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Longer Discovery rolls in on new chassis

Probably the most important Land Rover ever, The all-new Discovery, which goes on sale mid-2004, will underpin both the product strategy and financial health of the world's only specialist four-wheel drive manufacturer for the rest of the decade.

The latest Discovery is built on an all-new ladder frame chassis that will also underpin the rumoured Range Rover Sport and possibly the next generation Defender. Compared with the current Discovery, the new chassis offers a significantly increased wheelbase – meaning much more interior room – and independent suspension front and rear for a smoother and more refined ride on road. As this picture shows, the Disco's design is a highly contemporary interpretation of familiar Land Rover themes. The stepped roofline has been retained, as has the asymetric rear window, although the spare wheel is now stowed underneath the car. The body surfaces are sheer, with minimal decoration.

Although the wheelbase has been increased by 340mm over the current model, the overall length has only increased by 130mm, meaning a shorter rear overhang.

Land Rover sources say the new Discovery is even more capable off-road than the current version. The four-wheel drive system features a 50:50 torque split, low range transfer case and Hill Descent Control. Like the Range Rover, electronic traction control is used to maintain grip in extreme conditions.

The new Discovery will be the first car to replace Land Rover's current line up of BMW-sourced engines with powertrains from around the Ford empire. The entry level petrol engine will be the 3.0-litre in-line six developed by Volvo, while the volume selling diesel engine will be the new common rail 2.7-litre V6 Ford/ PSA. Top of the range versions will be powered by a version of Jaguar's 4.2-litre V8.

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