Land Rover Discovery SE7 1998 Car Reviews | NRMA Motoring & Services

3 Nov 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Land Rover Discovery SE7 1998 Car Reviews | NRMA Motoring & Services

Land Rover Discovery

SE7 Car Review

Land Rover has updated its range of Discovery four wheel drive vehicles by introducing three new levels whilst retaining its top of the line Rossignol.

The Discovery is the most popular in Land Rover’s range of four wheel drive vehicles because it offers a compromise of ruggedness and refinement at a medium price. Slotted into the most competitive section of the four wheel drive market, Discovery offers a range of vehicles to satisfy most requirements. With basic models which can almost be hosed out, V8 or diesel engines, automatic or manual transmission, five to seven seats and a luxury equipped model, Land Rover is attempting to widen its appeal.

Released early in 1997, the model range consists of the Discovery S, SE, SE7 and Rossignol. All four models feature V8 petrol or four cylinder turbo diesel engines and whilst the Rossignol is available in automatic transmission only, the others come with either automatic or manual transmission. The lowest priced model is the S manual at $39 990 and the highest is the Rossignol Automatic at $57 500.

Our road test SE7 turbo diesel automatic is priced at $51 570.

Features and equipment

The 2.5 turbocharged and intercooled diesel engine is the same one used by Land Rover over a number of years. It was designed using the technology of AVL, a leading European diesel engine manufacturer. Both maximum power and torque of this engine are considerably lower than its V8 petrol counterpart.

The automatic transmission comes from Germany courtesy of ZF, one of Europe’s outstanding transmission builders, and in spite of the vast differences in power and torque of the petrol and diesel engines, the same ratios are used in both. A lock-up clutch is used in fourth gear and the transfer case provides full-time four wheel drive through a central differential which is lockable by lever in both high and low ratio.

The all coil sprung suspension is basically unchanged from previous models using a Panhard rod in the front and a centre mounted ‘A’ frame in the rear to locate the respective axles. The now standard anti-roll bars fitted front and rear, combined with double acting hydraulic dampers, offer better stability whilst cornering.

ABS brakes, coupled with a four wheel power assisted disc brake system, are standard on SE7 and Rossignol models. The overall safety package of driver and passenger airbags, collapsible steering column, front and rear crumple zones and side intrusion bars is standard on the SE7.

Security upgrades include coded stereo system, remote controlled alarm and central locking with engine immobilisation.

Body and finish

The Discovery maintains its fairly square angular looks, although the stepped roofline and turret windows tend to relieve the conservative styling. The image of this vehicle is very much in line with the rugged outdoor use for which it is intended.

All exterior panels except the roof are aluminium offering corrosion resistance to a large percentage of the body. There is a down side to this however, as the aluminium panels are easily scratched or dented.

Quality appears a high priority with Land Rover since BMW’s involvement with Rover. Stringent quality controls have been built into major manufacturing stages as well as on completion. Panel and paint areas have been targeted in the quality program and high pressure water testing is undertaken on every vehicle.

Dynamometer and on-road testing are the final stages before being detailed and delivered to the dealers.

Comfort and space

The front cabin area provides good comfort for both the driver and passenger with ample leg, head and shoulder room available. Adjustable lumbar supports in both front seats make it possible to select the amount of support required and adjustable upper front seat belt anchorages allow greater comfort whilst driving. Although a left footrest is fitted, it is mounted at a peculiar angle and therefore not very comfortable.

Passengers accessing the front seat commented on the lack of a grab handle to assist their entry.

Middle row seat access is a little restricted due to the small rear doors, but once seated, the two outer positions are quite comfortable for average sized adults, though a little cramped for taller passengers. The centre position does not have a head restraint and is understandably the least comfortable. These seats are split 60/40 and have positive and easy to operate mechanisms to fold them forward for increased luggage space.

The rearmost seats are side mounted with a very simple and effective mechanism for folding them away, as well as being neatly stored in that position. Access to these seats is via the rear door where a spring loaded step under the left side of the bumper is provided to assist entry. Although these rear positions provide excellent leg room, head protection in an accident situation may be questionable. Head room is also limited in this area.

With the spare wheel mounted on the one piece rear door, it is quite heavy to open and close.

Luggage space is ample for this type of vehicle and the addition of standard roof rails provides additional space for those light soft items. Cabin storage consists of pockets in the front and rear doors, above sunvisors, above middle row seats and in the rear of the front seats. A medium sized glovebox, roomy console compartment, and dash and console mounted cupholders complete the package.

Although the standard air conditioning has been upgraded in its performance, I found it was battling to cool the interior on an average summer’s day. The large interior air space would undoubtedly have a large bearing on its ability.

Behind the wheel

Sitting high in the driver’s seat offers the operator a commanding position with excellent vision and access to controls. Instrumentation is adequate with large easy to read tachometer (with no red line) and speedo with small fuel and temperature gauges fitted at each side. Banks of switches are located at each side of the instrument binnacle reminiscent of some of the early eighties vehicles and because of their position, it is impossible to see which one to operate without looking around the steering wheel.

Transmission selector and transfer lever are both very short due to the height of the centre console and are therefore inclined to be fiddly to operate. The power window controls are in reverse to what I expected, with the rear most switches for the front windows and the front switches for the rear.

On the road

Land Rover describe its diesel engined vehicles as ‘more relaxed’, whereas in actual fact it may be better described as lethargic. When attempting to accelerate from stationary, the laid-back approach of the diesel/auto package does warrant considerable patience due to the slow throttle response. Once the Discovery reaches highway speed its performance is acceptable, although its ‘more relaxed’ mode is revisited when an incline is encountered.

This engine is very noisy with a loud clatter at idle and a buzzing/whirring sound when accelerating hard. A brief test drive in a manual transmission model proved it to be more responsive with much greater control of its performance.

The automatic transmission is very smooth and refined in operation, a legacy to some degree of the turbo diesel engine’s spiritless performance. During our road test, the transmission spent much of its time hunting up and down through its memory searching for a ratio to suit the immediate need.

The addition of anti-roll bars at the front and rear of the Discovery has certainly provided better stability when cornering. However, they may be partly responsible for firming up the ride quality, particularly on rougher surfaces. Considerable bump-steer and scuttle-shake are experienced in this vehicle.

The ABS equipped four wheel disc brakes brought the Discovery to rest in a surprisingly short distance and with minimum noise for a vehicle of its size. However, the heat generation and pedal pressure increase was abnormally high during our performance testing.

The turbo diesel Discovery is renowned for its fuel economy both around the city and on the highway. Our test resulted in an overall figure of 11.8 L/100 km, no better than other similar powered vehicles of this type.


As the Discovery is a full-time four wheel drive vehicle, it is not necessary to make any selection when encountering loose/slippery surfaces or off-road conditions. However, if the going gets tough, the centre diff lock can be enlisted enabling better traction for those more difficult situations.

The limited wheel/suspension travel, poor engine braking (auto model) and larger than normal turning circle result in only a mediocre off-road performance for the Discovery. Severe off-road operation does not appear to be Discovery’s forte, an observation confirmed by its level of equipment and performance.



After the initial service at 1500 km, Land Rover recommend 10 000 km or six monthly maintenance periods. Manufacturer’s warranty for Australian certified vehicles is two years or fifty thousand kilometres.


The Discovery, although retaining a more conservative styling, certainly looks the part of an off-road vehicle, and the seating availability would satisfy the requirements of even a large family. For general family and medium off-road use it would be quite satisfactory, although the manual version would be preferred unless automatic transmission is an essential.

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