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The 1999 Discovery Series II, which will be introduced later in the year, brings the first engineering redesign since the vehicle's European introduction 11 years ago. Traction Control, Active Cornering Enhancement and Hill Descent Control will be standard features. In the interim, Land Rover is offering the Discovery SD, a $33,000 upgraded version of last year's Discovery.
It may look the same, but don't be fooledthe 1999 Land Rover Discovery Series II is all-new and ready to flaunt it. Like the Discoveries of yesteryear, this new version exhibits excellent off-road prowess and distinctive, hardy styling, but also adds new performance features that promise a more capable on-road driving experience.
Introduced to the U.S. in April 1994, Discoveries are best known as vigorous off-road warriors bejeweled with the snob appeal of the Land Rover marque. For 1999, Land Rover is offering an interim Discovery SD model until later in the model year when the Series II will become available.
The Series II enters its next stage of development with improvements in performance and design. With 85 percent of the truck's parts brand-new, the Discovery Series II is 6.5 inches longer and 3.8 inches wider than the first Discovery. Furthermore, this is the first sport-utility vehicle to be equipped with Active Cornering Enhancement (ACE), which uses a hydraulic system to control body roll on turns, and Hill Descent Control (HDC), a driver-activated feature which supplements traditional braking when descending steep, slippery slopes in extreme conditions.
Other new features for the 1999 Series II include a self-leveling suspension, traction control, forward-facing rear jump seats, a taller windshield, an improved shift lever, more ergonomic exterior door handles, raised rear light clusters and Optikool glass that reduces ultraviolet rays by 31 percent and heat transmission by 76 percent. The rear door-mounted spare tire has been lowered by one inch to improve rearward visibility and new paint colors include Java Black, Niagara Gray, Blenheim Silver and Kinversand.
Just one body style is available: a five-door wagon with permanent four-wheel drive and a new, standard adaptive automatic transmission that adjusts to different driving styles. There is only one trim level available as well. Beneath the vehicle's hood is a new generation of the 4.0-liter, 182-horsepower V8 engine that powered last year's model. This V8 makes 18 foot-pounds more torque than the engine in the 1998 Discovery, at a lower rpm. This powerplant is rated for only 13 mpg in the city and 16 mpg for highway driving, though, and that's with a light foot. The previous model exhibited gear noise and other aural annoyances, but Land Rover claims to have dramatically reduced noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels in the new truck. The Series II's stance is wider than last year's Discovery by 2.1 inches at the front and 2.9 inches at the rear, making for a smoother on-road feel, and the self-leveling suspension benefits off-roaders by allowing the driver to raiseor lower the rear of the truck by 1.6 inches.
Inside the Series II, both front and backseat passengers sit high for a superior view. Seating can be expanded to seven, in the form of forward-facing, stowable rear jump seats. This Discovery boasts 5.7 cubic feet more storage space than the previous vehicle and only a handful of options are available. The driver and front passenger receive adjustable lumbar support and enjoy the benefits of dual-temperature control air conditioning as well as a full-size glovebox and four cupholders.
Legendary off-road capabilities help make the aluminum-bodied Discovery Series II an attractive choice in this segment, augmented by safety equipment like ABS and traction control. With competitors releasing new hybrid sport-utes faster than horses can race the Kentucky Derby, Land Rover remains true to its original industry missionbuilding a go-anywhere, do-anything vehicle. The Series II will undoubtedly live up to that reputation, but with the new suspension, powertrain and handling features available on the truck, urban driving may become a bit more enjoyable as well.
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