Overview & Reviews
Land Rover SUVs are the first choice of England's royals when the need arises for a vehicle gutsy enough to tackle rocks and mud. It's no wonder; in addition to their go-anywhere bravado, Land Rovers offer a uniquely British brand of elegance that feels supremely upper-crust. The Land Rover Discovery, offered in Europe a few years before coming to North America, was created to serve as a bridge between the manufacturer's utilitarian Defender and prestigious Range Rover models.
Unlike today's family-friendly crossovers, the Land Rover Discovery was an old-school luxury SUV that was at its best when pitted against treacherous ravines and vertiginous mountain paths. On-road performance clearly wasn't the primary focus, though on later models, Land Rover made more of an effort to strike a balance between trail-busting capacity and boulevard comfort.
In certain aspects concerning versatility, interior ergonomics and safety, the Land Rover lagged behind its peers. Cargo space was limited, and side airbags and stability control weren't available. Then there was the issue of reliability. Land Rovers of years gone by had a notoriously intimate relationship with repair shops, and the Discovery was no exception. More recent models, though, showed some improvement in this area.
Legendary off-road capabilities and a high level of luxury are the Discovery Series II's best points. But in our opinion, both are overshadowed by the vehicle's faults. Most buyers will probably be better served by competing Japanese or domestic luxury SUVs.
Most recent Land Rover Discovery
The Land Rover Discovery was a two-generation vehicle, and its most recent generation was built from 1999 until the SUV's demise in 2004. (The Land Rover LR3 took its place in the lineup.) Between model years 2000 and 2002, the Discovery was known as the Discovery Series II.
This generation saw a dizzying flurry of trim changes. In 1999, the Discovery was available in two versions: the outgoing generation called the SD and the new Series II. In 2000, the old one was dropped. Model-year 2001 saw another revision; the Discovery Series II could be had in SD, LE and SE models. The LE trim level was dropped in 2002. In 2003, the SUV once again became known simply as the Discovery, and from that point on it was available in base S, SE and top-of-the-line HSE trim levels.
Base-model Discovery models from this generation weren't light on luxury features, offering standard amenities like a CD player, power-adjustable front seats and dual-zone climate control. The nimble Land Rover was also ready to roam the great outdoors, thanks to permanent four-wheel drive, plenty of ground clearance and Hill Descent Control. Active Cornering Enhancement, a hydraulic suspension system that reduces vehicle body lean during cornering, was available, as were a self-leveling rear suspension and third-row seats.
Initially, two 4.0-liter V8s were available, one good for 182 horsepower and 233 pound-feet of torque, and the other for 188 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. In 2000, the less-muscular V8 was dropped from the lineup. Model-year 2003 saw the introduction of a more potent 4.6-liter V8 good for 217 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. This engine was used to power all Discoverys until the model's retirement. This Land Rover wasn't known for stellar fuel economy. Discoverys powered by the 4.6-liter got a paltry 12 mpg in the city and 16 in highway travel.
Engine changes weren't the only ones experienced by the Land Rover Discovery during these five years. In 2000, the SUV benefited from minor interior upgrades. In 2002, new alloys were added, along with a standard Harman Kardon sound system. The Discovery got revised styling and interior treatments for 2003, and improvements were also made to its steering, brakes and suspension. By 2004, the options list had grown to include a navigation system, rear-seat DVD entertainment system and rear parking sensors.
Top-notch interior materials were the order of the day in the Discovery's cabin. There was ample head- and legroom, but the SUV's narrow proportions resulted in scarce shoulder- and hiproom. Additionally, this Land Rover's cramped doorways and tall stance made entry and exit somewhat of a challenge.
In editorial reviews, the Land Rover Discovery scored high marks for its off-road performance. On pavement, it was plagued by sluggish steering and an overly harsh ride. Ride quality saw some improvement after 2003's refresh, so opt for a 2003 or 2004 model to get a Discovery offering the most competence in this area. Finding a well-maintained and -documented model is probably wise given the Disco's less-than-exemplary reputation for reliability and durability.
Past Land Rover Discoverys
The Land Rover Discovery's first generation lasted from 1994-'99. Standard features included full power accessories, keyless entry and cruise control. A third-row seat and, eventually, a CD player were offered as options. Early Discoverys got their juice from a 3.9-liter V8 good for 182 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque. This engine was replaced by a 4.0-liter V8 in 1996, offering slightly more torque (233 lb-ft) and improved fuel economy. In 1997, the Discovery's interior was upgraded to include burled walnut trim.
