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Tested 22.2.89

Before the Discovery appeared, Land Rover attempted to close the gap between its base model and the Range Rover by introducing the supposedly plusher County trim. 

The County’s Range Rover-sourced all-alloy 3.5 V8 was fed by twin carbs and sent drive to a five-speed manual gearbox and, in turn, a dual-range transfer box. A locking centre differential provided a 50/50 front/rear torque split, while long-travel coil springs and the absence of anti-roll bars aided articulation. 

Among serious off-roaders, the County V8’s 0-60mph time of 13.6sec was best by only the far pricier Range Rover, but crude aerodynamics hampered progress above that speed. 

It was almost unstoppable off road, though, climbing 45deg gradients, comfortably traversing 40deg slopes and parrying rough surfaces with ease. The on-road tradeoffs were vague steering, pronounced body roll and heavy understeer, although the ride was supple and refinement neared Range Rover standards. 

Although full carpeting, tweed upholstery and a leather steering wheel boosted comfort, the interior disappointed for its price, with flimsy, ill-fitting plastics, erratic electrics and poor ventilation. The rear seats were too small for long trips, too.

For: Exceptional off-road ability, supple ride 

Against: Economy, imprecise steering, poor finish

Price: £14,843 Engine: V8, 3528cc, petrol Power: 134bhp at 5000rpm Torque: 187lb ft at 2500rpm 0-60mph: 13.6sec 0-100mph: na Standing quarter mile: 18.8sec, 69mph Top-speed: 90mph Economy: 12.1mpg

What happened next?

The Discovery was revealed later in 1989 and prompted the base model to be renamed ‘Defender’ in 1990. Safety and emissions pressures finally killed off the original Land Rover in 2016 but it wasn’t until 2019 that today’s reborn Defender made its debut.

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