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Used car review Land Rover Discovery II 1999-2005

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    When shopping for a Discovery II it's important to have it checked by an expert. They are renowned for giving trouble in certain areas, but carefully selected and well maintained they can be quite reliable.

Graham 'Smithy' Smith reviews the used Land Rover Discovery 99-05: its fine points, its flaws and what to watch for when buying it.

The Landrover Discovery is well respected by four-wheel drive enthusiasts for its off-road ability, but others deride it for its poor build quality and lack of reliability.

The Discovery was launched overseas in 1989 and arrived here two years later. Since its arrival it has made steady inroads into the local market, winning over a loyal band of fans that have come to regard it as one of the best four-wheel drives around.

MODEL WATCH

Owners quickly discovered the downsides of owning a Discovery. Early on their build quality was poor and anyone who had bought a thirsty V8 petrol model found themselves working doubly hard to repay their verdraft they'd taken out to fuel it.

But it has to be said that many of the problems, like poor build quality, electrical faults and oil leaks, were largely things of the past by the time the Discovery II was replaced by Discovery III in 2005.

The Discovery II was a sharp looking wagon with clean, tight lines that gave it a strong, tough look, one that suggested it was built for the bush.  When it first landed here it was offered as a base wagon and an ES, both with a choice of petrol V8 or turbo-diesel engines.

In a major overhaul in 2002 the range was revamped and it became available in four levels, the entry-level Wagon, the S, SE and the   range-topper HSE.  Each was available with either a 4.0-litre petrol V8 that delivered 136 kW at 4750 revs and 340 Nm at 2600 revs, or a 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel that boasted 101 kW at 4200 revs and 300 Nm at 1950 revs and was the engine most buyers chose.

The base wagon could be had with either a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed auto, but the other models were only offered with a four-speed auto, with drive on all models through all four wheels.

The entry-level wagon was a comfortable well-equipped five-seater with the choice of petrol and diesel engines, and standard cloth trim, air, remote central locking, immobiliser, front fog lamps and as six-speaker sound system with CD player.  The S was similarly equipped, but with seating with seven.

In the middle of the range sat the SE, also available with petrol and diesel engines, and in addition to the equipment of the entry-level   wagon also had leather trim and steering wheel, walnut trim, auto dimming mirror, and 11-speaker premium sound with CD stacker.

Sitting atop the range was the HSE, the model with the lot, which had twin electric sunroofs, parking distance controls, heated fold-back   mirrors, and a Harmon Kardon 11-speaker premium sound with CD stacker.

ON THE LOT

Dodge the V8 models, they not only will cost an arm and a leg to run, but everyone knows it and the trade-in value has slumped a result.
Pay $14,000-$22,000 for a 2002-2005 S, $18,000-$28,000 for an SE of similar vintage, and $21,000-$32,000 for an HSE.

IN THE SHOP

When shopping for a Discovery II it's important to have it checked by an expert. They are renowned for giving trouble in certain areas, but   carefully selected and well maintained they can be quite reliable.

The areas to check are the auto transmission, which can be troublesome, and cars should be thoroughly test driven to pick any  possible problems that might occur down the track.   Electrical issues are fairly common. Oil can get into the injector harness causing electrical short circuits at the plug connections.

ABS Modulator faults in earlier models are well known, as are failures of front door window actuators.  Check for oil leaks around the engine, as these are quite common.

Also check for a service record, and be prepared to regularly and thoroughly maintain them.  Some Discovery's never leave town, but others are worked hard off-road by owners who appreciate their ability in the bush.  Search out the much-loved cars and dodge the ones that have been given a hard life.

IN A CRASH

With dual front airbags for crash protection and ABS antilock brakes and EBD brakeforce optimization the Discovery was well equipped to   handle a crunch.

UNDER THE PUMP

Long time owner Joe McGarry says he gets 10 L/100 from his turbo-diesel on the highway when not towing. When towing his caravan he   still gets 12-13 L/100 km. New owner Allan Pope also gets 10 L/100 km on the highway. Petrol models gulp up to 40 per cent more than the   turbo-diesel.  Land Rover claimed the V8 would average 16.7 L/100 km, the turbo-diesel 9.4 L/100 km.

