The Land Rover Discovery was unveiled to the public at the Frankfurt Motor Show on September 12, 1989. It was the first new vehicle from Land Rover since the launch of the Range Rover back in 1970. It was designed to fill the widening gap between the luxurious Range Rover and the utilitarian Land Rover Defenders. Much more than this, the success of the Discovery was critical to the financial survival of the Land Rover company that had been deprived of capital under ownership of British Leyland in the seventies.
In many respects Land Rover took the Japanese challenge in their stride and moved the Discovery ahead of the field, and anything that Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi had on offer. Like the original Land Rover that was developed in record time (but as a stopgap vehicle), the Discovery was developed just as quickly, using existing hardware to minimise cost and development time. Designated 'Project J' the Discovery progressed from drawing board to reality in just 3 years. After more than 50 prototypes were built, the new three-door Land Rover was ready for production. The only thing missing was a distinctive name. From a list of 842 names, a short list of 15 saw 'Discovery' the popular choice.
The Discovery was introduced in three-door form only with a five door model to follow in mid-1990. Retaining the traditional Range Rover benefits of permanent four-wheel-drive, coil sprung suspension and panels of aluminium alloy, the all-new body design incorporated a steeped roofline, which was welded to a monocoque body for added strength and rigidity. While using the 100-inch Range Rover platform, the Discovery was actually 2-inches longer overall, and boasted far greater interior space.
The five door model arrived in 1992 and it was given a major upgrade in 1994. A trend that continued for a number of years. In 2004 the all new Discovery 3 was launched, with a completely new and distinctive body. Styling is bold and functionality is a key to the many faces of Disco 3. Roomier yet externally not much bigger than the outgoing Discovery, the new Discovery 3 featured a spacious cabin packed with clever stowage locations, as well as either five or seven comfortable seats. It was powered by a 4.4-litre V8 matched to a six-speed transmission or a V6 turbo diesel. It offers a 'sport' mode which delivers more performance oriented throttle response and gear shifts, and also features Land Rover's Command Shift operation - which gives the driver full manual control of gear changing.
The TDV6 is available either with this advanced automatic transmission, or with a six-speed ZF manual gearbox. Drive goes to all four wheels. Electronic Traction Control and Dynamic Stability Control modulate power supply and braking, ensuring maximum grip in all conditions. Throttle response, gear change patterns and suspension settings are also computer controlled, determined by speed and road (or off-road) conditions. Low range is also available, for tough terrain. This can be easily selected, electronically, on the move. The central differential fully locks if conditions require greater traction.
The Discovery 3 bristles with new technologies. Among them is Land Rover's patented Terrain Response system, which is also found in Freelander 2 and Range Rover. The driver simply chooses one of five terrain settings via a chunky rotary dial on the centre console: a general driving program, plus one for slippery conditions (known as grass/gravel/snow) and three special off-road modes, namely mud and ruts, sand, and rock crawl. Terrain Response then automatically selects the most appropriate settings for the vehicle's advanced electronic controls and traction aids.
Discovery 3 has won numerous awards and is offered in a number of specifications. It remains a capable and genuine four-wheel drive with seven seats and roomy interior.