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SEE ALSO: Land Rover Buyer's Guide

1996 LAND ROVER DISCOVERY SE7

by Tom/Bob Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 36,775
     Price As Tested                                    $ 37,500
     Engine Type                             4.0 Liter V8 w/PFI*
     Engine Size                                 241 cid\3950 cc
     Horsepower                                   182 @ 4750 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               233 @ 3000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  100.0"/70.6"/178.7"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     4465 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  23.4 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                      235/70R16
     Brakes (F/R)                              Disc-ABS/disc-ABS
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                      Seven-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                .05 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            13/18/15          
     0-60 MPH                                       11.2 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       18.1 seconds @ 74 mph
     Towing Capacity                                 5500 pounds

     * Port fuel injection

(The Land Rover has come a long way from its early days as a multi-purpose vehicle used by British farmers just after World War II. Over the ensuing 49 years, the genre has evolved into a complete line of sport utility vehicles ranging from the militaristic Defender 90, to the posh Range Rover County Classic. The Hagins, Tom and Bob, try the mid-line Discovery with their usual divergent viewpoints.)

BOB - The first Land Rovers I saw were traversing Korea in '54. The Brits had a few detachments of troops there and if an American GI driving a Jeep came across a Tommy driving a Land Rover out on the back roads, it was a sure invitation for an impromptu road race.

TOM - I've seen pictures of those, Dad, and they were sure homely and unmistakable beasts. Land Rovers are still "different," but in this age of SUV look-alikes, you wouldn't have any difficulty spotting the new Land Rover Discovery in a parking lot filled with other SUVs. It looks tall enough to drive while wearing a top hat, and the slab sides are definitely not designed to copy the current rounded sedan-like profiles of most other new sport/utes.

BOB - At least not those designed as "boulevard" off-roaders. Land Rover TV ads show these machines crashing through jungle thickets and fording streams, and judging from the construction of the Discovery, I believe the shots are accurate. The company is so involved with the image of being the maker of true rough-duty, go-anywhere machines, that it's developed a unique new marketing strategy. Nearly 30 dealers around the country have transformed their stores into shops with a safari motif. The sales personnel dress in casual "Team Land Rover" uniforms and are experts on the art of driving an SUV in the rough stuff. Some stores even have their own off-road training course in the back lot.

TOM - I guess family off-roading is what Rover had in mind when it introduced Discovery. It has full-time four-wheel-drive and both the front and rear axles are "live." The suspension has extra long travel and coil springs for rolling across boulders and twisting terrain, and this feature incidentally makes the ride on pavement very smooth. I liked our test rig's standard five-speed transmission, although I'm sure that the optional four-speed automatic will be the choice of 90 percent of Discovery buyers.

BOB - The engine is the latest evolution of the all-aluminum V8 used by British cars ranging from MGs and Triumphs of several decades ago, to the current Morgan Plus 8 "vintage" sports car. It was originally a 215 cubic-inch Buick design that the British bought when GM abandoned it as a lost cause in '63. But over the years, Rover has worked out the bugs, expanded it to 241 inches and now it's a very reliable unit - but with only 182 horsepower, it's a bit light on power for such a heavy machine. Fortunately, its 233 lb-ft of torque give it a 5500-pound tow rating.

TOM - Even though the body panels are aluminum, one look underneath shows why it's no pavement-burner. The Discovery is built like a tank and obviously not meant just for impressing the peasants. But it's also a capable family vehicle since it has optional center-facing jump seats by the rear door, giving it the same passenger capacity as most of the current crop of mini-vans. And with those seats folded up against the walls and the center seats folded flat, there's almost enough storage space to carry an upright piano.

BOB - The fact that our test car has two power sunroofs is a waste of money as far as I'm concerned, and I could do without the automatic headlight dimmer switch, too. But the anti-lock, all-disc brakes are a definite plus, even when the Discovery is taken onto moderate fire trails for a family camping trip. I don't think the leather upholstery is appropriate for the East African Safari Rally, but then not many families attempt events like that as a vacation outing.

TOM - I wonder how a new Discovery would have handled one of our family camping trips of long ago. If I remember right, those trips were brutal on the family station wagon.

BOB - I said the Discovery was tough, Tom, but not indestructible.