OWNERS SAY

Grey Nomad Joe McGarry bought his 2002 Discovery II Td5 in 2003 with 19,000 km on it and is very happy with it having now accumulated   117,000 km. He mainly uses it to tow a 1.8-tonne caravan around the country for three to four months of the year.

The transmission was replaced when a vibration was diagnosed as a failed solenoid near the end of the warranty period, the driver's side window mechanism was replaced when a spot weld gave way and the passenger's side mechanism was replaced at the same time because it was noisy and thought also likely to fail.

Tyres and the front brake pads were replaced at 65,000 km. Joe says it doesn't leak oil at all. He hates the H/V/AC display that is located poorly and is hard to read.  Allan Pope has only had his 1999 Series II Td5 for four weeks, but wishes he'd bought one years ago. He can't say anything bad about it at all and is impressed with the fuel economy.

Darryl Glover has owned his 2000 Series II Td5 for nearly seven years after owning a Series I V8 and says it has been very reliable. The   odometer shows 270,000 km and it is still going strong. It was completely standard when purchased and had led a cosseted life in the   leafy suburbs, but has been progressively modified over the years for use in the High Country and on extensive desert trips.

He says that while the Electronic Traction Control (ETC) makes the Series II much more capable than the Series I he has experienced a loss of steering control when reversing downhill when the ETC braked the front wheels and left him at a dangerously acute angle across a slope.

He has had problems with the injector harness, some reliability issues with the fuel block, and the premature death of the auto at 187,000 km. Apart from these issues the usual servicing has highlighted no problems.

Shane and Heather Davey have owned their 2000 Series II V8 Discovery for three years after owning a Toyota Landcruiser and are very happy with it. They say they're getting the same fuel economy out of the Discovery as they were getting out of the Landcruiser, but the   Discovery is much more comfortable. Their only regret is not buying the turbo-diesel engine, it was more expensive, as the trade-in price   of the V8 is now miserable.

Trevor Shearing has done 210,000 km in his 2001 Series II Td5 and says they are an excellent vehicle to drive on road and extremely   capable off-road. They are very strong and tough and boast a lot of innovative features, but they do have reliability issues. Regular and   proactive maintenance is essential to head off potential problems to avoid issues. Electrical issues are common, early models had problems   with the ABS as well as window regulators.

LOOK FOR

. Townie look
. Very good off-road
. Comfortable on-road
. Seats up to seven
. Thirsty V8
. Diesel the best choice
. Can be unreliable
. Good service crucial

ALSO CHECK THESE

LANDCRUISER - 2000-2005 - The off-road king will cop a beating around the bush without taking a backward step, but it is a big bruiser and takes up plenty of space   around town. The Landcruiser is a serious bit of kit for those living   in the bush or in need to tow a heavy caravan, horse float or boat.   Comes with Toyota reliability. Pay $14,000-$42,000.

NISSAN PATROL - 2000-2005 - Lives in the Landcruiser's shadow, but it well respected by owners   for its toughness and build quality. Early Patrol's had serious   issues with the turbo-diesel engine and these should be approached   with caution, even avoided. Competent off-road and will tow a decent   load. Pay $10,000-$32,000.

MITSUBISHI PAJERO - 2000-2005 - Reliable, hard working four-wheel drive wagon that gives little   trouble. Pay $8000-$30,000.

THE BOTTOM LINE

A very capable off-roader, but reliability problems bring it back to the pack. 65/100

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 20 comments

  • I have owned my 2001 Disco 2 V8 for 2 years now. It's only got 90k on the clock and had never left the burbs, I've done 15k in the past two years and it's worked pretty hard too. Nothing has ever broken on the car under my wing or the previous owner. I had the radiator serviced, coolant hoses and thermostat replaced as they were 13 years old (perhaps) older from before they were put on the car, as advised by my father who is a mechanic. The build quality is solid, it's very comfortable, extremely capable off-road. Maintained and Serviced correctly they will serve you well.

