1995 - 2004 Land Rover Discovery Pre-Owned

1995 - 2004 Land Rover Discovery Pre-Owned

High Capability but Low Dependability

I have to admit to having a love-hate relationship with Land Rover's Discovery. I've always loved the way the

While not attractive in the conventional way, the Land Rover Discovery is an alluring in a purpose-built workhorse sort of way. (Photo: Shawn Pisio, Canadian Auto Press)
slab-sided, utilitarian workhorse looks. It's not pretty, but some of the best athletes, smartest minds and most effective leaders were and still aren't attractive in the conventional way. It's the sheer purpose of who they are that makes them so alluring.

Most top-tier achievers suffer from other quirks, however, that might not be immediately visible. Despite being one of the greatest Prime Ministers England has ever know and one of the world's most respected leaders, Winston Churchill is widely known to have had bipolar disorder which caused him and his family much distress. Astrophysicist Stephen Hawkins is considered to be one of the most intelligent people alive but his body is rendered almost completely unusable from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS; also known as Lou Gehrig's

While it may be one of the best off-road vehicles currently available, the Discovery is not without its quirks. (Photo: Shawn Pisio, Canadian Auto Press)
disease), a common neurodegenerative disease which only affects motor neurons. And Dennis Rodman, while not necessarily known for his brainpower is one of the most talented basketball players to ever play the game, yet his personal life and wild antics on and off the court have made him the bane of the sport.

Likewise, the Land Rover Discovery is one of the best off-road vehicles currently available. It delivers decent on-pavement handling too, while lavishing its occupants in old-world British luxury. But on the flip side it's as temperamental, physically challenged and mentally ravaged as Rodman, Hawkins and Churchill all rolled up into one.

So why do I like it so much? I find it difficult to put my reasoning into words that will make much sense to all but a select group of off-road fanatics, but I'll try

I find it difficult to say exactly why I like the Discovery so much, especially considering all its faults. (Photo: Shawn Pisio, Canadian Auto Press)
nonetheless. Many years back I was with one of my closest friends Dave Smith (no really, I'm not trying to hide his identity, that's really his name) and his crazy (in a good way) brother Rod, attempting to scale a near vertical dirt washout gully up by the giant "B" above Bountiful, Utah, on his Honda 480 CR two-stroke dirt bike. It was so steep that the bike kept kicking out from underneath with each attempt up the hill, flipping backwards and either landing on its side before tumbling head over heals back down the hill or landing on a human cushion before doing so - not a good thing. On its way down one time it broke off the clutch handle, which after a few attempts to fix and run up the hill again, ended our day's adventures. As we were packing up, a series 1 Discovery drove past, walked over some deep ditches, and then proceeded to stroll up what
Try as I might, I never found a used Discovery that'd fit my budget back when I was younger. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)
appeared to be close to the same vertical ridge a little farther up the road. While he wasn't having anywhere near as fun a time as we enjoyed flipping the bike backwards and skidding down the hill, it became pretty clear to me that a Discovery made a lot more sense for scaling steep terrain than a motorbike.

I set out to purchase one but could never find anything in bad enough shape to fit my budget, even when looking in wrecking yards for one that maybe had a burned out engine that I could replace with a diesel or something to that effect. I found one burned out, or maybe the words burned down would be better to describe it, but it was a little beyond my remedial mechanical capabilities. Alas, a Disco has never become part of my personal collection.

As a brief history, about the Discovery not my motorcycling escapades, it was initially shipped over the Atlantic from Britain

For 2003, an even better equipped, more stylish Discovery was introduced, although it kept its Series II designation. (Photo: Shawn Pisio, Canadian Auto Press)
in early 1994 as a 1995 model. Well priced at under $50,000, at least compared to the seriously upscale Range Rover model, it sold reasonably well. Larger families appreciated its optional 7-occupant seating that came as part of the SE-7 package - via side-facing flip-down rear seats.

It did even better on the sales charts when the upgraded 1999 Series II Disco became available, as it featured slightly more interior room. The Discovery II also incorporated an upgraded 3.9-liter OHV V8 engine V8 (loosely based on an old Buick design), producing

If you've never been inside a Discovery, you'd be surprised at how luxuriously equipped Land Rover has made it. (Photo: Shawn Pisio, Canadian Auto Press)
188-horsepower and much more torque. Its ZF-built 4-speed automatic transmission was robust and reliable, while offering smooth shift increments. For 2003, an even better equipped, more stylish Discovery was introduced, although it kept its Series II designation.

If you've never been inside this beast of burden, you'd be surprised at how luxuriously equipped Land Rover has made it, at least those destined for North American shores. Niceties such as dual-side automatic climate control, a premium audio system, cruise control, power windows, locks and mirrors, available twin front and rear glass sunroofs, and leather seats with heated cushions and 8-way power adjustment up front, put the big off-roader in a class of few.

Even old Discoverys can still look new on the outside due to rust-free lightweight aluminum body panels, expensive to

Lightweight aluminum body panels might be expensive to repair but are rust-free, meaning even older models still look good. (Photo: Shawn Pisio, Canadian Auto Press)
repair but nevertheless a nice upscale addition in a segment of the industry where regular old steel is more common. The less desirable metal is used in the roof panel, chosen for its strength.

Some of the reasons the Disco does so well off-road were because of its rigid, body-on-frame construction, extremely long suspension travel and towering ground clearance, all necessary for battling the wild unknown. It also features full-time 4-wheel drive, a locking center differential and rigid axles, not

Near the end of its lifespan the Discovery was fitted with a number of electronic goodies that furthered its off-road prowess. (Photo: Shawn Pisio, Canadian Auto Press)
necessarily the best for handling curving pavement but revered among 4x4 purists as the ultimate for rock climbing and the like.

