I've been wanting to change to a different truck for a while now, and after casually researching the Discovery I for a month or so it seems like a reasonable choice. After thinking about this for a while I figured I'd post my reasoning and get some expert opinions, and I have to admit that after reading about Scott's new Disco I'm getting pretty close to sold.
My current rig is a 96 Jeep Grand Cherokee with ~140k that I've had for about 6 years. The previous owner was a teenager who did not take great car of the truck and since I've owned it I've replaced many parts to get it to be "reliable", but at this point I am very hesitant to drive it for any significant distance since it tends to have strange issues such as the power steering pulley failing at 11pm in the middle of nowhere. With a 3" lift and 33x12.5" ties it is very capable and nice to drive on the trail, but is not fun on the road and ultimately doesn't have much "soul". That combined with the whopping 10-15mpg means the truck is only used for a few camping trips a year.
I've considered replacing it with a 5spd ~2000 Tacoma or a 3rd gen 4runner but ultimately the $10k starting price means that the investment increases quickly when you start budgeting for mods. A FJ80 would be nice, but they are a bit big and get worse mileage than my ZJ, plus the maintainance can be expensive. I've also considered the Montero SR, Xterra, Pathy, and many of the other common vehicles but none felt quite right.
Here's a list of some requirements (1=nice to have,2=somewhat important,3=critical):
- SUV so equipment can be stored inside (2)
- Ability to run level 4 trails when driven carefully. For comparison I'm thinking of Deer Vally in CA or Golden Spike in Moab. I've been through the Rubicon in an Xterra on A/Ts with no real damage, just had to take it slow. (3)
- Reasonable reliability. This one is hard to define, but ultimately I need something I trust more than the Jeep. I do most of the work on my truck and don't mind spending time getting things sorted out, but once the truck is at that point I'd like to feel comfortable that it will get me home. With the ZJ I'm constantly concerned that the transmission or diffs will go out at some point.
- Decent gas mileage. If I could get 18mpg on the freeway that would be great. The possibility of a future diesel conversion is also a big selling point.
- Price. A base vehicle cost of say $5k would leave a good amount of budget for maintainance and modifications.
The Disco I seems to fit many of the above requirements. It has decent space inside, but unfortunately I don't think it's long enough to sleep in. With the solid front axle and locking center diff the trail capability should be no issue. Used discos seem to go for $3-6k so the price is right. And I have to admit that the Rover has a lot of soul and personality.
I would keep the modifications moderate, probably starting with 235x85 tires, 2-3" lifts, rock rails, and driveshaft upgrades.
Here are my questions which I hope the expo community can help with:
- Could a Disco I on 32's achieve 17-18mpg at 65-70mph? Based on what I've seen on several of the Disco boards this could be possible on a flat road. My ultimate plan would be to swap in a diesel (300tdi) and I've already talked to a couple shops about this. Registration does not seem to be a big obstacle, but I am not yet convinced I could pass CA smog tests.
- Rovers do not have a good reputation when it comes to reliability, but from what I can tell the items that tend to break are not part of critical systems (sunroofs, power windows, etc). I have not read about a lot of situations where the truck was rendered un-drivable, mostly just about annoying accessory failures. Prices for common parts are higher than they are for a domestic vehicle, but not what I could consider unreasonable. Are there any major common "not driving home" issues I'm missing?
- Are there any problems with my requirements and assumptions above? Specifically anywhere that the disco falls short?
- Is there any major benefit of getting a 96-98 over a 95? I know the engine was redesigned, but I think they are both ODBII engines. I'd prefer a 5spd and am a bit discouraged by the ~35:1 crawlratio and high price of gearing options.
That's about it. Any comments, corrections, or input are greatly appreciated. Know anybody who wants to buy a built 96 ZJ for cheap.