    Rob Watson of Sydney, NSW Posted on 01 March 2014 7:34pm
  • I purchased my first Landy Disco this year, never had any 4x4 before but having moved from the UK to Bulgaria 3 years ago a 4x4 if definetly required during Jnuary to April. I purchased the ES model 2001 7 seater, it had been regulary serviced every year at a Landrover Garage, it has done 145k Mile and is Automatic. I was a little hesitant about driving the 1800 miles from the Uk to BG in a vehicle I did not know,but over the 3 days taking in Holland,Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania and finally Bulgaria I can honestly say the ride was brilliant comfy, smooth and it never missed a beat all the way. Fuel consumption was great also, I filled the tank 3 times costing around £350, but arrived home with half a tank, I never took the car over 65 mph which is optimum speed for good fuel return and it worked, love the car great choice has a small oil leak from front diff but that should only be the seal, Highly recomended.

    steve lewis of Bulgaria Posted on 07 November 2013 3:24am
  • My Oct 03 has just turned 84K on the odometer, it is regularly serviced once a year never goes more than 6-7K a year but included are sealed roads, snow, river beds and back country roads. This my third disco and after owing this one for nine years things have started to wear out but does not drop oil to-date. Totally a fan as a 58 series one station wagon was the first thing I drive as a young person. Committed fan.

    Peter Stent of New Zealand Posted on 16 July 2013 12:39pm
  • Well just got one of those yesterday, what a monster on the road ,I've been driving before an old Nissan MQ sorry to see it go but I have too. the Disco got 20007 kilometers on the clock my god she go well ,the previous owner look after it always services we will see if she a special without problems

    robert mimram of sydney Posted on 18 June 2013 9:59pm
  • i and my family have owned a landrover discovery 2 its brought us to france ,Italy.greece ,uk Scotland and never had trouble with it thank god .My kids look at it as part of the family.Wiring harness to be cleaned at service regular servicing is the life blood of any vehicle I look after it and it looks after my family.By the way the kids named it ratchet after the transformer in the movie seen as theres just as many lights on it..Brilliant piece of kit.Dont think ratchet going any where soon,the kids would kill me.

    eddie of ireland Posted on 17 June 2013 9:54am
  • Owned an 04 Td5 for 3 years. Was a beautiful car to drive when it went well. However evrything went wrong all the time. Spent a bucketload of cash. Have also owned D3 TDv6 and would spend the extra money to avoid D2 as they are built so much better and we never had a thing go wrong. Everyone else knows this that is why they are not going down in value. Awesome resale rubbing off on the D2. The thing was, all the faults i had with my D2 everybody else in the club had as well. They say that when you buy a d2 be prepared to spend 5k to make it reliable. Sticking with my V8 County on gas. Nothing goes wrong ever except the leaks!! Land Rover putting oil back in the ground for 50 years!!

    Land Rover Tragic of adelaide Posted on 19 May 2013 10:16pm
  • I have owned by 2001 Discovery 2 V8 for 2 years. I carried out some repairs/renewal on the cooling system as a) these engines run hot and b) it's 12 years old!. The one i bought was checked by and LR specialist and nothing was wrong other than a few coolant hoses very tired. So far so good it's been very reliable. This comes down to it's easy life in the burbs and full service history. They are high maintenance but looked after will serve you very well. If you're handy at mechanics, uk import parts are very cheap so don't be afraid if they do go wrong. Important note that more faults and repairs have been done to our other car Nissan X-Trail 2007. Were very happy with the old Disco.

    Rob of Sydney Posted on 11 April 2013 10:10pm
  • Owned a 99 Series 2 for 5 years and cost me plenty just to keep it on the road. Very unreliable and went to land rover mechanics and specialist and think I replaced most parts at least twice!!! Saying that I did love it when it worked. But I will never buy another as life is to short to be spent picking up the car from a mechanic you just paid for his Europe holiday. Never again!, Ever.

    Peter Posted on 30 October 2012 9:30pm
  • Just brought a 96 modal td4 not a powerhouse but in the bush & towing my 1.5 tonne caravan not a problem. Excellent torque for what I need & top comfort for a 4x4 .

    Greg Dagge of Bairnsdale Posted on 04 October 2012 3:52pm
  • I have owned my 2000 Td5 for 6 years. Love it, economical, comfortable and capable anywhere you want to go. Purchase price is balanced by the need for good preventative maintenance by an expert Land Rover mechanic. Do it right and you will be rewarded with a great on road/off road machine.

