Land Rover Discovery tackles off-road Camel Trophy challenge
Date Posted: 5/10/2005
XUNANTUNICH, BELIZE -- In Belize, swamp water and crocodiles hampered the caravan of Land Rover Discovery sport-utility wagons, while in steamy jungles of adjacent Guatemala one night, guerrilla gunmen surrounded the encamped teams of drivers from 24 nations.
Then came dust in ruts over mountains in El Salvador, river challenges like the Jupilingo leading into Honduras, plus more jungles to cross before the 1,050-mile route concluded on the Guatemalan border of Belize in the shadow of pyramids at the ancient Maya city of Xunantunich.
Through all the obstacles -- rivers and mountains, jungle mazes and muddy bogs, past snakes and scorpions amid horrendous heat and stupefying humidity -- not one Discovery failed to ford the Mopan River's cholera-laced waters and complete the 1995 Camel Trophy, ultimate challenge in the world of 4-wheel-drive vehicles.
Team USA, consisting of Californian Daphne Greene and Jim Swett from Connecticut, led the convoy across the Mopan in their mud-caked, jungle-cured Disco, which had served as shelter as well as transport during this expedition through the Mayan World of Central America.
"After weeks of abusive trail driving, I'm still awed by our Discovery," Ms. Greene, a skilled 4x4 driver and wilderness guide, noted. "It can go anywhere, do it all."
Sure it can, Daphne: It's a Land Rover.
The British automotive giant whose name has become synonymous with peerless 4-wheel-drive vehicles which plow through African bush or take on Belizian swamps has in recent years gained status in the United States with a plush line of Range Rover 4x4 wagons.
Discovery, a compact 5-door wagon rigged with big V8 engine and permanent 4-wheel-drive system, entered our domestic market only last year as a new alternative in the fastest-growing automotive segment -- mainstream sport-utility vehicles with off-pavement capability.
For those who cannot come up with the $52,000 or so it takes to acquire a Range Rover status symbol, Discovery with its $29,950 base price offers an enticing alternate path to step up to the realm of Land Rover.
Discovery also provides a number of features for safety, comfort and performance in the outback wilds.
Start with that torque-laden 3.9-liter V8, which appears exclusively in Discovery models imported to the United States. (Camel Trophy Discos cantained a turbo-diesel engine whose fuel efficiency makes it popular in countries where gasoline goes for upwards of $5 a gallon.)
Producing 182 horsepower, Disco's V8 excels with snappy take-off in low gear and strength through all speeds.
It's a tow monster too.
In low range of 4WD for off-road towing, for instance, Discovery can lug up to 7,700 pounds. On pavement in high range, it pulls a 5,500-lb. trailer.
Disco's V8 mates to either a tight 5-speed manual gear, which was developed exclusively for this application, or an optional automatic 4-speed ZF gearbox.
If the intent of Discovery is to romp through rough and rocky off-pavement wilds, pick that stick for unmatched performance when driving on dirt.
Of course, off-roading is the point behind Disco, please understand, so don't consider this vehicle if all you want is a supermarket SUV. This one stocks a permanent all-wheel-drive system with 2-speed transfer box and locking center differential.
That means all four tires work for you at higher speeds to grip rain-slick pavement or snow-bound streets, but a switch to 4-Low enables Disco to tackle steep and rocky slopes, plow across desert dunes or suck through serious goo on a mud-soaked path.
Discovery rides on the same rugged steel boxed ladder frame which carried the former short-wheelbase Range Rover.
It stands tall, due to its high clearance which permits travel over big bumps, logs and boulders. Also, its long-travel coil suspension allows each wheel to reach high or low over such rough stuff for surprising agility.
Still, Disco rides smoothly on conventional pavement.
Unlike some competitors, Discovery doesn't skimp when it comes to safety features.
You'll find concealed assets like dual airbags up front, plus strong steel beams in all four doors to thwart the forces of a side impact.
Further, a big disc brake connects to each wheel, and all link via a 4-channel anti-lock system designed to operate across all types of terrain.
Comfort becomes another important commodity carried by Discovery, beginning with twin front bucket seats that recline and support your back with an adjustable lumbar.
The rear 3-person bench splits in 60-40 proportion and folds in various configurations for cargo hauling in the rear storage bay. Also, two stowable rear jump seats, available optionally, extend Disco's people count to seven.
Standard comforts include electronic cruise control and cabin climate system with side-to-side variable temperature controls unique to the SUV market.
Disco also gets a factory-installed alarm system with keyless entry capability.
Then come the comforts of a luxury sedan, such as central door locking, power windows, twin outside mirrors with heat element and remote power controls, quartz halogen headlamps with power wash element, along with the electric rear window defroster and rear window washer plus wiper.
Storage spaces show up throughout Disco's cabin -- in the center console, at the dash with its full-size glove box, on each door with handy map pocket, at front seatbacks in the expandable storage pockets, even above rear seats in overhead net storage units.
Options are limited to leather upholstery, rear air conditioning, dual electric sunroofs, the cargo jump seats and a 6-disc CD changer for the premium sound system.
With so much hardware devoted to off-road action and internal systems designed to soothe spirits through so many miles of travel, Discovery delivers more SUV for your money.
And, as Camel Trophy teams from 24 countries proved in Central America recently, Discovery can deflect every off-road challenge you could imagine -- even crocodiles.
1995 LAND ROVER DISCOVERY
| Vehicle Specifications:
| 1995 LAND ROVER DISCOVERY Specs
| Model Options:
| Overall Length:
| Engine Size:
||OHV 3.9-L V8
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||$ 29,950 to $ 34,850