The latest Land Rover Discovery features a new look, echoing the new Range Rover, a revised interior with new trim and a number of significant technical enhancements designed to improve both on- and off-road ability. This latest Discovery boasts more than 700 changes over its most recent predecessor, many of them incorporated in advanced driving systems and unique engineering features. The new 2004 Discovery retains the stability, assurance and comfort conferred by its dynamic control systems such as Active Cornering Enhancement (ACE) and Self Leveling Suspension (SLS) and retains its world renown iconic profile.

Other significant improvements include: A new Land Rover Discovery "face"  with aggressive twin-pocket headlights, revised rear light clusters, all-new interior trim, improved braking and suspension systems. These new developments not only increase the Discoverys remarkable off-road ability but also improve its on-road performance and refinement.  The exterior changes provide a Land Rover family look to the well-known Discovery outline while the interior revisions reflect contemporary themes and offer greater comfort. The Discovery is powered either by the proven 4.0-litre 136 kW (184 bhp) V8 petrol engine or in our test case a 2.5-litre 101 kW (138 bhp) Td5 five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. The Td5 engine produces up to 340 Nm (250 lb ft) of torque at under 2,000 rpm for on-road drive ability and off-road prowess.

The new Discovery is instantly recognisable by its dynamic new Land Rover family face’, dominated by twin-pocket headlamps providing improved lighting as well as a distinctive look. A new grille and a new front bumper with round fog lamps complement the new headlamp arrangement. There are also visual changes at the rear with improved rear lights, the indicators having been relocated to the upper vertical light cluster to provide better visibility to following traffic.

The revised profile of the new front bumper not only refreshes the styling of the new Discovery but also improves its cross-country ability with an improved step height. The Disco (as it's affectionately known), retains four-wheel Electronic Traction Control (ETC) and the award-winning Hill Descent Control (HDC) system.  These features, embodying more than 50 years of Land Rover 4x4 experience, give the Discovery supreme confidence in any off-road situation.

The Disco features a number of braking and chassis improvements.  The front and rear disc brakes have been fitted with revised pads and calipers to improve response and feel while the suspension has revised locations to improve refinement. The Active Cornering Enhancement (ACE) system minimises roll through bends while the air-sprung Self Leveling Suspension (SLS) system retains a level stance under all load combinations. This combination, allied with wide track axles and revised suspension set-up, gives the Discovery excellent handling and passenger comfort.  Four-channel ABS braking with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) is fitted as standard.

Land Rover has built on the Discovery’s well-known strengths in road handling and off-road capability to re-assert the model’s strong position in the 4x4 marketplace.

Our road test of the Discovery started at the Waterford Land Rover Centre in Fourways, Sandton, in the heart of the Mink and Manure belt of the old Transvaal. From there we drove in a wide loop, on excellent quality tar roads and freeway, to the Land Rover Experience facility behind the Kyalami race track, for a drive off-road and more importantly for us, to find out if the larney Discovery could actually do what the marketing guys said it could. Our particular test Discovery was a middle of the range automatic, Td5, XS model. On tar it was as luxurious as it looks (even better than I expected), pulling strong in the low first gear, changing up through the silky smooth gearbox without any whiplash (so smooth, if you accelerate normally you won't even feel the gears changing), while the turbo-charged 2.5 litre diesel engine is powerful and willing. But that wasn't the part we were really interested in, we wanted to test the Disco's off-road capabilities. Well... we came, we saw, we conquered. The Discovery took everything the course had to offer in it's stride, from idling up and down steep inclines safely, to chugging effortlessly over boulders and obstacles, all the time remaining as level as the rough terrain would allow. The best part was, neither the Discovery, nor Dylan or myself, suffered any stress, the Landy kept it's poise throughout, leaving us in control and comfort while enjoying the drive through the bush.

Our verdict; the Discovery lived up to all our expectation and then some.

Thanks to Glenn Thuynsma and all at Waterford Land Rover Centre for the use of their Landy and also to Sean and the guys at The Land Rover Experience at Kyalami  for the use of their off-road facilities, we had a great time finding out just how user-friendly and capable the Land Rover Discovery really is.    Kenn Slater.