    Allan Richards of Sydney Posted on 04 December 2011 12:10pm
  • I am onto my third Disco V8 auto - this is Series 2 - the others were Series 1. All great cars. Apart from servicing, I haven’t spent a cent on any of them. And for as long as there is petrol, what a way to use it! That V8 is worth windows down even nearing 40’ – just to hear it!

    Henry of South Hedland Posted on 23 October 2011 12:46am
  • I just bought 04 TD5 Discovery and I have been blown away by the fuel economy! After owning a 5.7 litre Statesman the Discovery is a welcomed change. Will put up with the oil leak until next service long live the real four wheel drive!

    James Douglas of Perth Western Australia Posted on 17 August 2011 9:18pm
  • i have recently bought a diesel turbo engine,1996 model, everything looks good and original at a glance but if i make a long journey my Discovery Tdi wont start the next morning.What could be the cause

    Kyle Kambarami of Harare Posted on 04 July 2011 7:12pm
  • Hey all, i have a 2002 es v8 auto, discovery, apart from having to use premium fuel, and it being a little thirsty it is really not that bad in fact i love the car and would tell anyone who asks to buy one, my previous car was a 2004 holden rodeo v6 ute and the v8 discovery is better on fuel, my misus has a 1999 landcruiser once again the discovery is better on fuel, so all in all its really not too bad, comfort and features are great, and it really is a plesure to drive

    ron vogler of Brisbane Posted on 11 May 2011 9:59pm
  • I have a 2002 series2 TD5 and want to fit a second battery, where is it suggested that I fit the battery.

    Howard Alexander JACKSON of Shepparton, Victoria Posted on 10 April 2011 10:49am
  • I just love the looks and the movement of that car.

    obyno tt of nig Posted on 09 March 2011 6:12pm
  • early td5 engines had plastic locateing dowels in the head wich eventually get sheared off so head must come off for steel replacements head bolts cannot be reused and are xy oil cooler is really oil heater for europe is piss weak and will corrode and put oil through cooling system exhaust manifold will warp and leak at first andlast cylinder and will need to come off and be faced oil pump mounting bolts had no form of locktite etc from factory and tend to come loose and drop the whole pump wich is catastrophic injector harness can wick diesal fuel right back to the relays and fuses the cast iron turbo housings always crack near the wastegate shaft and the oil filter is so hard to acess any other car with such a bad abs problem would have been recalled what amazes me is all the reviewers experts etc dont know this stuff or publicise it they are major faults dont take your disco remote without addressing these probs

    n darby of perth w.a Posted on 25 September 2010 12:31am
  • early td5 engines had plastic locateing dowels in the head wich eventually get sheared off so head must come off for steel replacements head bolts cannot be reused and are xy oil cooler is really oil heater for europe is piss weak and will corrode and put oil through cooling system exhaust manifold will warp and leak at first andlast cylinder and will need to come off and be faced oil pump mounting bolts had no form of locktite etc from factory and tend to come loose and drop the whole pump wich is catastrophic injector harness can wick diesal fuel right back to the relays and fuses the cast iron turbo housings always crack near the wastegate shaft and the oil filter is so hard to acess any other car with such a bad abs problem would have been recalled what amazes me is all the reviewers experts etc dont know this stuff or publicise it they are major faults dont take your disco remote without addressing these probs

    n darby of perth w.a Posted on 25 September 2010 12:26am
  • I own a 1999 Disco II TD5 which has been in family since 2003. All maintenance and recall have been done. Very reliable, now at 156.000 km. Last two years have been with a lot of replacements; AC, brakes, air suspension (rear), diesel filter, shocks (front), oil cooler, radiator, various gaskets, dashboard lights and more... pretty expensive at the authorized service centre but it continues to run really strong. Nice looks and good comfort.

    Ulric of Sweden Posted on 03 September 2010 6:05am
  • I owned a series 1 V8 and god was it thirsty! Great off road, but unreliable, smithy the big problem with the diesels is they are so slow! If only toyotas had the discos off road ability straight out of the factory! If you spend a lot of time off road then get a disco, as long as you are handy on the spanners!

    Gav of melbourne Posted on 28 August 2010 2:15am
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