Land Rover Discovery 3 TDV6

Model Year: 2005
Bought: May 2011
Kms:
135,000
Current Kms: 155,000
Price: $27,000

OK, I’ve probably always wanted a Range Rover, but sadly they have only 5 dedicated seats. My family requires the extra couple these days. Initially my choice seemed stark and somewhat depressing. Was I really going to consider a Tarago? Did I really want to stoop to a Chrylser Voyager, quite possibly the worst vehicle ever built, save for British Leyland’s Allegro of course.

Well no, I didn’t have to because these days there are a number of interesting choices. The Volvo XC90 for instance, or Honda’s Odyssey, Mazda’s CX9, Hyundai’s Sante Fe, Nissan’s Dualis, I could go on. But none of these were dream cars. To come close to my vision, it needed to offer something outstanding, needed decent looks, and though I couldn’t expect a 7 seater to perform well around a race track, I would take a fire track or a beach instead.

Enter the Land Rover Discovery 3. A car that in Australia polarizes the population like no other. Even Ford and Holden fans can agree on it. Its looks for starters. I used to think it reminded me of an old-school bread van before it started to grow on me. I guess when Nissan started making its Pathfinder to look like it, particularly its rear end, is when its styling for me hit home.

Then there’s the internal space. Its seat configurations are second to none and, when all are flattened, the load space is simply cavernous. There’s no loss of space due to an after thought third row hanging on the sides. It is so large it swallowed up an oversized 3-seater sofa with room to spare.

By: The Car Spy

Then there’s the engine. Granted it’s the older 2.7 litre turbo diesel that is perhaps not as powerful, refined or efficient as the new 3 litre in the series 4, but my word it’s a fantastic engine. Frugal on longer trips, sometimes returning less than 10 litres per 100 km for a car that weighs in at a tad over 2,400 kgs and fully laden with wife, 3 kids and all our camping gear. Around town it’s more like 13.5 but I can forgive it for that on Sydney’s clogged up arteries. And when you need to pull out sharpish the turbo kicks in and you’re away with a real shove in the back. Gone too are the days of a diesel sounding like something off a farm, certainly from within.

Then there’s the ride. The air suspension system has to be one of the most accomplished around and it is without doubt the most comfortable car I have ever owned. It’s so nice I almost forget my hatred for automatics as I waft here and there, serenely surveying the road ahead. Its all terrain system is a joy to use, as you simply select the setting for the road conditions ahead and let the car do the rest. Though so far I have only needed to use the sand option, I have witnessed others tackle every imaginable surface and it just works. I guess it is not an eight time winner of Australia’s best large 4×4 for nothing.

So then it’s a fantastic vehicle and it never goes wrong. Well not exactly and this is where Australia is polarized. Yes it does go wrong. Not smoking by the side of the road wrong, but its complex electronics are prone to gremlins. Take its suspension system for instance. Land Rover forums are full of problems with the car’s air suspension compressor. Warning lights and noises abound regularly it seems, particularly in the earlier models from 2005 to 2008. Mine being a late 2005 model is no different, but talking with the guys at Graeme Cooper, a wonderful Land Rover specialist I may add, its hardly surprising. The little compressor has the weight of the whole car resting gingerly on its shoulders and after a few years the poor thing wears out. A change costing around $1100 should sort it out, but others have not been so lucky. Diagnoses have included faulty wiring, faulty looms, corroded points and computer bugs. However, unlike the Disco 2, when such a problem would mean the car lowered on to its suspension rods and would become immovable, the Disco 3 merely continues at normal ride height and pings you incessantly about its problem. On the odd occasion that it does lower itself to its minimum, I have found that you simply stop, switch off, let it cool for a few minutes and the system rights itself.

I guess it’s a victim of its modernity. It knows when things are wearing out and tells you about it. Brake pads need changing, it pings you. Battery not charging, it pings you. Tyre pressures not perfect, it pings you. On long drives it sounds like you on a plane with the seat belt sign going on and off, and it becomes almost comforting. In other cars, say the Prado, there is no such system, and so you can be driving around without a care in world with the exact same problem as the Disco driver, the only difference being Prado man is ignorant of the problems and therefore thinks his car never goes wrong. Disco man is all too aware of them.

