As the original luxury SUV, the Land Rover Range Rover is a tough act to follow. However, it was, by one of its stable mates, no less, when the Land Rover Discovery was introduced in 1989.
In this article, we dive deep into the best and worst years for Discovery.
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The best and worst years for Land Rover Discovery are:
The Land Rover Discovery has become as iconic as the larger Range Rover. However, that doesn’t mean it is without problems for some models, even though it has become luxurious. The worst years were 1989 to 2002, and its best years were 1989 and 2017 to the current model years.
As you’ll notice, Discovery was one of the best and worst in 1989, its first year of production. This model was purely utilitarian, with the first production year and a three-door hatch.
It was different enough than other SUVs of the day to stand out from the crowd. However, it would be several years before the luxury of the larger Ranger Rover encroached on its ruggedness.
However, today’s Land Rover Discovery has become as luxurious as its larger counterpart and marque that other automakers aspire to be.
In its third generation of production, the Land Rover Discovery has come a long way since its 1989 debut. But unfortunately, the Land Rover Discovery had the most problems in those initial years of production.
The early Land Rover Discovery’s were some of the worst
As the new kid on the block, it took Rover a few years to work the kinks from their latest model.
However, the engine used in those years of production was built from the plans of a General Motors V8, and it was problematic for every year it was used.
The issue with the early Land Rover Discovery was the blown head gaskets of the engine.
That is a significant issue and an expensive repair and was a problem that plagued Discovery from the start.
From 1994 to 2004, the worst problems with the Land Rover Discovery:
- Head gaskets of the V8 petrol engines
- Failure of the front differential
- Faulty power windows
- Sticky ignition switches
- Sticky switch for the windshield wipers
- Leaky deicer on the throttle body
- Failure of the main engine bearing (1998)
- Clogged radiator (now this can cause overheating, which can cause a blown head gasket.
- Failure of the rear cargo hatch locking mechanism
What Land Rover Discovery years are the most reliable?
In the third generation (2019 to 2023) of the Land Rover Discovery Series of SUVs, the latter years are the most reliable.
However, as the body has changed with each generation, so has engineering.
1989 Land Rover Discovery
This model falls into both the good and bad categories. The 1989 Land Rover Discovery was a fresh face in a rapidly growing line-up of mid-size SUVs.
However, it carried the panache of British heritage, pushing its following beyond its faults.
The first model was a three-door, two doors, and a hatch, but a four-door was released in 1990. Although the two-door can seat five, seating access to the back seat requires contortions for getting in and out of the vehicle.
Adding two doors, turning it into a five-door hatch, made the Discovery more appealing to families. As the years have rolled forward, the Discovery has evolved from the utilitarian vehicle it was at the beginning to one of the most luxurious mid-sized SUVs sold today.
2009-2016 Land Rover Discovery LR4
As they aged, the Land Rover Discovery became more reliable. After the faults of the first-gen models, the Discovery 4, built between 2009 and 2016, was the most dependable model.
Also, families like this model as it has Isofix on the front seats as well.
By this time, the General Motors engine had been replaced by a 5.0-liter V-8 designed in-house.
It was based on the Jaguars V8. Other engine options for this series of the Discovery are a petrol V6 and two V6 diesel models.
What Land Rover Discovery years should you avoid?
The early years of the Land Rover Discovery’s development were lackluster. The continued issue with blown head gaskets tainted the brands’ reliability scores.
Based on the Range Rover, a larger SUV, Land Rover set out to build a smaller version of its icon.
So, they did, and it was a winner that has set the pace for every other mid-size SUV on the market.
The Land Rover Discovery was designed to give more people the convenience of a Range Rover-type vehicle at a lower price point. The trend of SUVs in the 1980s saw many companies develop this style of vehicle. The Land Rover Discovery, in its first generation, was the perfect vehicle to go head-to-head with the competition.
The mid-size Discovery is pricier than many SUVs against which it competes. However, it also has more luxurious appointments and an original SUV to mimic.
That heritage sets it apart from the many mid-sized SUVs.
There were worse years than others. However, you should avoid buying the following years of the Land Rover Discovery.
1989 to 2008 Land Rover Discovery
Every model year of this nine-year run was plagued with engine and electrical issues. But, if you can find one that someone has modified and taken care of, it is a fine SUV to own.
However, if you find what appears to be a great deal in that date range, because it likely has overheating issues, or a bad head gasket, the above vintages of a Land Rover Discovery can cost between $15,000 to $30,000 if they have been taken care of.
2017 and 2018 Land Rover Discovery
Of the newer Discovery models, the ratings for the 2018 model are abysmal. 3.0 on Edmunds. Of course, worse ratings are out there, but they are hard to find. So, what went wrong?
One common issue with the 2017 and 2018 Land Rover Discovery is the diesel-powered models drink DEF like a thirsty runner. This is a problem because DEF is expensive, and today’s diesel engines will not run properly without it.
Several owners complained of lengthy repair times for their 2017 and 2018 Discovery. Of course, a few days can be average, but a few weeks is not.
Having a new car in the shop for that length of time can be frustrating and reflected in the ratings given to it by current owners.
Any model that is out of warranty
Many of the problems that can go wrong with a Land Rover Discovery, of any vintage, are expensive.
Although a warranty will not prevent your Discovery from breaking down, it will pay for what does break.
Older Discovery’s are better suited for fixing up and driving on sunny days than as a daily driver. On the other hand, a new Land Rover should serve you well for many years.
Even if it does need to visit the shop on occasion.
What are some typical problems with the Land Rover Discovery models?
Note: We have a full article here on the Land Rover models with the most recalls.
However, it is still a problem that plagues Discovery to this day for those who own these SUVs. Other issues that have plagued the Discovery over the years include:
- Electrical problems
- Oil leakage
- Steering shaft problems
- Airbag malfunctions
- Parking brake failures
- Problems with the rear hatch
The third generation Land Rover Discovery (2017 to present) dropped the General Motors V8 as power and offered several engine options. From a 3.0L Supercharged V6 to a 355-horsepower electric hybrid.
The Land Rover Discovery hybrid system mates an inline 6-cylinder with electric motors. This configuration offers quick take-offs from the line and 6.2 seconds from zero to 60 miles per hour.
The head gasket issue was the most common problem with the early model Land Rover Discovery. A blown head gasket can ruin an engine; many were destroyed and required replacement during that period.
Other issues were electrical, and some owners have complained that the infotainment system is glitchy. This information is according to an Edmunds review of the Discovery.
Whatever year or make SUV you are considering, research it first, and you may save yourself many headaches down the road.
ⓘ The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.