1999 and the release of Discovery 2 saw what was effectively a refresh of the vehicle originally launched in 1989. However fifteen years after its launch, Discovery saw the biggest overhaul in its relatively short history. Discovery 3 was about to bring an icon into the 21st century.
Now under the ownership of Ford, Land Rover released the highly-anticipated third generation in 2004. It was a Discovery design revolution. This latest edition was an entirely new vehicle underneath its surface, but retained its classic exterior features.
The stepped roof remained, as did the reverse C-pillars and the steep angled windscreen. The driving position was also raised into its now familiar command driving position, providing a full unobstructed view of the vehicle’s surroundings.
Three engine variants were made available for Discovery 3 – the 4.4 litre petrol V8, a 2.7 litre TDV6, and the 4.0 litre Cologne V6 petrol offered solely for the US. The gearbox was upgraded to an automatic 6-speed version, an improvement over the 4-speed automatic transmission offered on in the previous model.
Inside, the vehicle’s infotainment was given a major upgrade. There was now a navigation system, which included both on and off-road routes. The audio system was upgraded, optional rear seat entertainment screens were available, and on later models, you could use Bluetooth to link your mobile phone. The familiar flexible seven-seat layout remained, however passengers in row three now entered via the rear passenger doors, rather than the tailgate as they had done previously.
One radical feature added to Discovery 3 was Fully Independent Suspension. This system allowed the vehicle to be both raised and lowered to adjust ground clearance - high ground clearance for off-road performance, providing extra stability to the vehicle, and a lower clearance for higher on-road speeds. This was in line with Discovery’s original utilitarian brief for both on and off-road performance.
The biggest technical advance with the third generation, came with the highly-acclaimed Terrain Response system. The system considerably enhanced Discovery’s off-road capability and has subsequently not only been rolled out onto all Land Rover vehicles since, but developed further still. The driver selects which terrain will be driven on, Terrain Response then electronically configures the vehicle’s systems, including engine management, gear selection, differential control and ride height selection, to suit the surface selected.