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The TACH Report: 1998 Land Rover Discovery, IROC to Race at Indy, Schumacher Speaks, Penske's new Execs

25 November 1997

Land Rover, the company that appears to be the culprit for starting the upscale sport utility manufacturing/marketing binge is not a company that gives in to contemporary styling whims just for the sake of aesthetics. The new Discover by Range Rover is still square (in more areas than just styling, unfortunately) and purposeful. The fabled British auto/truck maker has added a second moonroof to the rear seat(s) area, wood trimmed center console, leather covered steering wheel and gear shift lever, and map lights integrated into the rear view mirror.

Though the prestigious Land Rover line seems to be purchased by rich "soccer moms" who wouldn't know a forest trail or off-road path from a hockey puck, Discovery still evokes Cadillac-like status/personality. When purchasing a new Discovery, however, you have got to have some reason other than how it looks parked in front of the Country Club for doing so.

The ride is truck-like, as well it should be, but on smooth Highway it floats like any good sized luxo boat. The power steering is not easy, and that's another reason for the lady buyer to try out the Discovery before committing to a $35,000 plus purchase. Sure, there's plenty of room in the 70 cubic foot rear storage area and, with the big 16.0 X 7.0 tires it is certainly sure-footed--which adds to its practicality and feeling of safety. Power comes from a 4.0 liter V8 motor putting out 182 h.p., which we think is suspect, re hauling a 4,500 lb vehicle, on or off the road. It has four wheel disc brakes with four pistons front, two pistons rear. It needs a couple more pistons, as panic stops are panicky. In traffic you will learn to KEEP your distance.

Yes, it's nice to be able to see over the traffic, but rear vision is partially obscured by the spare (big) tire hanging on the tailgate. We drove back from San Diego to L.A. in Sunday night traffic recently and were really miffed at a motorist behind our Discovery who displayed only one headlight. When he went around us we learned his lamps were OK, we just couldn't see both of them.

Once again, we remind you that there are other reasons for buying a Land Rover, aside from using it as a daily driver. It is big and heavy and the gas mileage reflects this feature: 14 city/17 highway. It really needs its 23.5 gallon fuel tank.

The car seats five and has a rear jump seat package wherein two seats unfold and face each other. This option costs two grand. Gear box-wise, the vehicle features full time four-wheel drive with two-speed transfer case and automatic transmission. It's a nice ride, but ladies with long finger nails better be prepared to cope with the ignition key position buried an inch from the dash, on the steering column--a real tight fit. The Discovery does have one major exclusive feature: the biggest windows of all (and now we know why women buy Land Rovers).

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has added another event to their 1998 calendar. The True Value/Goodyear/Pontiac sponsored International Race of Champions is coming to the 2.5 mile oval next summer. So we have the Indy 500, and NASCAR Winston Cup races. Can the Craftsman Truck series be very far behind?

Penske Motorsports has announced that Brian Skuza is now General Manager and Doug Bland, Assistant Dir of Marketing at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Jay Lucas moves up to head of all Pubic Relations for Penske race tracks and Pete Merkle is director of sales for Michigan Speedway.

Michael Schumacher says he did not deliberately try to turn into Jacques Villenueve at the European Grand prix. He says, "it makes you look stupid if you intentionally try to put someone out of the race"

Pennzoil has announced a two-year deal to back an IRL Olds Aurora team with Scott Goodyear at the controls. In CART, plans for a 1.8 liter formula are on the back burner until 2001. That will cost some people a bunch of money . . . clean sheet of paper. The present formula is 2.6 liters and Mercedes has a new mill for 1998.

Professional NHRA drag racing Top Fuel champion Eddie Hill says that at 61 years of age he feels fit as a fiddle and is going to ask NASA to let him become an Astronaut. He recently witnessed a space shuttle blast off and said the happening was so exciting--noise and vibration and all--that it made his 300 mph runs seem kind of weak.

If attending an auto show is in your plans, try to find one that includes the BMW Z07 concept car. It's new, it's retro, it's James Bond-ish, and has Ferrari, BMW 507, Corvette styling cues.

In the market for a new car? Attractive rebates abound such as: Chrysler Sebring Coupe, $1,000; Ford F-150 pickup, $2000; Mazda Millenia, $4,000. The Millenia also has a $4,000 dealer incentive--that's a good buy.

Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel