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Land Rover Discovery

Land Rover Discovery Published: 18th Aug 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Land Rover Discovery
Land Rover Discovery
Land Rover Discovery
Land Rover Discovery
Land Rover Discovery
Land Rover Discovery
Land Rover Discovery
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Why not own a...? Land Rover Discovery

Imagine a Land Rover that has all the ability of the Defender but with Range Rover civility and character – and at affordable prices. You’ve got it – it’s called Discovery. The Discovery sold in much bigger numbers and so they are still good value. However, many Discos have led hard lives and a lot have been scrapped which is why if you’re a fan, now is a good time to track down a great example and cherish it before they’ve all disappeared.

A good one may make you wonder what all the fuss is about that classic old stager as well…

Model choice

Like all Land Rover ranges, they start small and escalate. At its 1989 launch the Discovery was initially a three-door with either 145bhp 3.5-litre petrol V8 or 111bhp 2495cc 200 TDi four-cylinder turbodiesel engines. A year later, the five-door surfaces with seven seats, alloy wheels, power windows and central locking. Fuel injection results into the V8 yielding 164bhp, although this drops to 153bhp if the optional catalytic converter is specified, standardised for 1993, the same year that a rare (and best forgotten) 2.0-litre four-cylinder Rover 800 petrol engine is introduced; but it’s not really up to the job of hauling the hefty Land Rover and by 1997 was no longer offered. As the Rover V8 grew in size for the Range Rover, the 3.9-litre filtered down to the Disco for 1993 boosting power to more than 180bhp. A four-speed auto is introduced as an option for the TDi at the same time along with a threedoor diesel Commercial Van (petrol or diesel) that’s dropped for the Discovery II launch.

The first facelift occurred in 1994 resulting in a new grille, larger headlamps, additional light cluster in the rear bumpers and a redesigned dashboard with twin airbags. At the same time there’s a new alarm and immobiliser system, side impact bars were now fitted along with a heightadjustable steering wheel. For diesel fans, the turbodiesel now features Land Rover’s vastly improved 300 TDi unit (albeit hardly not reliabilitywise) with an improved manual gearbox (codenamed R380).

Unless you hanker for original classics, the Discovery II of 1998 is a far wiser pick as it is considerably improved all around, being in effect an all new design, aided by BMW. Longer by eight inches and over two inches taller, with virtually all new panel work, it meant that the parttime rear seats were conventionally and not side-saddle mounted. In the diesel department a new 136bhp 2495cc five-cylinder TD5 engine resided under that massive bonnet. Air suspension (with a special motorway setting) was part of the deal now, as was ACE; Active Cornering Enhancement, by way of a hydraulic centre ram on the rear chassis, along with better rear axle location to combat major body lean although this may well have been changed to conventional damping by now. For 2002 a facelifted II hits the showrooms with a Range Rover-style facial refresh but underneath there were significant revisions to the suspension spring and a locking centre diff became optional.

Along the way there has also been an array of special editions including the Argyll (June 1997), Aviemore (October 1997), Safari (June 1998) and the MM (January 2000). Later on would come the Adventurer (October 2002), G4 Challenge (June 2003) plus the Metropolis (October 2002).

Our pick is the Discovery II (as we’ve bought one – see box out-ed) unless you want a three-door as this was dropped when the new model was launched. However, condition plays a critical role and it’s better to have a delightful Disco I rather than a traumatised Discovery II.

Behind the wheel

The Discovery is a fair old mix of Range Rover and Land Rover insofar that it has the rustic character and flavour of the former and is more civilised and less arduous work than any County or later Defender.

Handling is good considering its 4x4 nature and much sharper on the Discovery II plus there’s numerous aftermarket suspension mods to improve things further – worth considering if the dampers and springs need replacing anyway – but with detriment to the praiseworthy ride. It’s a Land Rover, so of course it’s going to be superb off-road and the Disco loves to dance on the slimy stuff. On the Disco II there’s the clever Hill Descent Control (HDC) which makes climbing down slippery slopes absolute child’s play Of the diesels, the TD5 is by far the best of the bunch, dishing out 136bhp and a hefty 221lbft of torque and in a pretty refined manner, unlike the earlier TDs, plus is well suited to an auto. But if you don’t mind the fuel bills then that stalwart of a V8 is still the supreme choice.

