With a number of motoring publications suggesting the Discovery nameplate is increasingly lacking ‘brand equity’ compared to Defender and Range Rover, reading Mike Humble’s piece on how it is to drive the original should be a reminder of how appealing it can be.
Perhaps this original vehicle should serve as a subtle reminder to JLR’s Executives and Design Engineers of why the Discovery was such a successful product, with a sustained following up until the final Discovery 4 rolled off the assembly line in 2016?
Back in 1989, the Discovery was a real breath of fresh air in the 4×4 market, with a design that looked fresh, purposeful and engaging.
Okay, so there was a symphony of parts from the BL parts bin, but that did not detract from Discovery having a more lifestyle-orientated design than either the more conservative Land Rover 90/110 or the Range Rover.
Bright exterior paint colours and contrasting graphics for the exterior and neat storage areas inside made this a car that could appeal to a wider customer base than the 90/110, including to those who had never previously considered buying an off-road vehicle.
Even when wearing standard issue steel wheels, the Discovery’s chic appeal was undiluted. The array of accessories conceived alongside Project Jay’s own development programme further elevated the Discovery’s versatile nature. For both manufacturer and dealer that was good news as it resulted in very few Discoveries leaving the forecourt without a few optional extras having been specified by the customer.
What an impact it made
Even now, I am still reminded of the excitement I felt when I first saw the Discovery back in 1989 and how it made me a fan of the Land Rover brand.
Discovery 5 has undoubtedly diluted that as it struggles to maintain its own distinctive identity against a questionable need for a increasingly harmonised ‘family look’ across all three brand pillars, including taking obvious design references from the L494-generation Range Rover Sport.
Cover the badges up and to those with no interest in vehicle design, they’d struggle to identify this as a Discovery. Collectively, this suggests the Discovery nameplate is not considered within JLR to be strong enough to maintain its own appeal.
Lost identity means a lack of sales
It is ultimately the company’s handling of what was arguably its most successful nameplate by overlooking the well liked attributes of previous generation models that has lead to its poor sales since 2017 and many loyal Discovery fans looking elsewhere when they need to buy a replacement new vehicle.
In today’s increasingly computer-governed generation of cars, a more analogue and functional 1989 Discovery would actually prove to be a breath of fresh air for me.