Long Termer Land Rover Discovery 3

Land Rover Discovery 3 long termer

Our long termer Land Rover has been toying with my affections

Built: Dec 2005

Price New: c.$75,000 inc options

Price 2011: $27,000

Price Now: Who knows

Odometer: 333,000 kms

Of all the things I appreciate about Australia, the NRMA Roadside Assistance would most definitely make my top 5. The organisation must surely be the standard that all service related industries should aspire to. All those bus drivers who seem to have forgotten that their role is to deal with the public in a friendly, come again attitude. All those surly telco billing staff who have no idea what it means to leave their customer hanging on the line for 20 minutes without a by your leave. All those government types who think that our taxes are their personal pools of funding. They can all take a leaf out this business’s book. From their sympathetic and obliging drivers, to their diligent call centre staff, even it’s mobile app is fantastic in that ‘how good is this UBER thingy’ type way. If there were to be a popularity contest surely they’d win, or at least get a ribbon for effort. It is right up there with the SES, in my opinion, even its towing partners. Yet, you are never pleased to have to call them because it always spells trouble. This time, for me, it meant a second alternator in 4 years.

Long termer Land Rover
Not the alternator … again!

Well the old girl is getting on, she’ll be 12 come December, which is 107 in car years, and is about to surpass 333,000 kilometres. Though she had a hard life for her first 6 years, and 227,000 k’s, it’s been arguably tougher for the last 6, albeit on the face of it, it would seem easier. No outback corrugated dirt roads, no bull dust, no bouncing around on rocks. But city driving, with the odd foray into the bush for camping trips, is probably putting more pressure on the suspension arms, CV joints and tyre wear than anything before. Though the engine itself has been consistently strong, all the add-on components are feeling the strain.

That said, AH20EF, still rides and drives as smooth as ever. All six of us parade around in as much comfort as we did before and, apart from that one time when the first alternator gave up the ghost, it has not let us down whilst on the road.

It’s safe to say I love this car. But it ain’t cheap. On average it costs us $4000 per year plus rego to keep it on the road. And I know more expensive issues are around the corner. The pumps and hoses that haven’t been replaced will need doing. The aircon system is playing up, intermittently coming on and off, yet still blowing deliciously cool air when it does. So the relay may need a change, but that means the dash needs to come out and I’ve no idea how long that could take. The air suspension compressor has probably got another year, 18 months at most, before it needs changing. The universal joint in the braking system is leaking meaning a new part of $1200 is imminent in the next few months. And if the soot around the turbo suggests anything then a new turbo is likely to be similarly priced.

But even with all this, the average cost per year, is less than a lease payment on a new car. If I had a garage and the equipment and the know-how I could save on labour. But realistically that is not going to happen. The wife won’t trust me, or my workmanship, for one.

Yet our Disco is soldiering on. Doing the school runs, the daily shopping trips, swallowing a range of differing sized bikes and scooters at weekends, short trips here, long trips there, start, stop, start, stop. It’s a harsh life and probably a mechanics dream.

It may have the odd scratch on the bumpers, the rear light cluster is still cracked from that time she-who-must-be-obeyed reversed into something, the leather thigh bolster on the driver’s seat is torn and then there’s that paint rub from that cheap bike rack I bought on the rear door. These things add character I tell myself. It’s been used I say to others. Then I spy a brand spanking new Disco 5 and I feel slightly ashamed of myself. I’m tempted. The excitement of something new is appealing. If it weren’t for the paucity of riches I’d almost feel like cheating.

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.

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