I’ve tried a friend’s Prado and I know it’s a great 4×4. It can go anywhere, like the Disco. It seats seven, like the Disco, but the sixth and seventh passenger had better be a person of restricted growth or a small child. In the Disco, fully-grown men of 6 feet or more can fit in the third row without a hint of discomfort. But as soon as the key was turned I knew which one I preferred. It was a case of: one is a tractor, the other is a limousine. The difference is that stark.

By: The Car Spy

I bought a high mileage vehicle fully aware I was purchasing someone else’s problem. At 235,000kms it was very high indeed for a 7 year old car, but all of those kays were motorway miles meaning the engine would have been spared the stop start of city driving. The previous owner had also liked to go bush bashing, though you’d never guess externally. Internally the bull dust told a different story. So I was prepared to pay for a few repairs and at $27,000 it seemed a steal. I had ensured the timing belt had been changed and the transmission was in good spirits and off I went.

So far, over 2 years, I have needed to replace the sway bars, both front and back ($50 and $90 respectively), and the serpentine belt ($56). The alternator gave up the ghost not long ago as well ($850). Yet these should go after so many kilometres, so I don’t feel too bad about them. The suspension compressor needs to be changed but I have put up with this warning for over a year now and will do something about it when it suits me. It certainly doesn’t need to be imminent. Servicing is not cheap on Land Rovers, but talking to a Mercedes GL owner recently, I began to feel a little smug. Oh and the cable that operates the tail-gate snapped and meant the rear door would not open. Luckily that was only a $90 repair bill. There was a $250 charge for taking the ignition barrel apart, clean and replace it, but that had nothing to do with the car and everything to do with a small lego sword my son saw fit to insert and attempt to start the car. Needless to say his name was mud for a day or so.

Along with small boys, tyres, I read on the web, are also a bugbear, due the 18inch rims and therefore difficult to source. After a brief search I found a solution and can recommend Kumo Roadventura’s, fine for road and sand and a snip at $250 a corner, half the price of the more expensive all terrain tyres. That being said, if I were intending to go bush bashing I would probably source some 17inch rims and fit a Cooper or Wrangler tyre.

For a Buyers Guide, visit the Research page

Audi Quattro: The Original

audi ur quattro

The Ur-Quattro

The Ur-Quattro, or Original Quattro, arrived in 1980 and took rallying to a whole new dimension, dominating the sport for over two years. It was the first rally car to take advantage of new four-wheel drive rules and spawned panic amongst its rivals to catch up. This reached fever pitch with the advent of Class B rallying between 1982 and 1986 when such monsters as the Ford RS200, Metro RS4, Lancia Delta S4 and of course the Sport Quattro S1 arrived.

These cars travelled so fast along winding, slippery, often mountainous roads they appeared to defy laws of gravity and adhesion. To give you an idea of how fast Class B became, Henri Toivonen once famously tested his Delta S4 at the Estoril Grand Prix track with a lap time that would have put him sixth on the F1 grid, in a rally car. Turbo’s could be boosted to 5 bars or more and horsepower easily eclipsed 500 in race form. 1000 was apparently quite possible. Now this amount of power is all well and good in a race involving long straights and steady left handers, say NASCAR for instance, or something similarly boring. But on a forest track covered in mud, ice, snow, water, gravel and more often than not involving hairpin bends over blind crests? I am sure you get my drift, no pun intended, these were accidents waiting to happen.

Sadly all too soon for Toivonen in 1986, who flew off a thin strip of tarmac high up a Corsican hillside at speeds barely imaginable, taking his co-driver with him. Overnight the era of the Rally Supercar ended and these powerful machines became obsolete.

However, one sport’s loss became the consumer’s benefit with the opportunity to emulate our rallying heroes by purchasing one of these cars that were only very slightly modified for road use. Lancia sold its Delta as the Integrale, Ford as the RS200 and

Audi with its Quattro. In its original guise it came with a 2,144 cc, 10 valve turbocharged in-line 5 pot engine, or WR as it became known, and it is this example I am about to jump into.

audi quattro

In fact I am about to drive a car whose original owner was none other than

a former Australian Formula 1 driver, and winner of the Le Mans 24 hours, Vern Schuppan.