Visibility is excellent, care of that expanse of glass and the window roof panes makes for a light airy cabin that’s as comfy as a Range Rover and a Discovery is far more spacious and usable than any classic Landie with some nice lifestyle touches such as roof storage netting, and so on.

What to pay

Richard Eacock runs MM 4x4, one of the UK’s biggest independent Land Rover specialists. He commented to us recently: “The Discovery 1 and Discovery 2 tend to appeal to two different types of buyer. The earlier cars are generally bought by people who want to go off-roading so they’ll buy a Discovery 1 then modify it, potentially very heavily. The Discovery II is more likely to be bought by those who want to use their car every day, and while some of these later cars are also modified by their owners, any changes are likely to be less radical”.

If you want a really early car you’ll be doing well to find one as virtually everything that comes onto the market is the facelifted model from 1994, while there are also plenty of Discovery IIs (built 1998-2004). Of the cars that come up, more than 90 per cent are fitted with a diesel engine while all the V8s are almost exclusively the 3.9-litre unit rather than the 3.5. You’re highly unlikely to find a Disco powered by the 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine.

Adds Eacock: “Prices start at around £1000 for a car that’s clinging to an MoT and go right the way up to as much as £10,000 for a mint, low-mileage example with the right spec. This would include leather trim, seven seats, electric adjustment for the front seats and a full service history. Realistically, you need to budget around £5000 for a Discovery with a decent spec and around 70,000 miles on the clock.

There’s little difference in values between them – it’s the condition that dictates the price”.

However, the press cars are very sought after (known as G-WACs as they were all registered G xxx WAC) and some special editions are also desirable. In contrast, many limited edition Discoverys were little more than regular models with different badges and a paint job”.

Our advice is to have a good look around and test as many as you can as they can differ in condition and price widely.

Making one better

The sky is pretty much the limit when it comes to modifications as you can upgrade just about every aspect of it. Says MM 4x4’s Richard Eacock: “Some people modify their Discoverys for on-road use, some do it for green laning while others undertake expeditions. As values of the 90 and 110 have risen, many people are taking to the Discovery 1 instead as it’s far cheaper but is just as capable off road with the right modifications”.

Cars used in an on-road environment can benefit from the fitment of HID headlights for better vision at night. Light bars are available for off-road use; MM is currently developing an LED option which will be available soon.

It’s for off-roading that the widest range of accessories is available though. According to Eacock, lift kits are one of the most popular mods; these lift the car by up to five inches and cost anywhere between £200 and £2000. Also popular are heavy duty shock absorbers and springs, typically priced at £200-£350 and beefier anti roll bars. Don’t be surprised to see air -to-coil conversions on the later model.

Underbody protection is also a common fitment; items such as steering, sump, diff and fuel tank guards are all pretty essential for anybody taking their Discovery seriously off-road. Prices for each of these are typically around £80-£120.

Although the first two models sit on the same chassis, the later car has significantly bigger wheelarches to accommodate bigger wheels.

Some owners of the earlier model will cut the wheelarches so they can fit bigger tyres; the wheels don’t tend to be much bigger but higher-profile ones are common to provide better grip in off-road conditions.

In terms of improved power, that V8 can see 300+bhp and there’s various tuning methods for the diesels – speak to a specialist on this. Brakes can be easily improved if need be but usually suffice if ok and serviced with quality pads.

Maintenance matters

Much like all old Land Rovers, really with the first models simpler for DIY home care, unlike later models which progressively became more high tech and framed with electronic wizardry which wouldn’t be so bad if it was reliable – in the main it isn’t! For instance, above the heater housing (behind the radio) resides the car’s immobiliser, which can play up leading to the car refusing to start…

Other maladies include heated seats, failed seat adjustment motors and the sunroof. In the case of the latter it can seize up leading to the motor being burned out.

