Discovery 2 (L318) – MY1999-2004

Land Rover Discovery II SE (L319)
Land Rover Discovery II S (L318) – photo by Rudolf Stricker

Land Rover Discovery II (L318)

Although nearly identical in appearance to the Series I Discovery, the Discovery II was a completely different car. Designed by BMW (who owned Land Rover at the time), the D2 featured more modern electronics and a more conventional axle setup, along with the latest iteration of the venerable Rover V8. Though still very capable off-road, the D2 lost some of its abilities thanks to an extended trunk and the deletion of the center differential lock (which returned for the final model year in 2004). However, it was superior on-road, with more comfortable suspension and better insulation.

Unfortunately, the Discovery II has not aged well. The “Bosch” variant of the Rover V8 used in the D2 is prone to catastrophic damage such as slipped cylinder liners and cracked engine blocks, and the car in general was subject to extreme cost-cutting by BMW – which means it was put together very poorly. The car is susceptible to an incredible amount of electrical problems, made worse by neglectful owners. When well-sorted, however, the D2 is a brilliant vehicle – it rides like a luxury sedan on the streets, and can go nearly anywhere off them.

Desirable Features

  • Locking center differential
    • MY99-01 cars, and some MY02 cars which were made in 2001, had a locking center differential fitted, but did not have the linkage for it – this can be added through aftermarket solutions
    • Most MY02 and all MY03 cars did not have a locking center differential
    • MY04 cars had a locking center differential and the corresponding linkage installed from the factory
  • Facelifted MY03-04 vehicles
  • Harman Kardon stereo
  • Third-row seats
  • Dual sunroofs (depending on your tolerance for electrical issues)
  • Self-leveling rear suspension (SLS) – standard on the HSE trim (though many cars have been converted to rear coils) and optional on all other vehicles. It’s very nice to have if you intend on towing with the car; however, it can be problematic, so if you don’t intend on towing, then you should steer clear or convert to coil springs.
  • Active Cornering Enhancement (ACE) – reduces body roll in corners. It was standard on the HSE and optional on all other vehicles, and can be identified by the presence of a reservoir with two caps and an extra pulley on the serpentine belt. It significantly improves drivability. This was unfortunately not available MY03-04 in the US.
  • Off-road gear:
    • Brush guard – especially one from ARB
    • Steel bumpers – these were not original equipment, but many cars have aftermarket ones as the factory plastic bumpers are easy to rip off while off-roading
    • Roof rack
    • Rock sliders
    • Off-road lights
    • Winch

Engines

Problems

All Vehicles

Mechanical

  • Driveshaft universal joints (especially front driveshaft)
  • Low-range – linkage can seize if never used

Electrical

  • “Three Amigos” – illumination of ABS, TC, and Hill Descent Control (HDC) warning lights usually caused by failed ABS shuttle valve or wheel speed sensor. This problem is so prevalent that it is a running joke in the Land Rover community.
  • Heater core – can be checked by running heater and feeling carpet around passenger-side footwell and transmission tunnel for moisture/dampness
  • Power steering pump
  • Window regulators
  • Door lock actuators
  • Cruise control – the cruise control system is vacuum operated; a D2 with functioning cruise control is a unicorn
  • Ignition cylinder – it will probably be binding and require some fiddling to start the car or remove the key. Most cars have some special method to do the above, but eventually, the cylinder will fully bind and require replacement.

Body & Cosmetic

  • Door latches (interior and exterior)
  • Clear coat is susceptible to peeling, especially if car was not washed often
  • Drooping headliner – requires removal of headliner panel and reupholstering of headliner; stapling the fabric down is only a temporary measure and won’t work long-term as the problem is due to degradation of the insulating foam
  • Broken sun visor clips – these get brittle with age, but they are cheap and easy to replace
  • Rust – D2’s are much less susceptible to rust than D1’s, but you should still check around the alpine windows and wheel wells

Certain Vehicles

  • Vehicles with Active Cornering Enhancement (ACE): Most owners don’t realize there is a filter that must be maintained. If the system is not maintained properly, it can be expensive to fix.
  • Vehicles with self-leveling rear suspension (SLS): Like all Land Rover air suspension, it can be problematic. If it has been replaced with coils already, then don’t worry about it.
  • Vehicles with sunroofs: The general rule of thumb is that if it works when you test them, then never use them again so they don’t have a chance to break
  • Vehicles with sunroofs: If the headliner is stained around sunroofs, chances are that the seals leak. This is a huge job to fix because it requires removing the entire sunroof assembly to replace the seal.
  • Vehicles with leather seats: The leather is susceptible to wear/cracking/tearing
  • Vehicles with seat heaters: The heating grid usually fails
  • Vehicles with heated windshields: Replacement is very expensive (especially for OEM-quality glass), so before buying a car, check that the windshield does not have any chips or cracks. Glass insurance coverage is highly recommended.
  • MY03-04: Headlamp assemblies for these vehicles are very expensive due to their rarity. While cracking/breaking is not a common issue (generally, it is caused by hitting something while going off-road), checking for it is highly recommended.
  • VINs between 3A767790 and 4A851115: May develop an oil leak path down the threads of the sump front fixings – sealant should be applied to the threads
  • VINs between 3A771801 and 3A808362 with 4.6L engines: May suffer from oil pump failure – repair involves replacing the entire assembly including the front cover/oil pump

Not Problems

  • ABS warning lamp may illuminate on startup but disappear once vehicle starts moving – this is normal and does not indicate a fault in the system