R.I.P. 2003 Discovery

As many of you have heard, the 2003 Discovery is no more. Okay, that’s not entirely true it will live on as a parts car or with a rebuilt title for some lucky or unlucky fellow. My daughter tapped rear ended a Dodge pickup and totaled it. I know what you are thinking, TOTALED? After the insurance company added up all the plastic crap bits on the front that had to be replaced and a very slight push back of the fenders it was more to repair the vehicle than the value of the vehicle.

I was none too pleased either. We still owed more than the value of the vehicle. Making me upside down in a vehicle I was about to give over to the insurance company. The good news is the bank, having no other choice, is going to let us pay out the remainder on a signature note. I got lots of offers to buy bits off and even Disco Mike called me offered a way to close the gap on the value to loan ratio.

I had wanted to put an ARB bumper on it the first few months after we had bought it. But my wife vetoed my purchase. Buying a 1000$(US) bumper to replace $1000(US) of plastic made sense to me. But sadly not to my wife. So the Campho-Phenique on the wound of the wreck was when Charlie Blankenship of Sports and Classics told me after looking at the damage, “if you had an ARB bumper on there, you wouldn’t have had any damage.” So my advice to all you Discovery owners, buy a better bumper FRONT and REAR. And my own advice is to attempt to never buy another vehicle that in a 10mph wreck, disintegrates on impact.

Have you ever thought about this? Look around, nearly every car has plastic crap bumpers. You can’t buy anything short of a truck that has metal bumpers. And even in those there are a lot of plastic bits.

Let’s move on to the ranting evaluation.

I did not like the following about the Discovery 2 design.

Getting in and out of the back seat. Doors did not open far enough and the portal was was too small. If the doors would have opened to 90 degrees or 6 inches were added to the wheel base they would have sold a hundred thousand more of these in the US.

The back door opened to the side. You could not haul any over length items due to the method in which the door opened. The lift gate on the Range Rover is more practical for “working vehicles”.

Integrated hub/wheel sensors. You have to replace the entire hub (400$ part, eight hours labor) to swap out a 25$ part. Very poor design. The famous Three Amigos began glowing one month out of warranty.

Placement of the coil packs. Placing the coil packs behind the engine under the cowling is stupid. You have to be a magician to reach the plug wires or disassemble the top of the engine to replace them. I have been told this can be done without this disassembling but with the addition of the next “stupid add-on” it is impossible.

Pre-heater pollution control crap. They fitted a heated air pump that failed twice in 95,000 miles of driving to the vehicle to reduce emissions. I’m pretty sure the idea, while probably a good one, was put in place to appease some jackass Kalifornia congressman or woman who is hell bent for leather to save the planet. About a year after that emission control standard was enacted another even more stupid standard was released making that feature totally unnecessary/out-dated.

Rear view too obstructed. This is a trend I’ve noticed lately with all cars. You just can’t see out the back to back up or change lanes. Thank God for mirrors and good bumpers…oh wait not that last part. I am very spoiled after driving my 1993 Range Rover. You can see very well out of every window.

Plastic bumpers. Seriously? W.T.F?

Black interior. I know it’s cosmetic, but I’ll never own another black interior automobile. It never looked clean, no matter how much cleaning you did.

18 inch wheels. Who came up with that? And why couldn’t you at least match the diameter of the wheels you intended to ship with the vehicle? With the factory 18 inch wheels the speedometer was five miles per hour off (slow). So when you were blazing down the highway at 75mph you were really only going 70mph. I’m pretty sure this was a miles per gallon cheat. Funny thing was I reported a problem to the dealer about a lag between 3rd gear and 4th gear. And they said it was due to OVER SIZED TIRES. That’s strange, because those are the exact size tire shipped on the S model of the Discovery.

CD changer location. On the Range Rover Classic the CD changer is located in the rear of the vehicle. On the Discovery it is located under the passenger seat. It is very difficult to eject the magazine, especially with a light wave sucking black interior.