Sitting low in a its dated but hugely comfortable leather chair, you notice the wheel is set slightly left of centre but the pedals are perfectly positioned directly in front of you and spaced ideally for heel and toeing. No doubt Vern would have been a dab hand at left foot braking, but with Ian from Shannons sitting beside me there was no chance of that today.

The dash ahead of me is pure Audi of old, no different to an 80CD I owned many years ago or a mate’s 90 Quattro. Turning the key and hearing that 5 pot rumble immediately took me back to my teen years and my yearning to own one of these iconic cars. Depressing the clutch I half expect a work out for my thigh, but not so. It’s as light as any modern day car and snicking it into first heralded the typical mechanical clunky feel that all Audi’s had at the time. Not particularly smooth nor solid, but its an Audi, they don’t go wrong.

Pulling away, the sound emanating from those twin pipes still shames any contemporary V8 and considering the car is now 33 years old you’d expect the odd rattle and perhaps some loss in power. Blipping the throttle it doesn’t sound much has past it by, but the lag is more pronounceable than I thought. I have to remind myself this is normal of all early turbos, even of supercars.

Unfortunately the back roads around Artarmon are busy with trucks and traffic lights, but with a hill and some space in front of me, I floor it as much as I dare, half expecting Ian to tut in disapproval. It doesn’t come, and the question concerning its power is answered with a strong surge in second up to 60. Third is some distance away, surprisingly, but fourth is a quick pull back and we’re travelling smoothly, bathed in its inline din.

Sounds good, I shout to Ian. He agrees and I think both of us wish for a local track to delve down and put it through its paces.

 

audi quattro

Sadly the test drive is all too short but it is obvious this car has been well looked after. It rides the atrocious concrete slabs, synonymous of this area, with barely a shudder of disapproval and shakes off the inconvenience of mini roundabouts with the nonchalence of a gorilla swatting a bug. The last one I come to I drop down to second and gave it some welly, with window down and a wall across from me, that noise, the drama, just makes me want to drive this thing further and faster. Shame its not in red though.

The car is being auctioned at Shannons of Artarmon on May 6. Visit http://www.shannons.com.au/auctions for more information.

 

RESEARCH

Check out the Research category for more information about typical costs, repairs and what to look out for, click here:

http://wp.me/P3rCxt-9Y

Recommended Service Centres:

Eagle & Raymond Automotive  – 1/14 Brennan Close, Asquith NSW 2077‎m

(02) 9477 1500
 audi quattro bulge

 

SAAB 900 Turbo 16v

Final Drive: SAAB 900 Turbo 16v

Model Year: 1991

Bought for: $16,995 in Sept 1999

Kms: 135,000

Sold for: $3,000 in Dec 2012

Kms: 247,000

Thirteen years is a long time in partnership with anything. It’s no less emotive than when it’s with a car and the split up has become inevitable. In my case not by choice either which only amplifies the pain.

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This is not just any old second car, occasionally rolled out at weekends to annoy those who actually have a purpose to their journey. No, this, for much of its relationship with me, has been the every-day-use car. One that has never let me down, ignoring that one occasion with the wife that I put down to a girl thing; neither wanted to be usurped as being the most important female in my life.

In saying that, is she really female? This is a phenomena that is new to me. I’ve never been one to assign a gender to my cars, but since I started the trials of selling, I’ve been turned by a rather passionate lady extolling my car’s many delicate virtues and it struck me that, much like my wife, if treated tenderly she did indeed respond well. So it has sort of stuck.

There’s undoubtedly something of the gut pain one has when wrenched away from loved ones. Or, as was often in my case, wrenching themselves away at a brisk trot, back turned and facing a mother imploring her to run faster.

But anyway, I’ll definitely miss her, the smell of leather and fuel as soon as you open the door. The creak of hide as you slide into its still very comfy drivers seat. The idiosyncracy of its ignition placement. That whine of the turbo as it spools into life. The joy of the second gear kick-down. For sure I’m going to miss the manual box, clunky and long travelled it may be, but with it comes involvement, and a reason to drive smoothly and efficiently at pace. It forces you to take note of the road, else be dragged into the abyss of boredom and laziness that autos and other latter day gadgetries afford a man. However smooth and excellent they maybe today, in my opinion an automatic will always be trumped by a manual for sheer connection, to the road as well as to your driving style. All drivers should be forced to take the test in a manual is what I say. The skills learned and abilities improved can only benefit our urban society.

