What's New for 1996
Three new trim levels, a revised engine that gets better around-town fuel economy, new colors, increased seat travel and new power seats sum up the changes for 1996.
Introduced in April 1994, this compact Land Rover 4X4 was the first of its kind to contain airbags for both the driver and front passenger. All-terrain, all-disc antilock brakes also are standard, whereas all those safety items are absent from the Defender 90. Just one body style is available: a five-door wagon with five-speed manual shift and permanent four-wheel-drive. An automatic transmission is optional. This year, three trim levels have been introduced; the SD, SE and SE7.
Beneath the hood of all models sits a new aluminum 4.0-liter, 182-horsepower V8 engine. Acceleration isn't bad, but is accompanied by gear noise and other aural annoyances. New A-pillar tweeters help the stereo to drown these sounds out for 1996. City cycle gas mileage has been improved, but could be better. Sizable ground clearance (8.1 inches) is a bonus while off-roading, but contributes to the Discovery's tendency to lean through curves and corners, and also makes it harder to climb inside. Though firm, the sport-utility's suspension delivers a suitable ride, via 16-inch Michelin or Goodyear tires. New body-side moldings, revised wheels, and three new colors help differentiate the 1996 Discovery from those that preceded it.
The driver sits high -- three feet above the road surface. Rear passengers sit higher still, for a superior view. Seating is available for seven, in the form of center-facing, stowable rear seats that come standard on the SE7, but this is a five-passenger vehicle in SD and SE trim. Though roomy enough, the Discovery holds fewer luxury fittings than might be expected in this price league. Only a handful of options are available, including leather upholstery. The spare tire resides outside. The driver and front passenger have improved adjustable lumbar supports, and enjoy the benefits of dual-temperature control air conditioning. New dual eight-way power seats have a fresh design, and front seats benefit from 20 mm of increased seat travel. A full-size glovebox and four cupholders are included.
Legendary off-road capabilities help make the aluminum-bodied Discovery an attractive choice, augmented by safety equipment. If you expect to drive mainly around the suburbs rather than through the woods, the Discovery's high center of gravity and short wheelbase could be a drawback. The fact that a Discovery can ford a stream up to 19.7 inches deep isn't exactly a benefit when its primary duties involve driving to the office or the mall, and towing 7,700 pounds isn't for everyone. On the other hand, friends and neighbors might applaud--or envy--the appearance of a Land Rover on the block, even when it's achieving mundane tasks.