Rear seats. They simply felt like they were an after thought. They sat up too far, meaning if they had reclined just another 10 degrees they would have been much, much better.

Added after contemplation and sorting of spares in the garage.

Wipers didn’t work when the temperature dropped below 30 degrees. I’m pretty sure this was the relay under the dash as I could hear it clicking when it did work. As the cab heated up the wipers would work as designed.

Headlights wouldn’t come on when the temperature dropped below 25 degrees. Again I think this was a relay. You could turn on the switch and about 20 seconds later the lights would come on.

Climate control center. When you started up the Disco you could just about be guaranteed that the air would not come out of the vents you had set upon exit. It was not uncommon that I would cycle through the settings to get the air coming out of the correct vents. Often I would cycle each option just to get back to the setting the system was set to. Heating up. I also didn’t like the way the cabin would heat up on those magical days when the outside temperature as perfect and you didn’t need the air conditioner. I would turn off the climate control and sure enough the cabin would feel like the heater was on just a few minutes later. In the later days I could hear the passenger side dampers slapping shut randomly. Dual climate control is a silly feature. You could have the heater blowing on one side of the car while the AC was blowing on the other. In my opinion a complicated system riddled with things that fail.

Unserviceable parts. The first thing you read about when buying a Discovery is replacing or rebuilding the center drive shaft. For a vehicle with roots in the Savannah crossing masterpieces of Africa, why would you build a DRIVE SHAFT that you couldn’t lubricate? Why would a dealership put ANOTHER unserviceable drive shaft on after it failed? Where was the thinking on that one design engineers? I’ll give you that it perhaps wasn’t the design engineers, so where was the thinking on that one, parts sourcing manager guy/girl?

Noisy transfer box differential. It is a common problem that Discovery’s have a high pitched whine come from the transfer case. After replacing the oil at the scheduled maintenance points you can reduce the noise but it never really quite goes away.

Now for the good things…

I liked the front seats. It was comfortable especially for a guy with a bad back. The back seats were nice but as I mentioned above if they had reclined a bit they would have been better.

The 4.6 engine. I liked the responsiveness and power. The gas mileage was totally crappy at an average of 12.5 miles per gallon. But this thing was just short of a hot rod. If there was a nice tuned diesel under the bonnet, I would have paid to have the wreck repaired.

Sound system. Only a few times did I wish the dial had “gone to eleven” as they say.

Every time I heard, “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour. The sound system responded well, it was loud and it sounded good, but it needed an eleven.

Off-road. I only had her off-road a few times. Even with the Three Amigos glowing at me it never gave me a reason to cuss her. Only one time did it fail me when one wheel came off the ground trying to park at Norman High’s soccer and softball facility. We had to adjust how we parked that day.

Roomy cargo area. The one gripe I have about my Range Rover Classic is the lack of space behind the rear seats. I have slept in the back of my Disco and my Classic and the Disco was better due to the height of the space. You can really pack in the gear and since you can’t see out the back even when it’s empty, you really don’t notice it too much when it’s full of reenacting gear.

The design looked good. I’ve seen all manner of this model decked out from full on expedition mode to plain Janes running soccer moms to their favorite latte watering holes and the Land Rover Discoverys always look good.

Will you ever buy another one?
As I learned from Sean Connery, “Never say never, again”. If I did buy one I would probably look for a 1999 Series 1. And the closer it was to simple workhorse the better. And if I could find a rare diesel import all the better. I would prefer to own a Series Landy for a toy. So who knows.

Well that’s about it. I don’t think anything else I could say would be terribly constructive or helpful for my readers. I’m gonna miss my Discovery even though I hated so much about it. It managed to grow on me. I guess the old saying, “it’s a Land Rover thing you wouldn’t understand” really fit for this Land Rover. I’ve never been so excited and at the same time disappointed by a vehicle.

Thanks for reading and Happy Rovering.

One thought on “R.I.P. 2003 Discovery

I love to hear from my readers, leave a reply

%d bloggers like this: