Used Land Rover Discovery 3 review: 2005-2009
July 5, 2013
- Off-road ability
- Feature packed
- Depreciation means a cheap used buy
- Careful inspection required
- Diesel's command much more than petrols
- Heavy weight means greter fuel use and brake wear
Early Discoverys were in equal measure praised for their off-road capability and canned for their unreliability. Thankfully, most of the problems had been sorted out by the time the Discovery 3 was launched in 2005.
The Discovery 3 was a high-end off-road wagon that came in three models, the S, SE and HSE, there was a choice of V6, V8 and turbo-diesel engines and a much-lauded four-wheel drive system that gave it its legendary off-road performance.
Sitting at the top of the off-road tree the Discovery 3 was the luxury equal of the European off-roaders such as the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz ML and Audi Q7 while leaving them for dead when the blacktop ended.
There, in the realm of the serious offies it was able to hold its own with the likes of the Toyota LandCruiser, Nissan Patrol or Mitsubishi Pajero. Make no mistake the Discovery 3 was a big, heavy wagon and best suited to the heavy going, whether that was beating through the bush or making use of its 3500kg towing capacity.
Inside, the driver sat quite upright, more like a commander, with comfortable seating, adjustable steering wheel and a comprehensive array of dials. On the road its bulk tended to melt away, so it didn't feel out of its depth in the confines of the city; it rode and handled well and pulled strongly.
All models were well equipped, as would be expected for such an expensive vehicle. The S entry model was a five-seater with a seven-seat option, V6 and turbo-diesel engine options and the choice of auto or manual gearboxes.
Move up a peg and the SE was a seven-seater with V6 and diesel engine options, but only came with an auto 'box. Go straight to the top and you found yourself at the helm of the HSE, which came with all the bells and whistles and the choice of turbo-diesel or a thumping great V8.
Traction came via a constant four-wheel drive system, while in the SE and HSE the driver had the ability to adjust the system's electronic controls, air suspension, gearbox characteristics, and diff settings, adding to the wagon's off-road performance.
Prior to the Discovery 3 the Disco was as much noted for its problems as it was for its performance. Such were some of the horror stories that it was as if the ghosts of the British motor industry past had returned to haunt the car.
There were build quality problems, electrical issues and oil leaks galore, and while things improved markedly with the Discovery 3 it's wise to thoroughly check any car under consideration before handing over your readies.
It's best to seek the help of a Land Rover expert and have your potential purchase inspected and road-tested. If it all checks out you can buy with a high degree of confidence that your car will not let you down.
It's a heavy vehicle so expect it to guzzle fuel like there's no tomorrow and rapidly wear out its brakes. Heavy towing can impact on the auto transmission, so take extra care to make sure all is well in that area.
Check for a service record and check it thoroughly, even following up the mechanic who did the work. The engine cam timing belt needs to be replaced every 160,000km or so, and make sure that has happened if your choice has passed that mark.
Check the bodywork and take a look underneath for signs of heavy off-road use. If you suspect a car has been used off-road walk away, there are plenty of town-bound Discos that have never seen a gravel road.
Anyone who bought a new Discovery 3 would be reeling at the rate of depreciation they have endured, but that means second-handies are relatively affordable for those backing up in the used car market. The petrol engines copped it more than the diesel, which represents the best buying.