1998 LAND ROVER DISCOVERY LSE
Used Truck - 1998 Land Rover Discovery LSE in Chantilly, Va
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1998 Land Rover Discovery ReviewThis car review is specific to this model, not the actual vehicle for sale.
By appointment to Her Majesty, ready to go anywhere.
In the days when utility vehicles were just that, durable and crude workhorses with no 'sport' pretensions, there were Land Rovers. They could follow any trail, no matter how rough, or make their own trail when there wasn't one. Comfort was a semi-waterproof top. That was sufficient when getting there was a necessity, not fun.
When sport-utility vehicles gained popularity, there were Range Rovers. The early Range Rovers trekking through the wilds of Beverly Hills in the 1970s helped make four-wheel beasts of burden fashionable.
In 1994, a lower-priced Land Rover Discovery was added to the Range Rover line. Unchanged in basic form since then, the Discovery has carved a solid niche for itself in the $30,000 class. The Discovery is no poseur. It is as rugged as it looks, providing off-road capability that few vehicles can match.
The 1998 Discovery is far more refined than it was when it was introduced and the quality is substantially better than it was just two years ago. This year's LSE model offers some nice trim details and a new choice of colors.
There's no mistaking the Discovery for anything but a Land Rover-even if you miss seeing the lettering on the hood. It's understated and very British. It stands tall, a boxy design made up of aluminum panels with minimal concessions to aerodynamic efficiency. It's a design built for function and practicality and that appeals to its buyers. Discovery buyers say they don't want a cookie-cutter sport-utility-they want something different.
And the Discovery is different. The rear of its roof panel is raised to increase headroom for rear-seat passengers. Small, distinctive alpine windows wrap around the top edges of the elevated roof to let in light and increase visibility in the mountains.
Efficiency on the outside is matched by strength underneath. A stout ladder chassis rides on live axles with coil springs. A proven all-aluminum V8 engine drives all four wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel-drive system works full time for sure traction in all conditions. When it gets slippery, the center differential can be locked. When it gets steep, the two-speed transfer case can be shifted into low range.
Two trim levels are offered for 1998, LS and LSE. Both are well-equipped, with heated eight-way power front seats, leather upholstery, cruise control, dual sunroofs, air conditioning and one-touch down front windows. From the outside, the LSE is differentiated by its chrome bumpers and body colored grille, bumper end caps and mirrors.
The Discovery is capable of towing 5500 pounds and a nicely designed class III trailer hitch receiver is integrated into the frame. A HomeLink system opens garage doors and gates or turns on house lighting at the touch of a button. In the event of an accident, an inertia switch stops fuel flow, unlocks all the doors and turns on the hazard lights.
Four big passenger doors provide easy access to the Discovery interior, though its a bit of a step up to get inside. Once seated, however, occupants will find the Discovery comfortable, user-friendly and lavishly equipped. Both models come with firm seats swathed in leather. The high seating position gives drivers a commanding view of the road and the driver can easily see the front fenders, an important feature when off-roading along the edge of a bottomless crevasse.
Dual-zone climate controls and separate sunroofs for front and rear seat passengers are standard. Everything appears to be long-wearing and carefully installed. The window switches are lighted for nighttime convenience, a feature missing on many sport-utilities, but they are mounted in an angled panel on the center console and sorting out which switch operates which window takes some practice.
Official seating capacity is for five, though the rear seat is best suited to two riders. There is plenty of headroom front and rear. The raised roof really contributes to rear-seat comfort. Rear legroom is not a strong point, however. A large cargo door swings open to provide easy access to the back and a roll-up cover is provided to hide valuables. The spare tire is mounted outside the door on back to maximize cargo space. Optional side-facing jump seats are available, but they are best left to small children-or left off the options list, as headroom is severely limited and climbing into them is a chore.
Both models come standard with a long list of luxury features, such as power windows, mirrors, seats and door locks. But they also come with heaters for the front seats and outside mirrors, an auto-dimming interior mirror, a rear window washer and wiper, headlamp washers, electronic cruise control, and remote keyless entry. Heavy duty rubber floor mats do a good job of handling water, snow, mud and dirt.
The Discovery LSE comes with a wood-trimmed center console and a premium Harman-Kardon stereo. A six-disc CD changer is mounted under the passenger seat; it's too bad an in-dash CD player isn't available because loading the changer is fussy.
In day-to-day use, the Discovery acquits itself well. The 4.0-liter V8 engine is smooth. Ride quality is surprisingly good, given its off-road capability. Despite its relatively short wheelbase, the Discovery does a good job of filtering out road vibration. In fact, the ride is on the soft side.
Away from paved roads, the Discovery shines. Land Rover has in no way ignored the needs of serious off-roaders. Long suspension travel and plenty of ground clearance let the Discovery cross terrain that few would attempt in rival machines. Put the transfer case in low range, lock the center differential, and the Land Rover heritage comes to the fore. It will get you there, and bring you back, no matter how challenging the route.
The downside to this emphasis on off-road capability shows up when the Discovery is driven hard through paved turns. Though well controlled, the body leans in corners. With familiarity, the driver learns the Discovery is sure-footed and maintains its grip on the pavement.
Steering is excellent, and the short wheelbase is a great aid when maneuvering in tight quarters. The V8 engine provides good acceleration, but is a bit thirsty. The four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes work very well, but we wish they offered more pedal feel.
Wind noise is noticeable on the highway, along with tire and transfer case noise, but they are not obtrusive. Also, the flat body sides contribute to buffeting in high winds or when driving behind tractor-trailers.
In dynamic terms, we rate the Discovery superior to its rivals from Jeep, Infiniti, Ford, Chevrolet and GMC. The new Mercedes ML320 is the Discovery's closest rival in the prestige competition, but it's a different type of vehicle with a different type of chassis. The ML320 rides on a fully independent suspension that gives it an advantage in ride quality. A clever electronically controlled all-wheel drive system gives it surprisingly good off-road abilities, but it doesn't offer the phenomenal capabilities of the Discovery.
Buying a Land Rover is almost like joining a country club. More than half of its dealers operate Land Rover Centres staffed with four-wheel-drive experts. These Centres carry special equipment for off-road driving and other active sports, along with Land Rover's own line of clothing, luggage and accessories. Courses in off-roading are taught at the Land Rover Driving School at The Equinox in Manchester, Vermont. Independent schools and clubs add to the Land Rover aura.
Few vehicles, including the new Mercedes, can match the off-road capability of the Land Rover Discovery. Land Rover specializes in four-wheel-drive vehicles exclusively and boasts 50 years of off-road experience. The upscale image of the Discovery belies its value and warranty coverage was recently extended to four years.
In short, the Discovery offers a proven traditional package, first-rate off-road capability and an upscale, outdoorsy image.
Options As Tested
Rear jump seats.
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