As I sketched the banner for this TRIBE (I hope you like it) and went over all the lines of each generation I started to appreciate even more what a great design the initial DISCOVERY was and still is. As a designer, knowing a little of the back story I can only be in awe of how this now icon was conceived and then reinvented several times over.
The DISCOVERY was such an unlikely project to succeed. There was no money and many compromises had to be made to realise the project. For Land Rover's survival a successful launch the vehicle was crucial. In a future article I will go over how the DISCOVERY was conceived and designed in more detail but with borrowed parts, limited funds and creative thinking a legend was born and it did what it had to do, save the Land Rover brand. The team that developed the DISCOVERY was themselves very a-typical. Even to this day it is uncommon to involve external product designers to help with the interior but that is exactly what Land Rover did.
Camel Trophy played a key role in getting the Discovery accepted as a genuine Land Rover, just as capable as the Range Rover and Defender of it's time.
When the DISCOVERY was launched it turned out to be the right vehicle for the right time and became an instant success. As alway the Land Rover community was sceptical and wasn't sure what to make of it at first. I think that the Camel Trophy was instrumental to a quick acceptance of the Discovery and a recognition that this was indeed a proper Land Rover.
The Discovery concept was quickly copied and Discovery like cars quickly appeared by the competition. It was even rebadged by then production partner Honda for the Japanese market. A facelift in the early 90's secured the success until '98 when the Discovery Series II appeared.
My personal favourite, probably because as a Designer I like the almost anti-design appeal of it. Still to this day people confuse this with the Discovery 1 and you can kind of see why. This came out in a time we had cars like the BMW X5, Jeep Grand Cherokee 2 and Mercedes Benz ML. It was by no means modern looking but underneath it hid for it's time a very modern diesel engine and an anti-cornering system that was way ahead of it's time and in some ways never has been matched. Why then did it look like it was designed years before its unveiling?
The story goes that a design was proposed not far of how the Discovery 3 came to look but at the time the marketing department was all powerful and rejected this design in favour for a slightly modernised DISCOVERY 1 look. It fell in all to a all to know trap: If you ask people if they like something and they do, they will never say they want something new, even if they do. People have no idea what they want untill they see it. The Discovery 1 was still very popular and its owners liked the way it looked. People can't imagine something else, that's why the few who do, like designers like me get so well paid (That's a joke, I wish that were true). So it was decided that the Discovery Series II was to look like a Discovery 1 but longer.
It wasn't long before the market had moved on and the Discovery looked hopelessly outdated. So in 2003 a facelift was presented to try and keep up with the competition but especially the interior lacked behind. Although the Discovery II is very capable I don't think it will ever reach the same epic reputation as the Discovery 1. Partly because Land Rover stopped in 1998 with the Camel Trophy and it wasn't until the less popular G4 challenge came around the off road capabilities were able to be displayed and celebrated.
It seems the magic number is 2. Every two generations the Discovery is radically changed and the DISCOVERY fans are tested and divided over if the 'new' Discovery is a proper DISCOVERY. Buts as it so often goes, soon a new generation is embraced and accepted. The Discovery 3 was certainly a break with the old and trusted design and was, it easy to forget now, very controversial in Land Rover fan land (not unlike now with the Discovery 5) before it was accepted.
Fewer but sleek and simple lines, upgraded engines and interior got the DISCOVERY 3 all ready to attack the competition. I think this will prove an iconic design as the years pass and will find more and more fans as the vehicle's ages and more home mechanics buy and mod their Discovery 3's.
The Discovery 4 and 4.5 as I like to call it is again, like the Discovery series II was, a refinement on an exciting design. Better materials, cures for known gremlins but basicly the same. The 4 is viewed as more reliable than, especially early Discovery's 3 and is now starting to be adopted by those who not shy away from a modification or two. The DISCOVERY 4.5 marked the 25th year celebrations of the Discovery name and the end of boxy design.
With the creating of the 3 product families: Range Rover, Discovery and Defender there was no place for the Freelander so the Discovery family adopted it and added SPORT to the name but will he ever be fully accepted as a DISCOVERY? I personally like the looks but is it utilitair enough to be called a Discovery? Time will tell and this would be a great article for another time. Please don't shy away of starting a discussion about this or comment on this or anything else in this article underneath this article.
Land Rover makes no mention the number 5 but that's what it is. the 5th DISCOVERY since the very first. As always when the perceptions of what a Discovery is are challenged there is a lot of discussion. I personally can't see myself owning this but can't dismiss the possibility that that might change one day. I certainly can't wait to see what a proper off road Discovery 5 would look like.....
Hope you enjoyed my little overview. If you like it, bump it, if you don't let me have it in the comments! More to follow.