But I digress.

AAS 60C, or arse-sixty-see as I’ve taken to calling her, a 1991 Saab 900 Turbo 16v, pre-GM ownership. For a car that’s age is beginning to nudge the idea of a quarter century, it still looks good. The original paintwork has taken to the Aussie climate rather well and it gleams at me in the morning sun. Looking at it objectively, it is in good nick this one. No major exterior signs of any collision or corrosion. She makes me proud. Its engine is strong enough for couple more hundred thousand klicks, if regularly serviced too.

The smell of 98 octane fuel is a pleasant one as you close the door, alarming initially I grant you but I came to adore it, hooked you might say. I sit motionless for a second drinking it in. The cockpit’s ever so slightly biased toward the driver and its beginning to look its age in aesthetics, but functionally all still sound. The CD is an after market affair that works well enough but the lights have mostly died out for night time use, so it then becomes a hit and miss affair. And there’s a rattle in the ventilation system that has always been there and can only be cancelled out by exactly trimming the air duct controls. Idiosyncratic you might say.

I reach down to my left and insert the key in the centre consol. It starts energetically with maybe a hint of chattering tappets. I let the oil work itself around the engine before I pull away.

Let’s face it, this is a twenty two year old car, twenty three if you add the year it was built prior to registration, so the creaks and rattles that come through the facia and rear quarter have to be expected. Much often turns out to be for ancillary reasons; a clunking seat belt holder for instance or a loose parcel shelf. Nonetheless this is an old car and should be treated with some care, just in case. That being said, in the main it still feels tight.

The steering wheel is so much smaller and skinnier than more contemporary cars and loses nothing for it. The feel you receive through its thinly padded rim is one that inspires trust and respect. And it’s the same minimalism throughout the cabin, for there are no signs of airbags, cup holders or blue tooth connections in here. It’s because of this that what looks small on the outside, a latter day Ford Mondeo dwarfs it, it almost makes up for when inside, thanks to the absence of all that safety rubbish. Saab, as Top Gear showed us, had not forgotten its safety responsibilities, damn near wrapping the whole vehicle in a roll cage.

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Not that a generation junior would agree with me after a first acquaintance with the brakes. They are certainly not as well assisted as anything they would have learned to drive in, but once you get used to the extra effort and travel required, they are effective enough.

At the lights, if the revs are kept up it pulls away strongly and still a match for most V6’s. But woe-betide if your timing is out, the lag will reduce you to a snails pace for an interminable few seconds before finally and, satisfyingly, hitting its sweet spot with such panache that you can almost forgive it.

Find a clear, winding stretch of road however and it hunkers down at the back and acts as if its rear wheel driven. If you get your line right through a series of sweeping bends, using the gears to full effect and taking care to keep the engine working in the power band, it flows as sweetly as any spirited 5 door wagon of today. It’s the sense of involvement you feel with a car of this era though that really shines. In a few years you’d be hard pushed to find a new car that comes with a manual transmission, and we as drivers will be the worse for it.

But you don’t drive this car like a sports car, no, she’s too boat-like, as my GTi driving friend once remarked. It’s more of a Grand Tourer. More sedate but rapid when the moment comes. Its ability to overtake in the 50-70 kph range is still a marvel and one that brings a smile to your face.

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That said, when faced with a series of speed bumps, its low stance makes you wince every time you scrape over some of the more severe ones. Its ride is a tad firm for Sydney road conditions but thanks to its excellent seats you’re never troubled that much.

I drive for fifty kilometres and notice I’ve gone through a quarter of a tank, so spirited driving does come at cost. But for a price of an expensive handbag this fair lady comes with a lot of bang for your buck.

Over the years I tried a few places to maintain my Saab, from Ultratune to the original dealer, whose mechanics as it happened set up their own garage a few years after I bought the car. It was there, at Saabtech, I found real maintenance value. Its all well and good saving on a service by going to a local non specialist, but ultimately using Saab experts paid off in quality and a better driving experience.

For detailed costs visit the research link: 

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