Thinking of buying a Discovery 1? First read our comprehensive Buying Guide.
The Discovery was launched in 1990 at the time of the Defender. It shared much of Defender’s running gear including a separate chassis, beam axles, and diesel engines and transmission, though engine performance and gearing ratios were slightly uprated for the Discovery.
The body styling was revolutionary. It built on the Range Rover theme of being a comfortable road and cross-country vehicle, but with a bias toward load carrying, family practical use and commercial applications. Alpine roof lights gave a nod to the traditional Land Rover ultility vehicles, ensuring a visible family link. Inside, the Discovery introduced stadium seating in which the rear seats are higher than the fronts to increase passenger visibility, which instigated the familiar stepped roof design. Discovery soon became the outdoor family’s general-purpose vehicle because it did everything including towing, long distance travel, commuting and serious off-road work. In 1995 it became Land Rover’s best-selling model.
Discovery 1 joined the Land Rover line-up with a choice of two petrol engines: the now rare 2.0-litre Mpi Rover engine and the familiar Rover V8 in 3.5-litre form, followed by the 3.9EFi. The first diesel offering was the 200Tdi, followed in 1994 by the 300Tdi. Electronic control hadn’t yet appeared on the diesels, though the very last 300Tdi models with automatic transmission gained the early Electronic Diesel Control (EDC). A properly serviced Tdi diesel will stay reliable for as long as it’s looked after, regardless of mileage. Early Conran interior is becoming rare and gives a classic contrast from later models.
WHAT TO CHECK
Go for the underbody: inner sills (behind the plastic trim) and adjoining floor, inner wings and adjoining bulkhead areas, and the floor of the rear load bay. Rear seat belt anchor points are vulnerable to rust. Check for engine exhaust smoke which may be an EGR issue or general wear, and lift the oil cap while the engine is running to check crankcase pressure – if oil fumes pour out there is a restriction in the crankcase ventilation or bore/piston wear. But engines are usually good. Confirm the cam belt has been replaced at 70,000 miles intervals. The drivetrain is common with other models of the era and presents no problems if properly maintained and driven. Concerns over early gearbox mainshaft wear must, by now, have been addressed on all Discoverys.
REASONS TO BUY
First class off-road ability plus good road manners, a capacious load bay and up to seven seats make this the most versatile Land Rover of its time. Currently, they are at bargain prices and are a delight to drive. Good chassis. Auto transmission is reliable, but far from sprightly. Award-winning tow car.
Many are now being run on a shoestring until they drop. That means they need a serious amount of work to turn them into reliable enthusiast vehicles. Underbody and inner sill corrosion can be terminal. Sunroof leaks are difficult to cure.
200Tdi: 1989-1994. 2.5-litre turbo diesel. 111 bhp, 195 lb-ft torque.
LT77S five-speed transmission.
300Tdi. 1994-1998. 2.5-litre turbo diesel. 111 bhp, 195 lb-ft torque.
R380 five-speed transmission.
V8s as Range Rover Classic.
Project/trade: £300 – £800
Average: £800 – £2400
Good: £2400 – £4000
Excellent: £4000 – £6900