The third incarnation of Land Rover's Discovery will be launched in South Africa only in March next year, but the public will be able to preview the SUV at the Auto Africa Expo later this month.

The third incarnation of Land Rover's Discovery will be launched in South Africa only in March next year, but the public will be able to preview the SUV at the Auto Africa Expo later this month.


The latest Discovery is instantly recognisable thanks to its bold, geometric vertical and horizontal design elements, stepped roof (to boost headroom), asymmetric rear tailgate (to reduce load height when the lower part of the tailgate is closed, and reduce 'reach in' distance when opened), air intake on only one side of the body (it's all that was needed) and its large glazed areas.


"The priority was to give the passengers and driver more headroom and greater comfort. It (the vehicle) has big, deep glazing, because that provides greater airiness and a better view," Land Rover design director Geoff Upex said.


The rear passengers are seated progressively higher than those in the front and the optional third row of seats are said to be "big enough to accommodate 95th percentile adults". Both second and third rows are accessed from the centre doors and can be folded flat to increase the Discovery's load-carrying capacity.


The SUV was first shown at the New York Motor show earlier this year. Feted as the “most advanced Land Rover ever built”, the Discovery has an integrated body-frame, new Terrain Response system, electronic park brake release and its spare wheel has been relocated from its tailgate perch to an under-body mounting. The wheelbase is 38cm longer than that of its predecessor


First fitted to the recent Range Stormer concept car, Land Rover's Terrain Response system is claimed to optimise the Discovery's "driveability and comfort, as well as maximising traction". To operate the system, the driver of the vehicle must select one of five terrain settings via a rotary switch on the centre console: a general driving programme, plus one for slippery conditions (known as 'grass/gravel/snow') and three special off-road modes (mud/ruts, sand, rock crawl).


Terrain Response then automatically selects the most appropriate settings for the vehicle's electronic controls and traction aids - including ride height, engine torque response, hill descent control, electronic traction control and transmission settings.


"The integrated body-frame structure allows Land Rover to deliver the comfort, refinement and on-road attributes of a monocoque, while continuing to set new standards in off-road performance," the spokesman added... The Discovery is claimed to be capable of wading through water that is 700 mm deep.


The range features full-time four-wheel drive and fully independent suspension (double wishbones on the entry-level model and air damping on the others). The suspension is height adjustable, to assist with entry and exit, and boost or reduce ground clearance as required, a Land Rover spokesman said.


When the range is launched in South Africa in March next year, automatic versions of the 4,0-litre V6 and 4,4-litre V8 petrol-powered models will become available first. The 4,4-litre version of Jaguar's V8 petrol engine has had its capacity upped from 4,2 litres and offers more low-end torque, enhanced dust- and water-proofing, and a revised air intake system. CAR’s correspondent was told that the “S” versions of the V6 and V8 models were expected to cost in the region of R440 000 and R570 000 respectively.


Meanwhile, a new 2,7-litre V6 turbodiesel, which delivers 440 N.m at 1 900 r/min, is a common rail unit that uses variable geometry turbocharging. When this model is made available in South Africa at the end of May 2005, it will be offered, like all other models with a six-speed automatic 'intelligent shift' transmission and cost about R450 000, CARtoday.com was told.