23 August 2002

DISCOS CENTRE DIFF-LOCK RETURNS

Land Rover claims to have

made 700 changes to the

latest version of the

Discovery. But is it really

any different from the old

one? John Henderson

got behind the wheel to

ponder the answer

THE most obvious of the 700 changes Land Rover has made to the new Discovery are the Range Rover-style headlamps, but they are the window dressing in this fine tuning of a class leading off-roader.

Significant improvements have also been made to brakes, suspension, refinement, off-road ability, rear lighting and interior looks.

For serious off-road users the good news is the centre differential lock is back. Land Rover decided to drop the diff lock when it launched the Discovery Series II in 1998, saying electronic traction control did the job.

While it is true the electronics work well, the traction control twanging away becomes irritating on long off-road drives. There are also circumstances when you want to maintain or gain momentum – like in sand, deep mud or pulling away with a heavy trailer on poor ground – when a system that counters wheel spin by braking the offending wheel may not be ideal.

The optional diff lock often prevents wheel spin in the first place and certainly makes long periods off-road more relaxing by making the Discovery feel more composed. Most farmers would find it worth the extra £250.

Refinement has been improved, mainly through new mountings and stiffening things like transfer box cases and the 185bhp 4-litre V8 petrol is now mechanically silent except when accelerating hard.

The 137bhp 2.5 TD5 five-cylinder turbodiesel also has changes to the intake system to reduce induction noise but it is hard to quantify the improvement because this engine improves with miles and the test car had only done 730.

Changes to the front lights improve the spread and distance of the beams. At the back, indicators have moved up from the bumper to the high main light cluster, which makes them much more visible, especially when towing. A rear parking sensor, which bleeps more frantically as you get closer to things, is standard on the ES or a £250 extra on the GS and XS.

Inside there are prettier instruments and a classy-looking new all-black interior option, while Alpaca marries beige seats and door trims with practical black carpets and fascia. The black fascia abolishes the bitty look caused by having a black slab centre panel and switches with lighter colours around them, though you can still have that, included with the new two-tone khaki Tundra scheme.

Prices are unchanged from the previous model, ranging from £21,995 to £34,490.

Refinement on the 2003 Discovery has been improved.