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1997 Land Rover Discovery

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Key specs

Base trim shown


Body style


Seating capacity

178.7” x 77.4”


Four-wheel drive



3 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

  • SD


  • SE


  • SE7


Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 1997 Land Rover Discovery trim comparison will help you decide.

See also: Find the best SUVs for 2024

1997 Land Rover Discovery review: Our expert's take

By Editors

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.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.0
  • Interior 4.1
  • Performance 3.9
  • Value 2.9
  • Exterior 3.7
  • Reliability 2.2
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Most recent consumer reviews


loved to hate

when it ran badmofo but had allot of compter and drive problems, allot of recalls, but no actual help worst bang for your buck unless u got one of the lucky few good ones

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.0
  • Interior 5.0
  • Performance 4.0
  • Value 3.0
  • Exterior 5.0
  • Reliability 2.0
  • Purchased a Used car
  • Used for Having fun
  • Does not recommend this car
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Low Barriers for Entry with Catches

I see these vehicles in the hands of the wrong consumers frequently. They are great for off-road driving, local travel, and carrying many passengers. Just about all other uses results in the realization of the catches. These vehicles are cheap to purchase, but have extremely high maintenance costs. They are also unreliable and often mechanics are unavailable. The dealer network is also weak. The oil changes require a unique weight of oil that increases costs. The brake fluid is DOT4 fluid, so even that is specialized. The vehicle also requires tires that support its weight (~6000lbs), which increases costs and limits options. Ideally people purchasing this type of vehicle should go into the process well funded with a clear understanding of what they are getting. This is something I can't express enough.

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.0
  • Interior 4.0
  • Performance 3.0
  • Value 2.0
  • Exterior 2.0
  • Reliability 1.0
  • Purchased a Used car
  • Used for Off-roading
  • Does not recommend this car
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I love it

Just bought used one 9 months ago love it. Has not given me prblems, handles good. My kids love it. Great off road. The list goes on and on.

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.0
  • Interior 3.0
  • Performance 5.0
  • Value 4.0
  • Exterior 4.0
  • Reliability 4.0
  • Purchased a Used car
  • Used for Transporting family
  • Does recommend this car
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New car program benefits
36 months/42,000 miles
72 months/unlimited distance

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