The Land Rover Discovery, sometimes referred to as the ‘Disco’, was released in 1989. A vehicle designed to bridge the gap between the Range Rover and the Land Rover Defender 90/110, incorporating the Defenders rugged capabilities with the comfort and styling of the Range Rover.
Using the chassis and drivetrain from the already existing Range Rover, the Land Rover design team gave the Discovery its own unique design features such as the stepped roof and reverse C-pillars, that distinguished it from the Range Rover. Initially introduced as a 3 door, and later as a 5 door model, both models had seating capacity for 5 people and the option to add 2 jump seats in the rear. The interior provided comfort for everyday use, with supportive seats, a radio that was controlled from the centre of the dashboard and twin removable sunroof panels. Land Rover marketed the Discovery as its first family car with off-road capabilities.
The Discovery was first released with the option of a 2.5-litre 200 Tdi diesel engine or a 3.5 Rover V8 petrol engine. The Discovery had permanent four-wheel drive with a dual-ratio five-speed manual gearbox with drive via a transfer box with a lockable centre differential which became an essential Discovery design feature, along with its towing capabilities, offering 3,500kg maximum towing weight for trailers with overrun brakes.
1990 saw the release of the 4-door Discovery 1, which came with a fuel-injected V8i engine and the luxury ES versions. This update saw features added including electric windows and central locking.
In 1994, there were more changes made to the Discovery 1 with the 200Tdi and the 3.5 Rover V8 engine replaced to the 2.5-litre 300Tdi and the 3.9-litre Rover V8 engines, along with some external modifications that included a second set of rear lights and larger headlights.
With the Discovery’s success, Land Rover released the second generation Discovery in 1999, known as the Discovery 2. Longer and wider than the original Discovery 1, allowing for more interior space to provide more comfort as a family car. The discovery 2 saw upgrades such as self-levelling suspension and an in-line direct-injected straight five 2.5-litre diesel engine, that was electronically managed to provide a smoother ride and more power than its 300Tdi predecessor. The V8 engine was also upgraded to a 4.0-litre, with a new exhaust added to improve performance. Some versions of the Discovery 2 saw the addition of Active Cornering Enhancement (ACE), an electronically controlled hydraulic anti-roll bar system to reduce cornering roll. The ACE computer counteracts the angle of body lean and allows the vehicle to become more responsive and stable when going hard around corners.
A revision to the Discovery 2 came in 2002, with a facelift featuring new pocket headlamps and redesigned turn and brake lights, along with the new positioning of indicators to the high side of the vehicle.
The success of the Discovery continued and in 2004, Land Rover released the highly anticipated Discovery 3 model. A completely new vehicle under the body, but still retaining the Discovery’s iconic exterior with the stepped roof and reverse C-pillars. A fresh new minimalist interior was introduced, still maintaining the 7-seater layout but with the added benefit of the rearmost passengers entering through the passenger side doors instead of the boot as seen in its predecessors. The radical new infotainment system brought the Land Rover Discovery 3 into the 21 century, featuring satellite navigation that benefitted from on and off-road routes and four-wheel drive information mode.
The introduction of Ford’s new ownership saw an upgrade to an automatic 6-speed gearbox, along with new engine variations of the 4.4-litre petrol V8 and the 2.7-litre TDV6 taken from Land Rovers sister company Jaguar, and the 4.0-litre Cologne V6 petrol engine for the US market.
The new Discovery 3 featured fully independent suspension (FIS). An air suspension system, allowing the ride-height to be adjusted for ground clearance when off-roading and lowering for a more comfortable ride at higher speeds. The most progressive advancement added to the Discovery 3 was the new Terrain Response system. The driver selects which terrain will be driven on and the electronic system configures the engine management, gear selection, differential settings and ride height for that specific terrain. It made off-roading appeal to a wider audience.
The 4th generation of Discovery came in 2009, and came with a larger diesel engine, replacing the V6 2.7-litre engine to the new TDV6 3.0-litre engine, improving the vehicles fuel consumption and emissions.
The Discovery 4 retained its integral body frame and added a new styling to the front and rear lights, incorporating LED lights to bring it in line with the 2010 Range Rover models. The interior was upgraded to improve comfort and usability with a new centre console and simplified switches and controls and a touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth and MP3 connectivity. Other new features added to the 4th generation Discovery, were the Trailer Stability Assist and Hitch Guidance Control and the optional Surround Camera System to improve all-round visibility.
The most recent generation of Discovery was released in 2017, with the Discovery 5. This model saw a completely new design with a much more rounded shape whilst retaining the traditional Discovery stepped roof, reverse C-pillars and 3 row seating. The Discovery 5’s capabilities have been stepped up from its predecessor with upgraded wading depth, ground clearance and towing capacity increased. A new Surround Camera System gives a 360-view around the vehicle and the Advanced Tow Assist provides an exceptional towing experience. The off-roading capabilities have also improved with Hill Decent Control as standard and the new Terrain Response 2 and All-Terrain Progress Control Systems as optional extras. Plus, the cabin area now includes six 12v charging points, nine USB ports and 3G in-vehicle Wi-Fi, with the option of adding the innovative InControl Touch Pro.
The less noticeable changes are the new aluminium body panels and chassis. This modification has dramatically reduced the weight of the vehicle by 480kg over its predecessor. Combining this with its more aerodynamic design has improved the Discovery’s fuel efficiency. The Discovery 5 really was designed with the future in mind with its innovative modifications.