In 1989, Land Rover rolled out the first Discovery as an affordable bridge between the Chelsea tractors of the Range Rover and the bush-busting Defender. Twenty-five years later, 1,088,000 Discoveries have been sold worldwide and to celebrate the occasion, Land Rover has unveiled the XXV Special Edition Discovery 4, which includes special exterior and interior features to go along with its HSE specifications.
Some see the Discovery as the poor cousin of the Range Rover, while others regard it as something with a touch of the hard practicality of the Defender line, but mellowed to suit those whose needs run more towards carting kids and medium-sized dogs around. But either way, it’s come a long way in the quarter century since the first one came off the line at Jaguar Land Rover's Solihull manufacturing plant.
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As Land Rover’s first "family car," the Discovery was originally designed as an SUV to take on inexpensive Japanese imports. Since the Defender was designed with soldiers, farmers, and safari leaders in mind, and the Ranger Rover never brings to mind “inexpensive,” a new car was needed. So, Land Rover had a new interior cabin designed from scratch and to keep costs down, the plan for the new car was to use already produced Rover equipment.
The result was the Discovery, but it wasn't an auspicious start. With economy the watchword, the manufacturer had to make do with whatever was available in the parts bin and the first engine was a four-cylinder petrol job that left much to be desired. Worse, the Discovery suffered the ignominy of sporting Morris Marina door handles. However, it was distinctive and it did have a roomy, comfortable interior that had optional seating for seven and included quirky touches like the infamous handbag situated between the front seats.
Over the years, the Discovery has gone through four major versions with petrol and diesel engines up to a V8. It also boasted new technologies, such as Terrain Response, which allows an inexperience driver to take on off-roading by automatically adjusting the car to the soil and terrain. Then there was Hill Descent Control, which uses the brakes, traction control, and low-range gears to help the Discovery descend very steep, slippery slopes and is genuinely terrifying the first time you press the button and pray that it does what it says on the tin.
In all, over 25 years, the Discovery has walked away with 219 awards, including the Queen's Award for Enterprise. Though it now comes in a wider range with some versions more of a luxury car aimed at the executive market, the Discovery can still show off its 4x4 cred, as in 2012 when the one-millionth Discovery drove from Solihull to Beijing (a distance of 8,000 mi (12,800 km) to raise money for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The next year, another Discovery drove the 10,000 mi (16,000 km) from London to Cape Town in ten days. It’s enough to make you forgive how hard it is to park.
Discovery XXV Special EditionTo commemorate all this, the Discovery takes the HSE specification Discovery 4 and pushes the boat out a bit. It still has the same body-on-frame chassis, 3-liter engine, an 8-speed flappy paddle gearbox, optional seating for seven, and it can still do 112 mph (180 km/h) and 0 to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds, but it also has a choice of four exterior colors: Causeway Grey, Santorini Black, Fuji White, and Indus Silver for the jubilee, plus special badging on the front door and tailgate.
The XXV Special Edition also has Narvik Black grille surrounds and mirror caps, Dark Atlas features on the grille and fender vents, silver full-length roof rails, and bespoke 20-inch five-split-spoke forged alloy wheels with light polished-silver finish.
Inside, the instrument panel binnacle and door top rolls are trimmed in Windsor leather and color trim is available in ebony, cirrus, and a combination of the two. Balancing things out are twist pile carpet mats and a leather-wrapped wooden steering wheel.
"Since its inception the Land Rover Discovery has been pivotal to the success of the brand and has now become an iconic design in its own right," says Phil Popham, Group Marketing Director at Jaguar Land Rover. "Discovery has led the way in terms of innovation, featuring technologies such as Terrain Response, which made off-roading much more accessible."
The Discovery XXV Special Edition will reportedly be priced at £63,000 when it goes on sale later this year (which is about a £4K hike on the current top of the line HSE model).
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