In a strange-but-appropriate way, each of these luxury-brand sport/utilities owes much of its personality to the people who produce it.
The English are world renowned for a steadfast grip on tradition and style, with a loose grasp on the culinary arts (the exception being their malt beverages, which are among the best in the civilized world). The Japanese are generally well mannered, aggressive in their use of technology, and fond of curious design and foods. Here, in the U.S. of A, we're exceedingly diverse and, as a result, often at odds with one another. Proud at best and boisterous at worst, we have a penchant for power, trendiness, and conspicuous consumption.
What does any of this have to do with SUVs?
2003 Land Rover Discovery HSE
Like the British who build it, the Land Rover adheres to tradition. Featuring solid axles front and rear, permanent all-wheel drive with a lever-action two-speed transfer case and lock-up center differential and engine architecture dating back to the Cold War, the Discovery is the primordial SUV. We can picture Marlin Perkins using one to chase water buffalo on "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom." That's not to say there haven't been updates and improvements to the hardware, however. By Land Rover's count, there have been 368 engineering changes and extensive quality-control and manufacturing-process improvements since last year's Series II model. From door seals to a wheel-balancing technique, the '03 Discovery is as new as it can be without starting from scratch (an all-new Discovery is scheduled for 2005 at the earliest).
Foremost on the update list is a stroked 4.6-liter OHV V-8 (borrowed from last year's Range Rover) that ups the Discovery's horsepower by 29 to a more competitive but still meager (by American standards) 217, and its modern emissions controls allow it to qualify for super-clean ULEV status. The electronically controlled four-speed ZF transmission offers Normal, Sport, and Manual modes, and it shifts smartly and intelligently in most situations. New-compound brake pads and revised front calipers unite to improve brake feel and performance. Revised frame-to-body mounts combine with redrafted suspension geometry and self-leveling air-springs (in HSE trim) to better ride quality and reduce noise, vibration, and harshness levels. These enhancements are successful, but considering what Land Rover has to work with, there's still room for more refinement. And while the Discovery's base price has increased by more than $3000, it's the least-expensive tester this time around.