Toward the end of its lifespan the Discovery became nearly as sophisticated as its elder brother Range Rover, adopting a modified variation of the luxo-ute's axles with wider tracks for a more stable ride and a new Watts linkage rear suspension. Like the Range Rover, the Discovery also added reverse-ventilated front disc brakes. An optional Self-Leveling Suspension (SLS) was also thrown into the mix, delivering automatic load-leveling and a higher, off-road mode. More electronic goodies included Active Cornering Enhancement (ACE), stabilizing the big SUV by limiting body lean in curves.

On the downside, the Discovery is fairly inefficient regarding fuel economy and its reliability rating isn't exactly stellar,

The Discovery is fairly inefficient regarding fuel economy and its reliability rating isn't exactly stellar. (Photo: Shawn Pisio, Canadian Auto Press)
depending on which third-party survey group you study up on. J.D. Power and Associates, one of the highest respected, rates Land Rover in 28th place out of 37 automakers for initial quality, not as poor as last year's 36th place finish and definitely better than Hummer's two years in a row of last placement. While not exactly the kind of result a premium brand should be achieving, its move up the ladder shows that it is improving, which will only help your cause if you're looking at purchasing new.

Now that you might be feeling fairly good about a Land Rover purchase I'll go ahead and dowse water on your flames of 4x4 passion with another J.D. Power statistic, the British marque's results in the Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS). The 2004 study, the results of which were obtained by surveying more than 48,000 original owners of 2001 model year cars and light trucks, is ideal for used vehicle shoppers. It placed Land Rover in 37th out of 37

For those that must have a Disco, be prepared to shell out regularly for maintenance. (Photo: Shawn Pisio, Canadian Auto Press)
nameplates for 2001, yes dead last, just slightly worse than its 36th out of 37 brand ranking in the 2000 VDS which surveyed owners of 2000 model year vehicles. Ouch! Not the kind of results I'd want to be pondering while stranded 50 miles into the wilderness and no qualified mechanic in sight.

With such ammunition at hand, if you're looking for Lexus reliability with that optimal off-road capability you're better off buying a Toyota Land Cruiser or Lexus LX, at a premium mind you. For those that must have a Disco, be prepared to shell out regularly for maintenance and make sure and strap a small dirt bike to the back for emergency purposes when adventuring far from civilization.

Just the same Disco's hold their value quite well, with some quick research showing 1995 examples with low mileage fetching

If you can find a diamond in the rough, a used Discovery may well be worth picking up, but still expect some costly repair bills. (Photo: Shawn Pisio, Canadian Auto Press)
upwards of $20,000 - or at least that's the asking price. Of those currently for sale, most showed less mileage than average. Where a 1995 model should have between 150,000 to 200,000 kilometers on the odometer, the Discovery's on the market featured only 100,000 to 130,000 kilometers, showing either that their owners babied them or didn't like them at all. Like any used purchase, it's always best to find a well kept example, with low mileage preferable but not at the expense of accurate records of regular service intervals.

If you can find a Discovery that appears to have lived a good life causing little discomfort to its owner, it might just be one of the better ones and well worth picking up. Don't fall for the, "I've replaced everything so it's just like a new car" line, as without doubt problems will continue to recur.


  • 1995 Lowest-Highest Price*: $9,500 - $20,000 (150,000 to 200,000 km**)
  • 1996 Lowest-Highest Price*: $10,500 - $21,000 (135,000 to 180,000 km**)
  • 1997 Lowest-Highest Price*: $11,000 - $22,000 (120,000 to 160,000 km**)
  • 1998 Lowest-Highest Price*: $12,500 - $23,500 (90,000 to 140,000 km**)
  • 1999 Lowest-Highest Price*: $15,000 - $24,000 (75,000 to 120,000 km**)
  • 2000 Lowest-Highest Price*: $19,000 - $37,000 (60,000 to 100,000 km**)
  • 2001 Lowest-Highest Price*: $23,500 - $38,000 (45,000 to 80,000 km**)
  • 2002 Lowest-Highest Price*: $32,000 - $40,000 (30,000 to 60,000 km**)
  • 2003 Lowest-Highest Price*: $37,700 - $45,000 (15,000 to 40,000 km**)
  • 2004 Lowest-Highest Price*: $55,000 - N/A (10,000 to 20,000 km**)
  • Body Type: 5-door SUV, ladder frame (TB)
  • Layout: front engine, 4WD
  • Engine: 188 hp, 250 lb-ft of torque, 4.0-L, OHV V8
  • Transmission: 4-spd auto, O/D
  • Brakes (front/rear): disc/disc, ABS with EBD
  • Curb Weight: 2,100 kg (4,630 lb)
  • Seating Capacity: 5 (opt 7)
  • Cargo Cap (min/max):1,147 - 1,798 L (40.5 / 63.3 cu ft)
  • Ground Clearance: 208 mm (8.2 in)
  • Towing Capacity: 3,500 kg (7,716 lb)
  • Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 18.0 / 13.0 L/100 km
  • Web Site: www.landrover.com

* Prices show lowest and highest of classified ads in Auto123.com, AutoTrader.ca and CanadaTrader.com across Canada. Prices in specific provinces may vary. Also, these are asking prices so discounts may be available.

** Mileage averages based on approximately 15,000 to 20,000 km travel per year (calculated in 2004/2005 model year)

Note: Additional larger photos are available in the photo album.

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