Life with a Land Rover, pt.1

Off-road driving, 4x4ing and exploring random roads are all pretty common activities among climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Quite often a slightly off-road-friendly vehicle with all-wheel-drive, such as a Subaru, is enough, especially when it comes to well-travelled dirt roads. Venture a little bit more off the beaten path, however, and a proper truck starts to show its merit, with higher clearance, better off-road traction control and more space for all your camping, and off-roading, needs.

When it comes to vehicles, there are two main types of people: those that just want simple, reliable transportation to get from point A to B, and those that want something more out of their car, something intangible; let’s just call it character. I am most definitely the latter, which is how I’ve ended up with a 2004 Land Rover Discovery 2, rather than the more commonly seen Japanese-produced SUVs and pickups.

My decision to get a Land Rover did not come lightly. I was pretty much set on a 1999 Toyota 4Runner (arguably the best year for those trucks) but a few random links from various forums, and some related web searches later, I switched my search for a Discovery 2. I initially got a 2003, however that truck had an unfortunate meeting with a snowbank and had to be written off. I absolutely loved it, however, and decided to get another one. My time with the 2003 taught me a few things about the Land Rovers, and I decided to search for a 2004, as that was the only year that came with a Centre Diff Lock fitted as standard. I’ve now had my 2004 for almost three months and couldn’t be happier.

Land Rovers have a notorious reputation for ‘British engineering’ i.e. everything’s great as long as it works, but it doesn’t always work. During my research, I found a common saying about these trucks: “What do you call a Land Rover that’s not leaking?” “Empty.” I guess that sums up what seems to be the typical Land Rover experience…

However, the 2004 D2’s are the last of the ‘simple’ trucks, i.e. with somewhat minimal electronic aids. As mentioned, they also have a CDL, a feature that’s already come in handy a couple times. Another feature that attracted me to this truck are the solid axles front and back attached to a massively overbuilt frame, with simple coil spring suspension: an ideal base for a lift or further modifications. It’s also a unique vehicle, with some very cool storage options inside, and a lot more room than initially appears.

Turning around about halfway up a loose, rocky slope somewhere on Stansbury Island, Utah. I hadn’t seen any other vehicles there that day, so opted to go only as far as I could get without locking the diff, just in case I actually got a bit stuck and needed something extra to get myself out…

From everything I’ve read, the biggest potential issue comes from overheating the engine, which is an aluminum block, so a potential overheat could damage the cylinder liners resulting in a whole engine rebuild. Keeping the fluids topped off, and ensuring the cooling system is running well is of utmost importance. So far, no issues here, even after a 14-hour, 1100km day in temps from 29-34C.

About the only time I miss the BMW… the Disco tops out at around 70mph (110kmh or so).

The truck has phenomenal storage options inside, my favourite being the two large storage bins in the back which fit a lot more stuff than it first seems they would. There are also a lot of options for map and gear storage at the front, and a few more pockets by the passenger compartment. I’ve taken out two-thirds of the rear seats which opens up enough room to fit two mountain bikes, plus enough room left over for a full complement of camping gear (and even a massive paraglider alongside). Remove the bikes and there is enough room for me to sleep inside (i.e. about 180cm of length). I also have a giant 30-qt Pelican marine cooler pretty much permanently lashed to the inside which takes up about half the floor space in the ’trunk’ (did I mention all the lashing / attachment options in the back? They’re awesome!!)

The headliner has tons of storage for maps, wallet, whatever.

There are two storage nets above the rear seats, and I’ve also appropriated the grab handles into a shirt hanging rack.

I love the three cupholders, which also have inserts that when removed, make them big enough to fit a 1L Nalgene.

I’ve managed to squeeze the power inverter between the centre console and the driver’s seat for easy access and charging of my Macbook, iPad, camera batteries, etc.

I absolutely love that nothing bings when the doors are open, or you don’t have your seatbelt on. You can keep any or all doors open without a single light staying on, and there’s a ton of headroom in the back: easily more than enough for me to comfortably sit with the rear door open and work inside.

The back seat serves as my mobile office storage…

The rear door opens 90-degrees wide for easy access. I’ve managed to attach/stash an axe, a hatchet, lug nut breaker bar, two saws, a pair of gloves and all my bungee cords on the back door.

Set up for one-person sleeping, the giant Pelican cooler takes up almost half the width of the trunk. Tons of lash points for keeping bits secure.

Writing this article in the back while enjoying some Utah sunshine…

The cooler also works well as a table.

It’s also incredibly capable, even though I have managed to get it stuck twice already, once in a couple feet of wet, slushy snow over slick ice, and another in a deeper-than-expected mud puddle. But other than those two instances, it crawls up every random little road or trail, no matter how narrow, rocky or steep. It just basically keeps going. I more often than not will stop advancing and retreat for fear of getting stuck much further up the trail than is feasible to get easily rescued — the capability of this truck in ‘standard 4wd’ mode is just phenomenal, and I’ve been trying to save 4-low and the CDL for when I get stuck and need to try and get out…

Surprisingly mileage has been much better than I expected, especially for a truck on heavy, E-rated, 31.5” tires (stock tire size equates to 29”: I’m running 265/65/18, stock is 245/55/18). I’m averaging about 15-16 L/100km, mostly highway driving at 100-110km/h, which is similar to a 2013 Tacoma I ran previously. All-city driving drops this to 18-19 L/100km. Not bad for an old-school 4.6L V8 with only a 4-speed transmission! The D2 does require 91-octane fuel, so it is a bit more expensive to run than some other engines, but I’m used to ‘premium’ fuel for my vehicles so this isn’t an issue.

If you’re not sleeping in it, two mountain bikes fit inside without issue, and the truck is tall enough inside that you don’t even need to drop the seatposts!

The Disco2 has 9.7” of clearance under the diffs, around 10.5” under the axles, and around 12” under the body. Approach angles are insane. Those are great numbers for a stock truck, and I’ve yet to bash a rock or get hung up on any ruts.

And, most interestingly, it’s also an incredible conversation topic, with most of my friends expressing keen interest and even random strangers in parking lots from Canmore to Salt Lake City asking questions and wanting to know more. And it hasn’t even been modified, yet!

I’ve somehow managed to put almost 12000km on the truck in under three months: I guess the SLC roadtrip is around 3500km, and each weekend we spend in Golden is around 700km, so it all adds up. But, I’ve loved every single minute, from bouncing around on dirt roads in BC to endless miles on the Interstates of Montana and Idaho. It’s been an awesome truck and I’m looking forward to many more road trips and exploration excursions with the Disco — stay tuned for updates!

Model: 2004 Land Rover Discovery SE
Purchased: May 2017
Km at purchase: 160000
Km Aug 1, 2017: 170136
Unplanned maintenance costs: none
Regular maintenance costs: $145 (oil change)
Parts broken: right rear plastic trim (not fixed yet), ripped off trim above rear bumper on right side (no damage, went back on)
Current mods: 1” spacers
Planned mods: 2-3” lift, sliders
Current issues: 4-lo shift cable has come loose a couple weeks or so ago, a simple fix that I just haven’t gotten to yet

One thought on “Life with a Land Rover, pt.1

  1. Cody Blank says:

    “Unplanned maintenance costs: none (YET….ominous silence)”

    FYP 😛

    Sick setup you’ve figured out there.

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