Sunday, June 3, 2012

Land Rover Discovery - 10 Reasons why...

Footloose 4x4 prepared Discovery
Ten reasons why I think an aging Land Rover Discovery is currently the best choice as a Trans-Africa overland vehicle when purchasing, equipping, modifying and departing the UK.
Here's the scenario: You are an independent overlander and have £20000 to find a vehicle, complete your dream Trans-Africa overland trip, and have enough money to do the main tourist activities like seeing the Gorillas and climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in East Africa.  That means no more than £7000 on the vehicle and £14k for the trip...

Here's my ten reasons:

Autotrader UK Search
1 - Price Point:  A quick search will reveal the vast difference in private sales between Land Rover Discovery and Toyota Land Cruisers.  This simply means you can easily find something in your vehicle budget to purchase a vehicle. Allowing for a spend of £7000 (purchase & mods) will give you an average age and mileage Discovery. (Compare Discovery and Land Cruiser searches below)

2 - Parts Availability:  Thanks to the fact that the Discovery has been a good seller in the UK, there are an abundance of 2nd hand and new parts available.  The cost involved in travelling with a spare starter motor, water pump and alternator won't break the budget.   A quick search on Ebay UK has new alternators for a 300tdi averaging £90 per unit.

SA Overland
3 - Modifications:  Opting for the simpler 300Tdi Discovery, the modifications to the vehicle mean that parts and experience in making the changes are tried and tested. Here are a few that won't impact the structural stability of the vehicle:
  • 2nd Battery - The engine bay has sufficient space to add a 2nd battery (one near each headlight).
  • 2" Lift - Adding a 50mm lift kit through the suspension (coils and shocks) allows for that extra articulation when the conditions get rough.
  • Intercooler upgrade if you think you need the additional power
  • Turbo upgrade - as above, if you think you need the power due to the overloading with equipment.
  • Minimum engine electrics (except on the 300tdi ES model with automatic transmission and ABS brakes)
4 - External modifications:  Enough eternal modifications to keep you dreaming, and generally affordable to keep your budget in line...
  • Bullbar (No need for a winch for Trans-Africa travel)
  • Snorkel
  • Headlight Covers (clear type) to prevent stone damage
  • Roofrack & rear ladder
  • Bashplate & sump guards
  • Window guards
5 - Comfort and visibility: The seating position (driver and passenger) allows for excellent visibility and the comfort of the seats (compared to a Defender or Troopy) will make travel a lot easier especially on those rough corrugated tracks. The visibility is perfect for the game parks.

6 - Interior Space: Can the Discovery fit all the overland equipment you think you need? Absolutely!  The rear seats are easily removed to allow for additional packing space, cupboards and even the mounting of the fridge.  The rear seats will also allow you to leave a single rear seat in place (for your 3rd passenger).  The interior won't allow you to sleep in the rear so be prepared to fit a rooftop tent or find hosted accommodation on route.

Here is an interior sizing comparison between a Discovery 300Tdi and a Defender 300Tdi hardtop:
Defender back door: 870mm wide and 1,090mm high.
Discovery back door: 1,200mm wide and 1,050mm high.

Length - Backdoor to bulkhead
Defender: 1,750mm
Discovery: 1,350mm

Defender: 920mm between wheel arches and 1,630mm.
Discovery: 1,600mm with minor loss between the wheel arches.

Internal Height:
Defender: 1,220mm
Discovery: 1,160mm

7 - Overland Equipment:  You name it, you can get it for the Discovery.  No need to find a 3rd party to hand make it for you.  

Poland to South Africa
8 - Travel maintenance: Not to be forgotten is the important service intervals when travelling.  The ability to change oil and fuel filters, check brakes and greasing UV Joints makes this vehicle easy to maintain with very limited mechanical experience.  Plus the fact that there is always a book to refer to... see below.

9 - Appeal:  The Discovery might not have the dusty iconic look of the Land Rover Defender but fully equipped, it will turn heads and impress overlanders with its looks, interior space and comfort.

10 - Been there, Done it... the proof is in the experience:  Here are a few independent websites that choose the Land Rover Discovery as the overland vehicle of choice:

CaTs Itchy Feet

Every overland trip starts with a small dream, which begins to form nicely once the vehicle is parked in the driveway.  Opting to buy a fully equipped vehicle will save you time and potentially money, however, buying a vehicle and preparing it yourself will give you days and months of fun and research.  My thoughts: save your money for the actual trip and buy a used Land Rover Discovery - it will get you comfortably from London to Cape Town allowing you extra cash for those tourist hotspots.

Related Books:

Additional Reading:

Search criteria:
Autrotrader UK Toyota Search criteria (on price)

Autotrader UK LR Discovery search criteria (on price)

LR 2nd Hand Prices
Toyota 2nd Hand Prices

Updated: 11 June 2013: Interior space comparison between a Defender and Discovery.