The Land Rover Discovery was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1989,
and marked a major departure from previous Land Rover vehicles by targeting
the passenger and family 4x4 market. Although this market barely existed when
the Discovery was designed, the timing was perfect for the British market which
quickly took to the new vehicle.
Unlike Land Rover's previous products, the Discovery was capable of competing against the family car, boasting a comfortable ride and an interior designed by Sir Terrence Conran. It could also compete in terms of power and performance with the now-famous Rover 3.5l V8. For a diesel option, the 200TDi direct-injection turbo diesel engine was introduced. This boasted impressive economy and best-in-class performance, although it was slightly noisier than diesels in competing vehicles.
Even though it was aimed at an essentially family market, the Discovery still boasted the best-in-class off road ability that the Land Rover has come to symbolise. As well as powerful engine options, a transfer case and locking centre differential were fitted. The 100" wheelbase chassis was fitted with coil spring suspension.
Probably the oddest feature of the first Discoveries was that they only came in a 3-door version! Very strange for what was marketed as a durable large family vehicle! The Range Rover was also initially built with only 3 doors. In that case, it was because of concerns about the rigidity of the body whilst driving off-road. This might have been the reason for the Discovery's 3-door design, but within a year the very popular 5-door version was introduced.
The success of the Discovery was ensured by the combination of an essentially new market, the 5-door model, and continued up-market shifting of the Range Rover. Further variations and updates were fitted during the early 1990s, including a 2 litre 4 cylinder petrol engine, 4-speed automatic gearbox, and air-bags.