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Iconic legend started the cross-over class in the South-West
publication date: Sep 29, 2014
author/source: Dave Moss
by Dave Moss
Looking down the time tunnel to the Plymouth-based UK launch of the Land-Rover Discovery in October 1989, 25 years now feels like several lifetimes in automotive history.
The launch was masterminded by the marque's new owner, British Aerospace, which had somehow recently been persuaded by the government to buy remaining remnants of the vast, sprawling BL empire for the knockdown price of £150M.
Sitting in the bar of a certain Plymouth Hoe Hotel after dinner discussing current cars and the marketplace with fellow writers and the latest dynasty of Rover Group management, one fact still sticks in the mind today. Hindsight is of course wonderful - but neither my copious notes or event recollections suggest any calculated vision of how the Discovery might impact on the market it was about to enter.
Press material and company people alike saw the first all-new Land-Rover since the Range Rover - 19 years earlier - as a vital plug for a wide gap in their range.
There was no statement of bold intention to kick-start a totally new, leisure-oriented market sector or any real sign of a master plan for the Discovery to head up a new corner of the 1990's motoring landscape, or become Land-Rover's best seller - perhaps even the marque's saviour.
In 1989, the SUV concept was still in the future, so the three-door-only Discovery entered a sparsely populated sector of the British market.
The closest competition came from Japanese vehicles like the Mitsubishi Shogun, Isuzu Trooper, the Nissan Patrol and Toyota's Land Cruiser. In three-door form most of these undercut the Discovery's £18,660 starting price, though some compared more closely with the long established and more expensive Range Rover.
Today it faces plenty of competition, but its talents are many and various: its a go-anywhere workhorse, tow car, law enforcer, people carrier, mud plugger - and much more.
Since UK introduction on 16 November 1989, the Discovery has carved its own place in motoring folklore. Twenty-five years on and well into its fourth generation, the side graphics are thankfully long gone, but it remains distinctive, competent... and unmistakeable.