From its 4-cyclinder petrol “Project Jay” roots to the highly-refined 3-litre turbo diesel V6 in the latest offering, the Land Rover Discovery has an unmatched history of powering family adventure. It was driving home from our stargazing experience at Sterland in Sutherland that the capable beast’s character shone through. Stargazing is at its core the act of looking into the past. Moonlight, for instance, has a 1,3-second delay. My daughter saw Jupiter through the lens of a telescope. Or rather Jupiter as it was about 43 minutes in the past.
The Southern African Large Telescope was instrumental in confirming the ASASSN-15lh supernova discovery, the most powerful yet discovered by humanity. Light from event is 150-billion times brighter than our own sun, but is some 3,8-billion light years away from earth. Much closer to home (80 000 light years), SALT discovered stars near our Milky Way galaxy. These five stars, known as the Cepheid variables, will help astronomers trace the distribution of dark matter from the galactic centre, allowing for a depper understanding of how galaxies form.
Discovery first appeared in 1989, 20 years after the original Range Rover, downscaling some of the more upmarket touches to appeal to a broader market that was embracing beasts from the east to get their off road rocks off. The idea was simple: space for five (optional two jump seats in the boot) and permanent 4×4 with a low range transfer case. In 2017 much noise is being made about the optional 3rd row seating, but in hindsight it’s more in keeping with tradition than the previous generation.
And that’s always been the appeal of the Land Rover Discovery. It’s having the 4-litre V8 from the Range Rover at the affordable price. The trade off is switch gear and instruments taken from the wider Rover group car network and that’s fine because you’re sitting in one of the most off road capable cars on the road.
The youngest active volcano in the southern hemisphere is visible from the SALT site. It last erupted 66 million years ago.
The 2017 Discovery takes that to an entirely new level of understanding. At its highest the now-common air suspension gives 280 mm of clearance and 900 mm of wading. Yes the now full monocoque chassis does away with the clever hybrid system introduced on 2004’s Discovery 3 – which also brought air suspension to the Landies – but the body is now much better at handling that meaty V6 on sealed roads.
There’s also Terrain Response 2 which offers a new “Auto” mode alongside the traditional driver selectable off road modes. Auto lets the car’s computer sellect the appropriate mode, informed by data coming from the various sensors monitoring wheel slip, speed, approach/departure angle, suspension rebound and compression. The vehicle then determines adjsutments to the ABS, diff locks, traction control system and throttle response.
The new Land Rover Discovery remains true to its original purpose, but manages to add crucial enhancements to its already formidable package. This still is the most capable off road family car and will empower a new generation of exploration and discovery.
Have you read part 1 of this series? Want to read more about the all-new Land Rover Discovery? Click here for the details.