The Land Rover Discovery Is Dead, Long Live the Land Rover Discovery

It wasn’t just a box on wheels; it was our box on wheels.
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It wasn’t just a box on wheels; it was our box on wheels.
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We always loved the Land Rover Discovery. The cumbersome cube crushed trails and looked better the dirtier it got. The newest model, with an 8-speed and Jaguar’s supercharged V6, even gets 20 mpg, but that number isn’t enough, not with efficiency standards on the up and up. The rest of the Land Rover line-up has leapt into the future with modern, lightweight frames, leaving the Discovery a lone heavyweight among trimmer brethren. Land Rover is investing in new silhouettes and production lines and workers at the Solihull facility that produced Discoverys are on strike. We must draw an inevitable and unsavory conclusion: The Disco as we know it is dead.

Though the name will live on, whatever replaces the Discovery will be a smoother, tamer facsimile of the original. And what an original: The tried-and-true architecture was great for off-roading, but too heavy for the commute - a 3-tonner in a world of 2.5 ton SUVs. The classic had a finesse-free, box-on-stilts shape that was about as aerodynamic as Buckingham Palace. The thing could grind its way up a logging trail and amass dog hair like no other, but - as with many fun and profligate pleasures - it wasn’t sustainable. The health–and–safety chorus has shouted down its unnecessarily loud horn.

Let’s not dwell on its final days and, instead, celebrate the life it lived. Remember the early nineties? The Land Rover Discovery roared onto the scene, instantly seducing adventurers and suburban parents who didn’t want to be suburban parents with tough-guy looks, a Range Rover resume and a somewhat approachable price. Then, it broke down. That first generation was totally unreliable.

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But there was something so appealing about the industrious little Landie that folks were willing to give it a second, third, and fourth chance. Land Rover catered to its fans, building an actual functioning vehicle on the original Discovery’s chassis. The newly luxurious nameplate changed engines as often as corporate ownership - Buick V8, Lincoln V8, Jaguar V8 – but always remained the same in essence.

This year, Land Rover showed its Discovery Sport, a lightened, smooth and modern interpretation of what a medium-sized off-roader could be. While that particular concept was introduced as a replacement for Land Rover’s smaller LR2, we’re counting down the days until a new Discovery debuts, presumably with a significantly different look and feel. We’ll probably like it, but we won’t like it – if you get our drift.

Still, the old-school Land Rover Discovery will live on in garages from Greenwich to Greenland, its simple lines only improving with age and its unmistakable shape cutting an upright silhouette against the backdrop of modern efficiency. 

Photos by Land Rover