- The Washington Times - Friday, August 11, 2000

MODEL: Land Rover Discovery II

VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door SUV

PRICE-AS-TESTED: $40,600

MILEAGE: 13 city, 17 highway

Little has changed in the philosophy of Land Rover over the years. Its high-end sport utility vehicles are still engineered and constructed as though their owners are actually going to take vehicles costing somewhere between $35,000 and $70,000 off-road.

A few owners evidently do and its the competence they experience from these vehicles in the bush that continues fueling demand.

Perched behind the wheel, I was tempted to lower the side glass, lean out to passers-by and say things like "jolly good" and "to the hounds." Part of the charm of Land Rover products is their very British nature. It is heritage. It is legend. It is tradition that keeps people buying Land Rovers despite the recent glut of shiny new competitors.

Only a few years ago, Land Rover stood alone in the luxury SUV segment. Today it is one of many, but it was still the first and it hasn't budged one inch from its role as a serious off-roader. Tradition lives on in the Discovery II.

Buying the Discovery is about as simple a process as can be found in the showroom of any manufacturer. Available in basically one flavor, the only real decision a buyer must make is whether to spring for leather seating to the tune of $1,950. The only other key options are dual sunroofs, third-row seating and the active cornering enhancement. Otherwise, everything else (and it's a lot) is included in the base price.

There is only one engine: a 188-horsepower 4-liter V-8. Tweaked for more torque at lower revs last year, this V-8 generates 250 foot-pounds of torque at 2,600 rpm.

There is only one transmission: a four-speed automatic that intuitively adjusts shift points to accommodate a driver's style and current conditions. Acceleration is brisk, but far from neck-snapping. Achieving 60 mph from a standing stop requires just over 10 seconds.

Discovery is all-wheel drive (AWD), consequently all the wheels are powered all the time. However, there is a four-wheel, low setting for serious off-road antics. Discovery also has a passive system that automatically brakes the vehicle during downhill descents when in four-low.

Because of its 4,600 pounds of bulk and AWD, Discovery is a bit thirsty. The Environmental Protection Agency rates it at 13 miles per gallon in the city and 17 on the highway.

When not clawing its way across the outback, the Discovery rolls along pavement just like any normal vehicle. All things considered, it is reasonably quiet and civilized. A bit of road noise seeps in, but not in annoying amounts.

The ride is quite comfortable with only the most severe bumps and potholes registering inside the cabin. This is a luxury SUV and nothing in its over-the-road demeanor indicates otherwise. Monitored by an anti-lock system, disc brakes on all four wheels bring Discovery to sure-footed stops.

A well-appointed cabin reinforces the luxury designation. When the leather interior is included, as it was in my test Discovery, just the richness of that leather scent makes you smile. In addition to the optional dual sun-roofs, there are a series of panoramic windows around the roof line of the rear areas. The second row of seats is somewhat higher than the front buckets, enhancing visibility for rear-seat occupants.

The optional third-row seating is actually two forward-facing jump seats that fold up against the sides of the cargo area when not in use. One caution though, even when folded up, the jump seats greatly reduce cargo-carrying capacity. The front-seat, power-window controls are oddly placed on the side of the center console. That takes a bit of getting used to. A huge greenhouse makes for outstanding visibility in every direction; although when a third rear-seat passenger occupies the center of that seat, it effectively blocks visibility out the rear window. My test Discovery was well screwed together with nary a squeak or rattle to be heard.

Base price of the Land Rover Discovery II is $34,150. Standard features not yet mentioned include dual front air bags, dual-zone climate control, outside-temperature indicator, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, cruise control, wood interior accents, split-folding rear seat, dual-heated outboard mirrors, power locks with remote keyless entry, power windows, Harman/Kardon AM/FM stereo/ cassette, steering wheel-mounted redundant audio controls, rear window defogger, automatic day/ night rearview mirror, variable intermittent wipers, anti-theft alarm system and 16-inch alloy wheels. My test Discovery also had the leather package ($1,950), rear-seat package ($1,750), dual sunroofs ($1,500) and six-disc CD changer ($625). Adding the $625 delivery charge brought the price as tested to $40,600.

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