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4 Wheel Drive Madness


A list of some spectacular 4x4s and some not so spectacular. | 4x4 History
Land Rover



The Land Rover Discovery was released in the U.K. in October 1989 to fill the widening gap between the luxurious Range Rover and the utilitarian Land Rover Defenders. It gained four doors, a diesel engine option and moved more upmarket but remains otherwise substantially unchanged to the present day.

1997 saw Rover bring in a back-to-basics model, the Discovery S, with steel wheels and without central locking, ABS brakes or air bags. This could be just the thing for the enthusiastic four wheel driver, or for the farmer in the bush. The top SE7 model and the limited edition Rossignol get all the goodies.

1998: The Land Rover Discovery II, code-name Tempest, got its UK press launch. It is a little bigger with either the 4.0 litre petrol V8 (182hp) or a 5-cylinder turbo-charged and 101kW (135hp) intercooled diesel. Interestingly the diesel is reported to be still 2.5 litre, like the 200/300-series 4-cyl. Range Rover goodies include traction control, ABS, and self-levelling air-bag suspension. It will be on sale in the UK in late 1998. One must wonder if the stylists have done the right thing by making the new car resemble the old one quite so strongly.


This Land Rover Discovery was crash tested by the `New Car Assessment Program' (NCAP) in 1994. NCAP is a research body funded by Australian insurance companies and motoring bodies.

The frontal crash test was carried out at 56kph (35mph) into a solid concrete wall. An offset crash test (of a second Discovery!) was carried out at 60kph (37mph) into a crushable pad, constructed to simulate crashing into another vehicle, and only 40% of the width of the front of the car contacts the barrier. (These are severe tests, well above the 48kph (30mph) used for ADR-69.)

The assessment was that the driver stood a 63% chance of a life threatening injury - principally to the head and brain damage was `likely'. The passenger had a 16% chance of a life threatening injury - again principally to the head and brain damage was `possible'. These results are about par for the four wheel drives that were tested. The newest and heaviest model tested, a Toyota LandCruiser GXL 80-series, performed best.
The tested Discoveries were not fitted with air-bags. Air-bags could be expected to reduce the occupants' risk of injury.

The (dummy) passenger's head struck the grab handle which is mounted on the dash-board.

The interior of the car seems only slightly damaged. There is nearly full leg-room, and chest or leg injuries are `unlikely'.

The bodywork from the front axle rearwards, looks relatively intact - perhaps too intact as energy is disipated into the deforming structure. The chassis has kinked approximately level with the leading edge of the front doors.