The current Land Rover Discovery will turn ten years old in 2014. With Gaydon's spotlight directed at its new generation of Range Rover models, the Disco is hardly likely to get much of an anniversary party - but that's not because it doesn't deserve one. This car's square-sided plush-but-purposeful utility flavouring may be out of step with the direction its maker has recent departed in with messers Evoque and Range Rover Sport, but even at almost a decade old, this car has a lot to offer - particularly to those who like their 4x4s large, old-fashioned and unadorned, to serve as genuinely versatile and hard-working pieces of kit.
What the Discovery is getting by way of a happy birthday is an exterior styling update, the addition of a fuel-saving stop-start system for its V6 turbodiesel engine, some new driver assistance systems, a new premium audio system and one or two detail revisions. It's not what you'd call a wide-ranging update, but it's enough - just - to keep the seven-seater contemporary and competitive.
The Discovery's history is now almost a quarter-century long, and it describes the car that propped up the company throughout the 1990s. Launched in 1989, but famously leaked to the press a good deal earlier, the original Land Rover Discovery was a typically resourceful piece of British engineering. Take the ageing Range Rover chassis, stick a spacious body on top and spruce up with a decent diesel motor. It saved the company and, with the emerging MPV phenomenon, made a serious dent in estate car sales. Corking off-road, acceptable on it, the first Disco soldiered on until ’98 when it was revamped, treated to a five-cylinder diesel engine and given the option of air suspension.
Then in 2004, Land Rover launched the Discovery 3. This wasn’t a dramatic improvement so much as a galactic leap for the Discovery, which grew to extra large proportions, but cast an even larger shadow for its incredible breadth of ability. It instantly went to the top of the big off-roader class, being next to unstoppable off-road yet comfortable and relaxing on it.
In 2009 the Discovery received a heavy update that brought with it a larger capacity diesel engine and warranted a number upgrade to 'Discovery 4'. Now, for 2014, Land Rover has dropped the '4', and replaced the 'Land Rover' badge on the bonnet for a 'Discovery' badge.