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The Discovery must still rank as one of the cleverest reinterpretations ever seen in the car world. The bluff nose, the slab of bonnet, the stepped roof and the wrap of those rear side windows instinctively tell you that not only is this a Land Rover, but also that it’s a Discovery.

Form follows function, however. Every Land Rover must offer a class-leading spread of abilities, and that meant rethinking the car’s basic structure. Two separate chassis emerged which, combined underneath the Discovery, are called Integrated Body Frame.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
The Disco is such a leviathan that it barely fits in a standard parking space

This offers the strength of a ladder chassis for off-road performance and, with its unitary body on which the suspension (exotic double wishbones at each corner, and air spheres for springs) is supported, on-road performance to match the best.

The Range Rover Sport moved beyond this structure in favour of something lighter which better reflects its sporting bent, but for the more rugged Discovery, there's still nothing better. 

The spec sheet reveals one important side effect: weight. Even with a magnesium crash structure up front, the Discovery weighs a hefty 2570kg. And as we'll go on to describe, that brings this car advantages and disadvantages.

All models come with air suspension and Land Rover's trademark Terrain Response system – an electronic manager that automatically adjusts throttle response, shift pattern, ride height and stability control through five settings, according to the terrain.

Combined with an electronically controlled transfer box, a computer-controlled centre differential and a locking rear diff, Land Rover continues its central tradition of providing vehicles with capabilities far in excess of what most owners will ever need from their car.

Back on the everyday-use side of the Discovery's offering, however, the addition of automatic stop-start for the 252bhp 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine has brought CO2 down to 213g/km, and while that does nothing for benefit-in-kind tax, it does at least move the car out of the £475-a-year road tax bracket. It was the only engine option that Land Rover offered as the Discovery was slowly phased out.

Land Rover's 2014 changes to the car consist of new headlights, a more glossy radiator grille and foglight surrounds, more rounded door mirrors and a few other touches besides. To our eyes, the grille in particular is something of a feminine affectation on this stark, granite-like design.

For 2017 Land Rover has used the same design language that has stood the Disco Sport in such good stead, and proclaim the new Discovery is faster, lighter and more economical than before. To achieve this JLR is using its new 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel engine, while reducing the big 4x4s drag coefficient and reducing the overall chassis weight by 20 percent with its new riveted and bonded aluminium monocoque.

But then to our eyes, this car never looked better than at its simple, undecorated 2004 best.

 

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