Land Rover Discovery 3 2021 review

The Discovery 3 is a large, capable seven-seat SUV sold between 2004 and 2009

£8,250
Average price
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1
Out of 5

Pros

  • Hugely capable off-road
  • Roomy interior
  • Comfortable ride

Cons

  • High running costs
  • Questionable reliability
  • Sluggish 2.7-litre engine
  • MPG

    0 - 0

  • CO2

    0 - 0 g/km

Model review

Though it might be the Defender and Range Rover that are Land Rover’s most coveted models,  another model that shouldn’t be forgotten about is the Discovery – the roomiest and most family-focused model of the brand’s range. 

It first arrived in 1989 as a more utilitarian model, but has evolved over the years to become more upmarket and luxurious, though still being just as capable off-road as it’s always been. 

The biggest change in the Discovery, though, came in the third generation which arrived in 2004, when the firm was under the ownership of Ford. Though retaining some noticeable cues from its predecessor – including the stepped roofline and steeply raked windscreen – it represented a big shift. Fitted with the same air suspension system as a Range Rover and being fitted with an advanced range of electronic four-wheel-drive settings, it represented a big shift for the Discovery. 

It would go on to win a whole range of awards from the motoring press.

Latest model

The only real changes that happened to the Discovery 3 during its lifetime occurred in 2008 with the introduction of a slightly revised model. Changes included a revised bumper, more body-coloured detailing and a new 19-inch alloy wheel design. Three new colours – Bournville, Galway Green and Santorini Black – were also introduced, while new interior trim was available alongside an updated Bluetooth system. 

Land Rover would replace it with the Discovery 4 in 2009, which – though little more than a mid-life update – introduced new engines and more in the way of technology. 

Value for money

By modern day standards, the Discovery 3’s starting price of less than £30,000 seems like terrific value for money. That said, some of the lower-spec models don’t get as much standard equipment as you might expect – missing out on features like leather upholstery and cruise control, which you’d expect on a model of this size and luxury. 

When it comes to used examples today, very high-mileage but usable examples are available from just £4,000, though you’ll need to factor plenty more money into the running costs of one. You’ll have to double that budget for a tidy lower mileage model, while prices rise to more than £10,000 for the best versions.

Looks and image

Though the Discovery 3 might soon be two decades old, its design has aged remarkably well, and it still looks quite appealing even by modern standards. The huge dimensions and chunky, boxy shape also make it stand out on the road and it still has plenty of presence even next to far more modern rivals. 

Inside is where the Discovery starts to show its age, wth old-fashioned dials, while the satellite navigation system fitted to higher-spec models has aged badly – as is the case with any system from this period, though. What can’t be faulted is the impressive quality and sturdiness to the interior – it truly feels built to last. If you fancy something a bit modern inside, though, it could be worth considering the Discovery 4 successor instead.

The Discovery 3 is also a very impressive performer behind the wheel. Granted, you won’t buy it for its sportiness, but where comfort and refinement are concerned, it remains superb. It’s also no less capable off-road, either – quite the opposite in fact, thanks to its impressive suite of rugged settings that are available. 

Space and practicality

Unsurprising for such a large model, the Discovery 3’s interior is quite simply vast. Most models you’ll see for sale will have seven seats, though it’s always worth checking before signing on the dotted line. 

Even with seven seats in place, it offers 280 litres of boot space, while with five seats in position, it measures an enormous 1,124 litres. Meanwhile if you have just two seats in place, its 1,950 litres of space could rival that of a van. The seats are quite heavy to fold, though have a reassuringly sturdy feel to them. You could quite easily seat seven adults in the Discovery, too.

Engines

The vast majority of Discovery 3 models you’ll see for sale will feature a diesel engine under their bonnet – specifically a 190bhp turbocharged 2.7-litre unit. Either mated to a manual or more common automatic gearbox, it can take this Land Rover from 0-60mph in 11 seconds and on to a top speed of 112mph. 

Land Rover did offer the model with a huge 4.4-litre petrol V8 engine, though. Serving up a sizeable 295bhp, it means this large SUV can hit 60mph in 8.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 121mph. 

Running costs

Regardless of the Discovery 3 you go for, you should expect rather steep running costs. For starters, those big engines – even the diesel – will mean you’ll struggle to get more than 30mpg, while that V8 petrol will quickly put a whole in your wallet with its 18.8mpg fuel economy figure. 

You should also be aware of the road tax bills. Though models registered before April 2006 will cost £340 a year in tax, those after that date will cost an eye-watering £600 annually. 

Servicing and maintenance costs are likely to be pricey, too, especially as things begin to fail and need replacing. 

Things to look out for

When it comes to reliability, the Discovery 3 is widely known for having plenty of things to go wrong. The electrics can be a big problem, so be sure to check everything is working as it should, and be cautious if there is something that doesn’t. That clever adaptive suspension setup can also cause havoc, and be expensive to fix. In short, we’d not be buying a Discovery 3 without setting aside plenty of cash to keep it on the road, and also be sure to have it mechanically inspected before purchasing.

Rivals

If you’re looking for a large SUV of a similar age, you should consider an Audi Q7. Volvo XC90 and the Mercedes ML. If you want a Discovery 3 purely for its off-roading capability, take a look at a Nissan Pathfinder or Toyota Land Cruiser. 

Depreciation

With the Discovery 3 not being on sale since 2009, most models will have lost the majority of their value. Though well-maintained low-mileage examples can still be worth £10,000, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about depreciation, providing examples are kept in presentable condition both mechanically and cosmetically. 

Trims explained

There are 6 trims in total for the Land Rover Discovery 3

Discovery 3

The standard trim on the Discovery 3 is simply known by the car’s name, with standard equipment including air conditioning, electric windows and 17-inch alloy wheels. Five-seat versions sit on the standard steel suspension, while seven-seat models get the adjustable air suspension setup.

From £4,000 (used)

S

The ‘S’ trim introduced features such as 18--inch alloy wheels, cruise control, more stylish roof rails and Xenon headlights.

From £4,000 (used)

GS

The S trim was replaced in 2006 and split into two grades – GS and XS. GS models came with the adaptive air suspension system as standard, along with rear parking sensors.

From £5,000 (used)

XS

Meanwhile the XS versions were slightly more upmarket, gaining leather upholstery, cruise control and satellite navigation.

From £4,500 (used)

SE

All SE models come with heated front seat and all-round parking sensors, while an automatic gearbox is fitted to all versions.

From £4,000 (used)

HSE

At the top of the range, the HSE comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, all-round heated seats, Bluetooth and an upmarket panoramic sunroof.

From £4,500 (used)

Summary

  1. Large SUV sold between 2004 and 2009
  2. Very comfortable and refined
  3. Impressive off-road
  4. Steep running costs
  5. Not known for its reliability
  6. Classy styling
  7. Sturdy interior
  8. Not especially well-equipped in low specs
  9. Hugely practical
  10. A very capable large SUV, but be aware of pricey upkeep

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