It must be hard living under the shadow of a very successful big brother. But while the all-new Range Rover has been grabbing the limelight and snapping up awards, the Discovery continues to outsell it by four to one and remains Britain's most popular large off-roader by a massive distance.
How can it be kept that way? By copying the much-admired style of the bigger car. To discover if the ploy will work, we were first behind the wheel of the 2003 model year car, priced from £21,995. The new-style nose is arguably the biggest visual change to the Discovery since it was launched in 1989. Even the Series II model looked virtually the same as its predecessor, although nearly every part had been replaced. The newcomer looks classier and more distinctive, with overlapping headlights and stacked sidelamps that recall Land Rover's classic models.
There are changes to the back, too, with the indicators now relocated to the light clusters either side of the door rather than in the lower, bumper-mounted units. The smart Range Rover style is continued inside.
Although the emphasis is still very much on practicality for the family rather than opulence, three new trim colour options and improved materials give the cabin a classier feel. But looking good counts for nothing without refinement and manners, which is why Land Rover's engineers have worked hard to make the Disco quieter.
The engine range is unchanged, with a 138bhp turbodiesel or 184bhp 4.0-litre V8 petrol, and as with the current model the Td5 version is expected to account for 90 per cent of cars sold here. At start up, the engineers' efforts seem to have been in vain, as the five-cylinder unit still sounds gruff. On the move, though, the changes are more impressive, with alterations to sound- proofing and mountings making a noticeable difference to refinement at speed.
The Discovery is never going to slip through the air with the refinement of a Lexus, but it is less wearing on motorways than the outgoing model.
Whereas the old car had an alarming amount of pedal travel before the pads bit to give any meaningful deceleration, the new model has a far more responsive feel from the moment you tap the brakes. The downside to this is less adjustability in slippery conditions, but this is a small price to pay for the additional safety on-road.
But it's not all bad news for mud-pluggers, as the centre-locking differential, which gives extra traction in the most extreme off-road conditions, is back as an option. While the Discovery is just about unstoppable off-road, its ability on the tarmac now feels outclassed beside its rivals, despite the improvements. It's a real shame the Disco didn't get the Range Rover's latest engines to go with that new nose. Tom Barnard
Article from: Auto Express