Keeping the underside clear of rust is the main priority as repairs here tend to be expensive; annual checks and reapply underseal where its needed and, if you go off-road, hose the underneath to wash away nasties before they get the chance!

Mechanically, they are not too bad although suffer the usual Land Rover transmission ills, oil leaks and iffy electrics. V8s hate irregular and short usage where it can gum up the oil ways leading to camshaft wear and some diesels are liked more than others – speak to a specialist on this.

In conclusion

A good Discovery is a fine classic workhorse – it’s finding one. Support is great with specialists and numerous dedicated highstreet magazines and there’s also that’s always happy to accept new members and help them out.

Buying tips


There’ no shortage of Discos so take time and vet well – condition counts over spec.
Discoverys fitted with sunroofs are prone to leaking so check the headlining for evidence of water ingress and damp carpets.
Many came with a lot of electronics such as traction control, Hill Descent Control, electronic brake distribution and Active Cornering Enhancement. There’s a warning light on the dash for each of these so make sure the relevant light illuminates when the ignition is switched on, then goes out.

Body and chassis

The Disco’s age, the fact that owners often neglect them plus so many lead very hard lives means you have to look very closely for signs of corrosion. Just like the Defender and Range Rover the Discovery is fitted with aluminium panels, which means electrolytic corrosion is highly likely. Scrutinise the front inner wings, from just behind the headlights right through to the A-posts. Also analyse the boot floor and the cross-members that run underneath. The rear inner wings can also rust very badly, so get underneath the car and look for evidence of bodged repairs. The sills and wheelarches are likely to have seen better days so feel for filler.

Running gear

Until 1993 the manual gearbox was Land Rover’s LT77 unit; later cars got the R380. The earlier one needs to be filled with automatic transmission fluid rather than EP90; if latter is used, expect a stiff change.

Cars used for towing will probably be suffering from a tired transmission so listen for whining and feel for clutch slip.

As you come on and off the throttle there may be some driveline shunt in evidence, probably the mainshaft has worn, although the diff can also suffer from backlash.

Disco’s weight takes its toll on suspension so expect tired dampers plus worn bushes.

Discovery 2 has self-levelling air suspension at the rear. Their airbags can fail and while replacements are available, many simply convert to a steel spring set-up.


The 3.9 V8 can suffer from cracks in the cylinder bores. All V8s can suffer from a worn camshaft and followers; regular oil changes are the way around this.

Of the diesels, the 200 TDi needs servicing and can let go with little warning’ 300 TDi is easier to service, but has head gasket woes.

TD5 engine is usually very tough but can suffer from problems with the fuel system and expensive to rectify.

Top mod

Suspension mods seem popular, either to tighten on road handling or raise higher for off-road ventures; there’s a variety of kits. Discovery IIs usually have air bag rear end converted to coil springs for reliability

Best buys

In short, the best you can – fret over the spec later. Series 1s are much rarer and will be valuable, especially early ‘WAC’ regs. Diesels aren’t as good as thirsty V8; LPG conversions are popular but check that they come approved, certified and tested or you may face some trouble with insurance and so on

A great time at the disco club

The Discovery Owners Club – member of the Association of Land Rover Clubs, (ALRC) and the Motor Sports Association, (MSA) – is the original club for the Discovery covering all varieties up to the latest D4 and now has over 800 members, including enthusiasts from overseas.

An online forum full of technical information for the various models, Series I, II, D3, D4, D5 and Discovery Sport is regularly used, to help with servicing and repairs, modifications, restorations, trouble shooting and general chat (all family friendly). A bi-monthly magazine, Discourse, is posted out to all members, this contain technical feature, members reports, Local Section news and future events. The club also has an extensive on line shop and discounts by insurance companies and parts suppliers have been arranged.

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