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New Disco Gets Radical
rom the school runs of Surrey to the sands of the Sahara, it's set to be the most talked about 4x4 for a decade. Finally, in an exclusive photoshoot, we can reveal the production version of Land Rover's new Discovery - the latest in the line of a model which has become everything from a hardcore off-roader to the ideal MPV for the image-conscious.
And although the shape of the car ranks as one of the worst-kept secrets in motoring, thanks to the efforts of our spy photographers, Landie still has some surprises in store - including powerful new engines, state-of-the-art technology and controversial styling details.
Free from all the disguise panels at last, the Discovery's boxy new looks are sure to divide opinion. It's longer, wider but lower than the outgoing model, and has massive amounts of interior space. Bold headlamps, unpainted bumpers, wide wheelarches and enormous tail-lights distinguish the newcomer, while the traditional stepped roof and tall rear windows clearly mark the car out as a generation of the Discovery family.
The new model is also the first replacement Land Rover to be produced under the Ford corporate umbrella, and beneath the stylish lines is technology that will be used on all future cars from Britain's most famous 4x4 brand. Unlike the flagship Range Rover, the company has decided to retain a separate frame chassis for the latest Discovery, rather than revert to a car-like unitary body.
But Land Rover says the new "Integrated Body-frame structure" is a massive advance, allowing it to deliver the comfort, refinement and on-road attributes of a monocoque, while maintaining the strength required for heavy-duty off-road performance. On tarmac, the Disco is said to be as refined as a luxury saloon, thanks to fully independent suspension all-round, with sophisticated air springs on all but entry-level versions.
This is height adjustable to aid access to the cabin and increase ground clearance. Insiders who've driven the car say its on-road manners are virtually indistinguishable from the Range Rover's, yet it's even better in the rough stuff.
The BMW-engined big SUV risks being overtaken by its little brother in performance terms, too. With a new engine range borrowed from Jaguar, the Discovery marks the passing of the ancient Rover V8, which has been part of the Land Rover line-up since 1970. Replacing it in the flagship car is a specially developed version of the V8 from Jag's XK, XJ and S-Type. Changes for Land Rover use include increased capacity from 4.2 to 4.4 litres, more low-end torque and better dust and waterproofing.
In Land Rover guise, engine oil supply methods have also been modified to ensure lubrication is maintained when the car
is at acute angles in extreme off-road use. The result is a 295bhp output - 5bhp less than the Jaguar equivalent, but 13bhp more than a V8 Range Rover.
However, the top-selling engine in Britain, with around 85 per cent of sales, will be the new 2.7-litre twin-turbodiesel, first seen in the Jaguar S-Type at last month's Geneva Motor Show. Developed in conjunction with Peugeot, the advanced common-rail V6 offers 190bhp at 4,000rpm - again, beating the diesel Range Rover, this time by 16bhp.
Of more importance for drivers who regularly go off-road or tow large loads, this engine puts out 440Nm of torque at 1,900rpm - a huge increase from the current Discovery diesel's 298Nm, and 50Nm more than the Range Rover.
If that's not enough, a 4.0-litre V8 diesel is due late in 2005, and is tipped to have around 280bhp and 700Nm! A second petrol engine - a 4.0 V6 from the Ford Explorer - will be sold in the US, but won't be offered in Britain.
There are a pair of new gearboxes, too. The diesel has a six-speed manual as standard, with a six-cog automatic as an option. Petrol models are available only with the auto, but all feature permanent 4WD with high and low-ratio boxes, unlike most 'soft-roader' rivals.
Still, for most buyers the Discovery's innovative and versatile interior will be more important than dynamic abilities. The previous model's Terence Conran-designed, seven-seater cabin attracted family buyers who didn't want an MPV, but needed space for all the family.
The new car will appeal even more, with better access and increased space for rear passengers. Its overall length is stretched by 176mm to 4,835mm, with 345mm added to the wheelbase to improve packaging. At 1,915mm, it's 30mm wider, too, meaning more elbow room.
But the real revolution is the seating system. The two rearmost chairs offer enough room for full-grown adults to sit in comfort, yet fold flat into the floor. The middle row also pivots downwards to give a completely flat load space.
Access to the Discovery's boot is via a new, Range Rover-style split tailgate, although the asymmetric divide is a fresh innovation. The 'dip' in the lower panel is designed to reduce the load height when only the upper part of the tailgate is used, and reduce the 'reach in' distance when both hatches are open.
Up front, the cabin is clearly inspired by the Range Rover, but it's more functional and less luxurious. Plenty of gadgets will be available, though, including touch-screen sat-nav. To pay for the improvements, prices are set to rise. The first cars arrive in UK dealers in November, and will start at about £28,500 for the five-seat, steel-sprung version, rising to £40,000 for the flagship V8 HSE.
Comments: 0 Article from: Auto Express