1997 Land Rover Discovery

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1997 Land Rover Discovery

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Available in 3 styles:  Discovery SD shown
Asking Price Range
$1,219–$8,739
Estimated MPG

14 city / 14–17 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 1 of 2

By 

The Morning Call and Mcall.com

I could almost imagine it.

Morning in the Cotswolds, the fog just lifting over the English countryside. After a brief drive around the farm in the Land Rover Discovery, it's time for a luncheon engagement with some member of the royal family.

That's when reality intrudes like a secret affair with a royal caught by a Fleet Street tabloid. I am not a prince, it's merely my name. There's no royal family member to meet for lunch, and the closest thing to a farm is the one I pass on the way to work.

Yet there's a regal air to the Land Rover Discovery, one that turns anyone who encounters it into an automotive Anglophile (even if BMW now owns the marque).

It goes beyond the obvious trappings like the finely polished walnut trim and sumptuous leather seats. The big, boxy upright stance with a roofline that bumps up at the rear is unmistakable. Inside, the dash has the cluttered look that resembles the library of an eccentric professor. Yet like the eccentric's library, there is a logic that is unique. For instance, when this vehicle was designed, things like airbags and power seats weren't imagined as features in this class. Now they are. The solution? The power-seat switches reside on the side of the center console bin. Eccentric, but charming.

But eccentric touches make this whole vehicle charming, like Princess Di in front of paparazzi cameras. There are sunroofs front and rear covered by dual mesh shades. The body is made of aluminum. The suspension is live axle front and rear. Different.

Under the bonnet (that's the hood to you Yanks) resides a 4.0-litre alloy V8 engine good for 182 horsepower and 233 pound-feet of torque. The distant roar of the engine will pull you through brush or blacktop. Response is strong, pulling up to 7,700 pounds, good for a vehicle with a short 100-inch wheelbase.

With a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions, four-channel four-wheel anti-lock discbrakes and permanent four-wheel drive, this vehicle proved itself capable of going anywhere with a luxurious aplomb that will come as a surprise to those who have never sampled one.

The ride swallowed rutted off-road fields with a luxurious ease that many of it's competitors have tried to match. This is one luxury vehicle that wrestles with the mud and then drives you to dinner at the fanciest restaurant in town. It has that kind of panache.

Inside, even a commoner is treated like a royal, with the usual array of dual automatic climate controls, heated leather seats and a weather band radio. There are plenty of lavish touches that come standard with this vehicle. At that level, many competitors with much less prestige can cost more.

"But doesn't the Range Rover have that famed English -- ah -- reliability?" I hear you ask. Happily, not one light blinked when it wasn't supposed to, nor did any engine problems crop up, suggesting that this is a reliable servant.

Safety is another surprise. You'd expect little in a truck, yet the Land Rover's frame is fully boxed and welded. It features side-impact protection, three-point outboard belts, child locks for the rear doors, power windows and dual power sunroofs, dual airbags and a security system.

So what's the price for all this? The base Discovery starts at $32,000. For that you get alloy wheels, but power leather seats, 6-CD changer and rear jump seats are optional. The SE, the tested vehicle, has the leather seats, but the rear jump seats are options. Other standard goodies include a garage door opener, additional wood trim, heated seats, fog lamps and dual sunroofs. Finally there's the SE7, which adds the jump seats and a hydraulic rear step.

So is it a bargain? Yes.

For the price of more mundane machinery, you can have an off-road brute so civilized you'll want to drive it with your pinky extended.

Just don't do it while you're driving the royals around. They' l think there's something wrong with you.

1997 Land Rover Discovery SE Standard: 4.0-litre aluminum block V8, power four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock, dual airbags, electric heated mirrors, heated rear window, auto-dimming rearview mirror, front and rear fog lamps, headlights with power washers, trailer harness connector, keyless entry, removable cargo cover, 235/70 R166 M&S tires with full-sized spare, CFC-free air-conditioning, 660/40 double split folding rear seats, individual automatic climate controls, cruise control, cup holders, power windows, roof rack with detachable crossbars, 90-watt 6-speaker AM/FM Cassette with weather band radio, diversity antenna, wired for 6-CD auto changer, Discovery SE package (dual 8-way power heated front seats with adjustable lumbar-headrest and leather seat trim, dual power sunroofs, front fog lamps, dished alloy wheels, tilt steering wheel with leather trim, walnut wood trim, HomeLink garage door system). Base price: $36,000 As tested: $37,432 EPA rating: 14 mpg city, 17 mpg highway.


    Expert Reviews 1 of 2

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