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Land Rover maintains its reputation for off-road ruggedness and interior luxury with the Discovery II model.

2001 Land Rover Discovery II SE7 Road Test
Tough Love

By Bill Roebuck

It's hard to beat the Land Rover Discovery Series II for rugged off-road capabilities and top-of-the line technology to handle almost any driving conditions.

Eight-way, power heated front seats, finished in smooth leather in the 2001 SE7 model we tested, give you a high view of the road ahead. (There are no changes for the 2002 model.) To enhance the surroundings, there's a fancy 12-speaker, 220-watt stereo, although its description sounded better than the audio itself.

Although the ergonomics of the driving compartment could use a lot of work -- seat and window controls are not logically positioned, for example -- the real value of the Discovery II comes from its off-road prowess and innovative technologies and systems. Also, it's big, sturdy, tough and well built.

The 4.0-litre V8 engine produces 188 hp and plenty of torque -- 250 lb-ft at 2600 rpm. However, it also generates a lot of noise both at idle and on the highway. The four-speed automatic transmission has a sport mode setting for better performance, a useful option if leisurely driving is not your style. The four-wheel drive system includes electronic traction control as standard. In low range, a manual mode keeps the transmission in the selected gear, ideal for off-road or slippery conditions.

Other tricks on the SE7 include a self-levelling suspension, a hydraulic rear step for climbing into the back, and audio controls for the optional third-row seating. Cargo capacity in the five-passenger version is 40.5 cu ft.

Another innovation is electronic brake distribution, a feature that moderates the brake force between the front and rear wheels to maximize stopping ability. Antilock brakes are of the four-channel design. Another feature is hill descent control, which automatically applies the brakes when going down steep hills.

The suspension adapts to both highway and off-road driving. The optional self-levelling suspension changes ride height depending on load or road, and is able to raise the vehicle about an inch and a half higher to increase its departure angle in off-road situations.

Active cornering enhancement is another option, worthwhile in that it reduces body lean significantly during turns. It definitely takes away the top-heavy, rolling feeling usually displayed by large SUVs on city corners and highway off-ramps. The Discovery still rides like a truck, though.

An extra-long warranty -- four years or 80,000 km -- and 24-hour Road Recovery service add to the feeling that the Discovery is meant to last a long, long time.

This Land Rover is priced at $47,000 for the base SD model and up to $53,950 for the top of the line SE7 we tested (the 7 on nameplate indicates the model has the forward-facing, third-row rear seat option, bringing its capacity to seven passengers).

© Copyright Bill Roebuck, 2002.

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