Capsule Review - 1999 Land Rover Discovery Series II, AKA – The Great Southwest Escape. Take Two

W Christian Mental Ward
by W Christian Mental Ward
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Yesterday, we witnessed Sandy being picked up by Mental Ward. Today, we follow both on the roadtrip through America. Will they make it?

Just east of Philly, it had started snowing pretty well. During the first (of many) fuel stops, I pulled the light covers. At speed, the lights off the snowflakes resembled the cockpit view of the Millennium Falcon making the jump to light speed. It was simply awesome. Snow? HA! Disco Sandy positively yawned at the attempt and sped through the Pennsylvania night.

Comfortably perched in the high leather seat, I began to grasp the concept of “command seating” outside of marketing buzzwords. Sorry, you don’t have it. In fact nothing else outside of the starship Enterprise has command seating. The window frame is just above my hipbone with miles of headroom. The dash is low and the gauges succinct but informative. The seat is as comfortable as you expect British leather to be. There is an armrest, cup holders, dual sunroofs, suspension adjustments, and my favorite; a curry hook. 4,500 pounds of steel and three locking differentials certainly ads to your swagger. Exit the vehicle and hear air pumping the suspension level. You drive a sedan, you pilot a race car, but you command a Land Rover.

Am I hearing banjos?

By this point, my friends on Facebook and message board were starting to question my sanity. Going through a bit of West Virginia, even my iPhone questioned my sanity and violently shook its head. I could easily answer all of the questions, texts and posts during the frequent fuel stops, instead of while driving. With a buried foot climbing the Smokey Mountains, I was averaging a dismal 11 MPG. I didn’t realize unless the climate control in “econ” the AC is always on. I remedied that and road flattened, yielding a more respectable 13 MPG. Even with a 25 gallon tank, the stops came often. Thank god for the Truckmaster Fuel Finder!

John Mellencamp did not meet me, I was disappointed

By Indiana, the Red Bulls weren’t cutting it. I found a well-lit truck stop, crawled into the back seat and grabbed a few hours’ sleep. The next morning I employed the Hurley Haywood trick of fresh under wear and socks, grabbed a coffee and setoff racing the sun to Sooner state.

Blagojevich offered me a senate seat if I gave him the Disco, I declined

For an off-road vehicle, Disco Sandy is just absurdly competent for this kind of trip. The mileage never got any better, but it swallowed tarmac with alarming ease. The cabin is quiet, the stereo good and the whole affair is not physically taxing at all. Just outside of Indianapolis, a clear blue sky greeted me for the remainder of the trip. The radio was abuzz of a seriously troubled Jersey shore and lower Manhattan. At each fill-up I answered updates, and felt a bit guilty compared to some of my east coast friends.

Louie Louie

I made Missouri before lunch. Sandy’s sweet spot was 75, but I wanted to get home, so I pushed it. Oklahoma by midafternoon and my last food/fuel stop was the McDonalds that arches over I-44 in Vinta OK. 20 miles from home the sun was setting. I parked my new acquisition in the drive as the trick-or-treaters came in droves, three hours before my flight would have landed.

You want fries with that?

A week later, Sandy carried the wife, our dogs and me to Colorado. The vast cargo space immediately earned the canine seal of approval. I have pulled my big dog out of the driver’s seat twice because she thinks she is coming with us. After that trip, my wife laid claim to Sandy, selling her G35. The next trip was to Atlanta and the Carolinas for Thanksgiving. A month later, the missus and the dogs headed to Omaha for Christmas. Sandy ferried 2 pregnant sisters shopping and made food runs for the whole family.

Her new home

She’s one of us now and I love the silly girl more than I should. During our 11 year marriage, my wife has always feared any car out of warranty. The confidence Sandy inspires in her is strange. Chris joked that this Disco was built on a Wednesday under BMW’s very strict German supervision before Land Rover lost their character; “No! Unacceptahble! Beeldt it cohrrectly! Du blöde Kuh!”

The ups? Huge cargo capacity, great long range travel and it can tow. It seats seven with and each row is stadium style seating. Our two big dogs and a precocious Dachshund fit easily; along with luggage and anything else.

The downs? I better get a Valentine’s Day card from BP after all that money. Even without the safari rack there is no room for a Disco in our garage. The dash is too close and too low. On the passenger side I hit it with my knees quite constantly, and that is at just 6’0. In contrast, my 5’4 wife literally has to climb into the seat using the window frame and interior door pull to pull herself up. It is a rolling brick and the slightest crosswind knocks it around, and in Oklahoma, yeah, you notice. This particular Disco is not without issues. The trans mission overheat sensor is bad, the passenger O2 sensor is bad, the sunroofs don’t work, one rear lock is wonky and the brake pads were meant to tow. They need some heat before they grab, so that first stop sign in my neighborhood is always an eye opener. Finally, if I make reference to the curry hook one more time, my wife may impale me on it.

Are we going for a ride?

All of those quirks just add to her character, which she has in droves. I suspect all of the Discos have some character, they certainly have the British sensibility and feel, you know, stiff upper lip and all that.

Now I might not be doing mother earth any favors by driving such a pig, but I do consider it recycling in a sense. Besides, she started it.

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2 of 39 comments
  • Gtem Gtem on Jan 21, 2013

    This was a fantastic read! As a fellow old-SUV-road tripper, I totally connected to just about everything that was written, except I get a bit better mileage, around 18-19 mpg :P Just got back from a weekend in Indiana, hit snow driving across Western NY both ways. I also get thrown around in crosswinds, steep hills leave the engine sucking wind (155hp/169ftlbs to move 4000+ lbs, gee I wonder how well that'll work?!), and fuel stops are frequent and expensive. Despite all that, there is something to be said about sitting up high in my comfy captain's chair, staring at a wall of falling snow and not flinching. With my snow tires mounted, I didn't even bother putting the car in 4wd, it did great. The car's weight and narrower than stock 215 series tires slice through the piles of snow and slush that accumulate between lanes and tire tracks that need to be crossed when changing lanes. I was able to maintain a safe pace of 60-65mph, and was able to get to my destination no worse for the wear and on time (albeit with a significantly lighter wallet lol). The one thing that unsettles the car are wind gusts, which unfortunately coincide with snow drifts across the road.

  • Corntrollio Corntrollio on Feb 01, 2013

    "4,500 pounds of steel" Not quite. The doors and roof are steel, but other body panels are traditionally aluminium (al-you-min-i-um). I believe at least part of the reason, beyond weight-saving, etc., is that post-WWII, they were using recycled aircraft aluminum.

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