I’ll say this...modern Land Rover’s are typically quite good motor vehicles. They are capable, comfortable, often good looking, well specified and generally reasonably well made vehicles.
They do have a couple of well known down sides, mostly related to their asking prices (they’re often damnably expensive for what they are) and they have some electrical and computer systems of questionable quality and execution. We’ve all heard the stories and, much more rarely, experienced them.
This is not one of those stories. This is a story about Land Rover the company rather than Land Rover the car. It may only be about Land Rover Australia and it may have nothing to do with Land Rover on the rest of the planet. But it does reflect rather poorly on the capability and capacity of the modern Land Rover to actually do what Land Rover marketing constantly says it can do...
This is a Discovery 4 from 2015. Not only was this the last iteration of this particular chassis and driveline, it was the last in a long line of body on frame Discovery’s. The new Discovery 5 is now a monocoque blob.
My 73 year old mother owns one just like it. HSE trim, TDV6 engine, all the fruit. It replaced an earlier 2010 D4 that she shared with my late stepfather. She has since kitted it out to travel the length and breadth of the Australian countryside. Bull bar, rear integrated bumper tow bar with swing away tyre carrier, dual battery system, electric brake controller etc etc. She tows a small Complete Campsite Exodus 9 camper trailer with it. And she was as happy as Larry with it.
The plan this year was to take off into the middle of Australia from Sydney in May with two other vehicles, also towing camper trailers. Their plan was to do the Binns Track which is thousand kilometre plus off road tourist trail that runs from south to north across the Northern Territory from Mount Dare in South Oz to Timber Creek in the north-west of the NT. The idea of the trail is that it provides an alternate route North from the all-tar Stuart Highway.
The plan happened and they left. Part of the plan was that we would meet them in Kununurra after they got off the track and then travel with them for a couple of weeks. This happened too.
But all good plans never survive contact with reality. One of the vehicles (Nissan Navara dual cab) had its sump stoved in on the way to Old Police Station Waterhole. This required a five day layover whilst a new sump was flown up from Melbourne by the Nissan dealer in Alice Springs and then bush fitted. On the camper trailer towed by the other vehicle (Toyota Prado) one of the shocks split in two whilst in much the same area (it was temporarily replaced by a ratchet strap). The replacement shock was sent from Brisbane (Queensland) to Kununurra (north western Western Australia) in just two days.
But the kicker was the Disco. Somewhere in this section between Alice Springs and the Devils Marbles, the underside of the Disco contacted something on the ground or the ground itself hard enough to crack the rear diff casing and slowly let the oil out . Once back on the tar north of Tennant Creek, the lack of oil finally caused the diff internals to fail. And that was that. It was Wednesday 21st June.
Credit where it is due. Land Rover Assist organised the recovery of the vehicle that same day. They had the Disco sent to the nearest practical dealer (Darwin, 990 km away - it could have gone to Alice Springs but the rest of the party were going to Kununurra which is closer to Darwin) and the camper trailer sent to Kununurra. They organised a hire car in Kununurra to allow Mum to still get around.
The Disco arrived at the service agent in Darwin on the following Monday 26th June. From there it went south. They diagnosed the problem and sat back to organise the parts and critically a ‘special’ tool to disconnect the tail shaft from the diff. Meanwhile, Mum organised the insurance and we all went about our holiday together from the 28th June.
Two weeks later, we were told that all the parts had arrived. However, no tool. Dealer had no idea where it was. Land Rover had no idea where it was. Nor would anyone tell us what was the big deal. We flew out of Kununurra on the 13th July.
The other two teams had to get back South as well and so a week or so later Mum was left on her lonesome in Kununurra. The mysterious tool arrived in Darwin on Monday 24th July. Quite why this tool was so hard to attain is a mystery since Mum’s D4 can’t have been the only one since 2009 with a busted diff. Someone in the network must’ve had one. Failing that, getting a new one from the UK or Asia shouldn’t have taken that long! Land Rover Australia not the dealer were remotely illuminating or even responsive to pointed questioning.
The D4 was duly repaired and left Darwin on the back of a truck three days later and arrived in Kununurra last Friday. Naturally, Mum didn’t find this out until yesterday (the following Monday) because that’s the way the icing on the cake is delivered in Australia.
She and the D4 left Kununurra this morning after nearly five weeks apart.
This is clearly too long and demonstrates that Land Rover Australia is fairly useless at supporting its products out there in the real world. In the end, the vehicle can be as competent as it likes but without a competent company behind it they they are selling the automotive equivalent of a chocolate teapot.
She’ll probably keep the D4 because she really likes it (as a LR fan and former owner, I certainly do) but I’m told that Land Rover dealers and service departments will not be willingly used ever again.
Ultimately, in Oz, you’d be a fool these days to buy a new Land Rover if you lived anywhere away from the eastern seaboard or a capital city because that’s where all the dealer support is. There’s nothing out there in the Back of Beyond that Land Rover says you can take your new D5 too. Nearest dealer to me is 4.5 hours away. And if it does break then it’ll probably take them weeks to fix it anyway...
It’s a long rant but it feels better getting it out there. Thanks for reading...