicle, whilst also being a good road car. Whilst the Discovery 3 was not as good in the handling stakes as some of the competition, it was much improved over the previous models and its off-road credentials remained intact.
The engines used in the Discovery 3 were all taken from Land Rover's sister company, Jaguar. A 2.7-litre, 195 horsepower (145 kW) V6 Diesel (the TdV6) was intended to be the biggest seller in Europe. For the US-market and as the high-performance option elsewhere, a 4.4 litre petrol V8 of 300 horsepower (223 kW) was chosen. A 4.0-litre SOHC V6 petrol engine taken from the Ford stable was available in North America and Australia. Before launch, there were rumours that Land Rover may introduce the diesel unit to the American market, but the use of high-sulphur diesel fuel there, for which the TdV6 is not designed, made this fitment unlikely.
The gearboxes on the Discovery 3 were also all-new. For the diesel engine, a 6-speed manual gearbox was standard. As an option, and as standard on the V8 engine, a 6-speed Automatic transmission was available. Both came with a 2-speed transfer box and permanent 4-wheel-drive. A computer controlled progressively locking central differential ensured traction was retained in tough conditions. A similar differential was available on the rear axle to aid traction.
The Discovery 3 was fitted with Land Rover's full armoury of electronic traction control systems. Hill Descent Control (HDC) prevented vehicle 'runaways' when descending steep gradients and 4-wheel Electronic Traction Control (4ETC) prevented wheel spin in low-traction conditions. An on-road system, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) prevented skidding when steering and braking at speed.
Arguably the biggest feature of the new vehicle was the innovative 'Terrain Response' system (this system won a Popular Science award in 2005). Previously, off-road driving had been a skill that many drivers found daunting. A wide-ranging knowledge of the vehicle was needed to be able to select the correct gear, transfer ratio, various differential systems and master various techniques required for tackling steep hills, deep water and other tough terrain. Terrain Response attempted to take away as many of the difficulties as possible. The driver selected a terrain type on a dial in the cab of the vehicle (the options are "Sand", "Grass, Gravel & Snow", "Mud & Ruts" and "Rock Crawl".) The on-board computer systems then select the correct gearbox settings, adjust the suspension height, adjust the differential lock settings and even alter the throttle response of the engine suitable for the terrain. For example, in "Rock Crawl", the suspension is raised to its maximum height and set to allow maximum wheel articulation, the differentials are locked, the driver is prompted to switch to Low Range, and the throttle response is altered to provide low-speed control. In "Sand" mode, the traction control system is 'primed' to be more sensitive to any wheelspin, the differential locks are partly locked up and the throttle response is re-mapped to produce high power outputs with short pedal movement. The driver retained some manual control over the off-road systems, being able to select the Transfer Box ratio and the suspension height manually, although use of the Terrain Response system is needed to allow full use of the vehicles' capabilities.
As well as new mechanical and electronic systems, the Discovery 3 introduced much more advanced and modern design to the interior and exterior of the vehicle. The original 1989 Discovery's looks had been determined by limited funds and the consequent use of first-generation Range Rover components. These continued to influence the Series II. The Discovery 3 was able to have a fresh, Minimalist style. The interior was much improved, with a highly flexible 7-seat layout. Unlike the older models, adults could comfortably use all 7 seats. Passengers in the rearmost row now entered through the rear side doors, instead of the tailgate as in previous versions. The driver benefited from a modern DVD navigation system. This system was unique to Land Rover because, in addition to the typical road map navigation, it included an off-road navigation and four-wheel drive information mode. When in four-wheel drive information mode, the screen showed a Schematic of the vehicle, displaying the amount of suspension movement, angle the front wheels were steering, the status of the locking differentials and icons showing which mode the Terrain Response was in, and what gear was selected on automatic versions.
The vehicle was very well received by the press on its launch, with the Terrain Response system, vastly improved on-road dynamics and clever interior design being selected for wide praise. The new look was disliked by some (descriptions such as 'van-like' were used), and the large, blank rear panel, now devoid of the spare wheel, was a controversial point. Others pointed out that the diesel engine still lagged behind the competition in power (especially given the weight of the vehicle), but overall the vehicle scored highly. A high-point in the new Discovery's launch season came when Jeremy Clarkson of the BBC's Top Gear (current format) motoring show drove one to the top of Cnoc an Fhreiceadain, a 307 m mountain near Tongue in northern Scotland, where no vehicle had previously reached. Richard Hammond, also of Top Gear (current format) fame, lauded it as the "Best 4X4 of all time".
In Australia, the vehicle was awarded "4WD of the Year" by virtually all of the 4WD press, impressing often conservative journalists of "hard-core" magazines after it effortlessly ambled where the traditionally highly-rated Toyota LandCruiser and Nissan Patrol had to scramble. It was widely hailed as the first time that electronics actually out-performed trusted mechanical systems, although most sounded a note of caution about long-term reliability and serviceability. Despite these reviews, and a price tag very similar to the LandCruiser, it did not set the market alight.
Amongst the off-road driving and Land Rover enthusiast community, the all-new Discovery has gradually gained acceptance. Given the improved road-going qualities of the vehicle, many were worried that the vehicle's off-road abilities would be compromised, and others expressed doubts about relying on electronic systems in extreme conditions. However, by 2006, 2 years after the vehicle's launch, the vehicle's abilities and reliability have been proved both by the press and private owners. Land Rover and many aftermarket companies have developed off-road equipment such as winch, bull-bars, under-body protection kits, snorkels and roof-racks for the new Discovery, to optimise its off-road use.
In 2006 Land Rover used the Discovery 3 in its G4 Challenge, alongside the Range Rover. The vehicles used are all in standard mechanical form, and are fitted with equipment from the standard Land Rover brochures.
The LR3 was nominated for the North America award and won Motor Trend magazine's Sport/Utility of the Year for 2005. It also won a Popular Science award on account of its ground-breaking on-board systems.
The first all-new model placement since the Freelander, the Land Rover is based on the Discovery 3 platform, rather than on the larger Range Rover.
- Land Rover Official Web Site
- InspiringMen/ - Land Rover LR Discovery 3 review
- Top Gear Series 5 - Episode 3 - Top Gear (current format) website, including streaming video of the infamous Discovery test
- Land Rover Discovery 3 Review - An in-depth look at the Discovery 3 with Road Test
- roverhaul.com - Discovery / LR3 Picture Gallery