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Reader test: Discovery 3

2010-01-19 09:17

Leendert Haasbroek, Midrand

My 2006 Discovery 3 S is now just over three years old with about 73 000km traveled.  

I use it for a wide range of duties, including driving long distances on tar and gravel, in stop-start traffic, some off-road work and towing a heavy boat. It has the 161 kW four litre V6 petrol engine.

Some noteworthy features include the height-adjustable air suspension, terrain response, fourteen-speed automatic gearbox with sports and manual modes, seven seats, privacy glazing, eight airbags, and three sun roofs!


It is a huge vehicle – with passengers and some luggage it weighs over three tons. Technically you need a special driver’s license as the typical driver’s license is only for vehicles up to three tons!

The box-like exterior is mirrored inside to give lots of useable space for luggage and passengers. With the second and third rows folded down you can fit fairly bulky items.

The interior is uncluttered and easy to keep clean, and the light colours used on the dashboard and door panels give a sense of freshness. I noticed relatively modest dust buildup in the vehicle I think due to the triple-layer door-rubber seals. This does come with some disadvantages – best to dry the door rubbers after a car wash or driving in rain as they easily perish. The only interior distraction is that some of the hard plastics make an unsophisticated “crackle” sounds if you touch it.

Staying on the road

The vehicle is at its best cruising with speed control dialed in at about 110km/h. The ride is comfortable and quiet (all those door rubbers help). It is nearly impossible to get the gearbox confused when going through different gradients and throttle positions.

Changeovers are very smooth – in fact at times the gearbox can be mistaken for a CVT. You can also switch to sports mode which changes gears at higher engine revolutions where the engine makes an inspiring NASCAR-like sound.  

Average fuel consumption can be anything from 11 to 15 l/100 km depending on the terrain. Driving in stop-start heavy traffic is painful as the vehicle’s weight is emphasised due to all the braking and accelerating. Towing heavy stuff is a pleasure as the load behind is tempered by by the self-leveling suspension, but however more power would be welcome when towing over mountains.

Taking it off-road

Off-road the vehicle is easy to position accurately when maneouvering tight spaces through bushes and rocks. The turning circle of only 11 meters helps. You do not have to use the terrain response, but it does help to get over very challenging obstacles. The most impressive mode is “rock crawl” which lets it step over loose boulders on a steep gradient without moving them!  

The large windows and stadium-like seating make the vehicle an excellent game viewer. The privacy glazing helps to limit heat buildup in the vehicle but is too dark at sundown forcing one to wind down windows in order to enjoy the view.   


Servicing until the maintenance plan expired at 60 000km was done at Land Rover Centurion.  LRC also repaired under warranty perished door rubbers, a tailgate latch, a suspension height sensor and a park brake sensor that became faulty.  

None of these items left me stranded due to several backup systems, for example the tailgate latch and park brake have manual overrides and the suspension has a safe mode.  You get a sense of over engineering when you experience this which is not a bad thing.  

Since 60 000 km I’ve been servicing at an Independent as I learned many owners are doing to limit costs and time the vehicle is away. Costs for routine services range from R1 500 to R5 000 depending on items' state of wear.

At a respectable 68 000km I replaced all four tyres – two tyres had flat spots possibly due to the suspension height sensor malfunction – so I replaced all four simultaneously as recommended for all-wheel drives.

The Disco 3 is huge, heavy, extremely capable, versatile, and easy to drive. I am not alone in being satisfied with my Disco 3 as confirmed by Top Gear and many JD Power surveys on reliability and customer satisfaction!

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