Even more so than later models, Discoverys from this generation were prone to reliability issues; on-road ride quality was also quite unforgiving. Given these factors, we'd recommend that those in the used market place their money with one of the SUV's more amenable Japanese competitors. If you're determined to get a first-gen Discovery, opt for the 1996 and '97 versions, with their more frugal engines.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 260.00
Lets do it again - 2003 Land Rover Discovery
By TAH - November 28 - 10:00 am
Our 2003 Discovery is the second one we've leased. The 2003 is much quieter than the 2000 model we had before. My wife insisted on another although my blazer can carry more in the rear. They include the scheduled maintenance now.
Testament to its toughness - 2004 Land Rover Discovery
By msn619 - November 6 - 8:19 pm
As we all know right now the mid west and east cost are on blizzard watch and accidents are all over the city and I was not exception, I was on a stop light waiting to turn left when a sliding car hit me head on maybe around 20mph, I was ok thankfully my 2 yrs old was not with me. His passat was wreaked and my 00 discovery II was badly damaged but no oil or coolant leak, I was able to drive home 10 miles after all that. For 8yrs my discovery II never left me stranded, as long as I keep up with maintenance, she was good to me.
I Like It - 2003 Land Rover Discovery
By terribleted65 - October 16 - 10:00 am
Fun vehicle to drive and comes standard with a boat load of features. Fuel consumption and per gallon price make me choose my other vehicle occasionally.
A truly special car!! - 2004 Land Rover Discovery
By twisties4me - October 15 - 11:23 pm
Great Car!! Most misunderstood car out there. If you're not into having maintenance done then buy one of those look alike disposable cars, do not buy a Landrover. Excellent on-road or off. In 115k miles I certainly have not had any of the nightmarish leaks and electrical problems that I'm reading about, but then, I've owned it since new and maintain it, with much affection I might add. I've never ceased to be amazed with the quality of the switch gear etc. which we have BMW to thank for. The car is as solid as a rock! Stangely enough, for such a tall ride, it also handles rather nicely too. I love my Landy!
Disapointment with Landrover - 2004 Land Rover Discovery
By paulnaples - October 10 - 2:00 am
We bought the top of the line 2003 in August....traded it last week.. It was too hard to drive, terrible turning radius and horrible to get a baby seat in and out of the back seat...It cost $50.00 a fill uo and would only get 250 mile per tank.....We couldn't wait to unload this huge albatross.....I am not a pessimistic person but I would never recommend one of these heaps to anyone... PJH
Rather Be Walking - 2003 Land Rover Discovery
By Rather Be Walking - September 30 - 10:00 am
Bought my 2003 Disc.SE new and experienced problems ever since. Replaced electronic control units in both sunroofs, fixed the driver's side window and front sunroof as they were stuck open, cigarette lighter and heated seats stopped working after 2 months, and gas tank door fixed several times-it refuses to stay closed. Tail lights burn out continuously, back door bolts rusted since month 2 and bolts under hood corroding. Vehicle is very loud. Control panel layout is awkward at best. After sale service was so bad that I would never go back to that dealership. Take a very long test drive before purchasing this vehicle. Can't wait to get rid of mine.
My '04 Rover - 2004 Land Rover Discovery
By Hardest Dog - September 11 - 4:20 pm
This is my first Land Rover, and I love the way it drives and manuvers through traffic. The body style stands out proudly and demands respect. I am looking forward to taking it off road in the near future! Catch you on the trail.
SUPER - 2003 Land Rover Discovery
By c. hughes - September 4 - 10:00 am
I THINK IT'S A SUPER CAR WITH GREAT STYLE AND RELIABILITY. NOT YOUR COMMON BORING. I LIKE THE SAFETY FEATURES AND BEING ABLE TO DO ANYTHING I WANT TO DO OR GO ANYWHERE I WISH. SHOULD HAVE HIGHER RATING!
NOT QUITE SURE? - 2004 Land Rover Discovery
By TL - August 23 - 12:56 pm
I come have had 2 Porsches, 5 BMW's previous to the Disco. I have always admired its unique design, quite eclectic, old world British design that has refused to give into recent silly modern morphisms. The interior design is also very luxurious and utilitarian, dual sunroofs, bun warmers, powered everything.. I find the Disco sluggish, have to keep it in Sport Mode most of the time, which further impairs the already embarassing gas mileage. I have found Land Rover to be second rate as far as service (compared to BMW and Porsche), they do not extend "Range Rover" courtesy and customer service to Disco owners.
Discovery SE - 2004 Land Rover Discovery
By Orl Land Rover - August 6 - 10:00 am
I bought this car brand new and have had a great time with it. I tow a boat and it's brakes are amazing. The ride is extremely stable, even when cornering hard. Very fun to drive and not everyone has one!