In 2004 the new Discovery 3 introduced integrated body frame technology in which a rigid monocoque body was mounted on a strong chassis. In fact, the principle had already been seen on Range Rover P38, but the new vehicle had a safer, impact-absorbing chassis front end.
It was Land Rover’s first vehicle to incorporate a chassis with independent suspension, and while air suspension is the staple for Discovery 3 and 4, D3 could be ordered on coil springs during its early production. Power was provided by the new super-smooth and responsive 2.7-litre TDV6 diesel (joint Peugeot development), and a 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine of which very few were sold in the UK.
The drivetrain included a six-speed manual and auto gearbox driving through a new transfer box featuring electric ratio change. With a 113 inch wheelbase the D3 was altogether bigger than the D2 and the only connection between the two vehicles were the subtle styling cues. The third row of seats now folded flat into the loadspace floor with the spare wheel located underneath the rear body overhang. D3 was the first vehicle with Land Rover’s Terrain Response system which allowed the driver to select a pre-programmed amalgam of the electronic suspension, traction, transmission and engine controls to best suit the terrain or road conditions. D3 re-wrote the Discovery rule book, turning the marque into a powerful, quiet, super-safe, long distance cruiser and workhorse that was easy to drive and capable of any task thrown at it. Discovery 4 bettered the theme with more power through an eight-speed ZF auto transmission and an increasingly high level of refinement that was encroaching on Range Rover standards.
WHICH ONE FOR YOU?
There is little to choose between a Discovery 3 and 4 because we usually opt for the best example we can afford. D3’s cabin is a tad ultilitarian on the lower spec models and needs optional or up-spec trim to brighten the living space. Naturally, D4 has the best engine and has a more ergonomic and pleasing interior layout for the driver. Running costs are similar throughout, though it’s worth noting that road tax is significantly lower on pre-31st March 2006 models. Commercial variants are the classiest vans on the road.
The early coil-spring suspension Discovery 3s do not have Terrain Response, but they give an acceptable ride without the concern of air suspension maintenance. Standard 17-inch wheels ride well, but optional larger sizes with lower profile tyres can be noisy and detract from ride comfort.
All vehicles have their teething troubles and the Discovery 3 was no exception. But issues have long been resolved and Discovery 4 has no particular concerns. It really is the ultimate Discovery. Discovery 3s that have been worked hard with minimal maintenance will look that way, and are to be avoided. It’s important to see a good and complete service history, and preferably all of it with a franchised dealer
or a good independent specialist. Poor or patchy maintenance is likely to result in problems later.
Ask for proof that cam belt and fuel pump drive belt replacement has been carried out at the appropriate service intervals – verbal assurance will not do. Avoid rattling 2.7 engines, especially those with a dubious oil change record. Crankshaft problems on 2.7 engines are rarer than forums suggest, and the cause is associated with lack of oil and filter changes and/or cheap consumables. Smoke may be due to EGR valve problems, but generally these are sound engines, especially the 3.0-litre.
As independent suspension vehicles with multiple wheel alignment adjusters, it’s important to examine the tyres for unusual or excessive wear patterns. The cause is usually worn suspension bushes and/or joints, and renewal of these needs to be followed up by a four-wheel alignment check. Listen for knocks from worn suspension arm ball joints when driving over bumps. Renewal of bushes and joints entails removing the suspension components, and bolts are often seized, adding to labour time. Lower the air suspension using the driver’s switch, then check it rises to its maximum within a few seconds. If not, suspect a tired compressor. A floating feel when driving is caused by tired suspension dampers. On D3, open the door to listen for excessive noise when applying the park brake. A screech can be expensive.
Body and chassis
No real problems here, but watch for surface rust developing on early chassis and underside of sills.
SERVICING AND REPLACEMENT PARTS
All models are fully supplied by Land Rover, dealers and independents for parts, repairs and servicing.
SPECIFICATIONS Discovery 3
• 2.7-litre V6 turbo diesel, 190 bhp, 324 lb-ft torque
• 4.4-litre Jaguar V8 petrol, 300 bhp, 313 lb-ft
• 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel, 244 bhp, 442 lb-ft torque
Poor: £4000 – £6000
Average: £6000 – £9000
Good: £9000 – £17,000
Excellent: £17,000 – £30,000
Average: £16000 – £20000
Good: £20000 – £25,000
Excellent: £25,000 – £60,000