Does it all work? Yes and no. The '03 Discovery's performance is measurably improved compared to the Series II. It's one second quicker to 60 mph, it stops from 60 one foot shorter and clips the slalom cones one mph faster. However, it's still the slowest, lacking ride and steering sophistication, and returns the worst fuel economy when compared to the other two in this test; a new 8.3-liter Dodge Viper gets better mileage and makes 500 horsepower.

What the Discovery does do well is climb hill and dale like an obedient Sherpa, who'd also find himself ill-prepared in a metropolitan environment. Boasting eight inches of wheel travel up front and over 11 in the rear, smart, electronic traction control, a hill-descent-control braking system, and generous approach, departure, and ramp- breakover angles, the Discovery is designed to do things most owners will never ask it to. Perhaps this is why the company is so unyielding to change/update the Discovery's safari look and heavy, dedicated hardware. Land Rover sold just over 20,000 units last year precisely because of the Discovery's off-road appearance and on-road shortcomings. It looks and feels like it could go anywhere--and it can.

Mastering the Land Rover's interior is like learning which fork to use for Yorkshire pudding. There seems no logic to this SUV's switch operation or button placement. A few minutes of inspection and prodding are required to roll a window down and, again, to roll it back up. Certainly, the rubberized textures are tastefully rugged, and the leather is of the finest quality. Yet, the overall reviews from our staff continue to be less than favorable.

From the hard-to-read LCD stereo head unit (especially if you wear polarized sunglasses) to the minimal size and narrow-opening rear doors, the Discovery is more utilitarian than pampering. And what's with those afterthought drink-holder pods? They don't stow, remove, or do anything but elicit questions from uninitiated passengers. In this high-dollar crowd, the Discovery is the off-road adventurer's choice and brings a ton of brand cachet with it. Whether you mind the pitfalls that entails is up to you.