Home » Keep AAA On Speed-Dial: 1999 Land Rover Discovery vs 2005 Volkswagen Touareg

Keep AAA On Speed-Dial: 1999 Land Rover Discovery vs 2005 Volkswagen Touareg

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Spring is here! The mercury is rising, foliage is green again, and countless wonderful trail rides await daring off-roaders. It’s time to get dirty. Going off-roading is an experience unlike any other and unless you’re one of the kooky cats of the Gambler 500, you’re going to want something capable for the task. Most people go for a Jeep or a Toyota, but some of the coolest off-roaders don’t come from America or Japan, but the United Kingdom and Germany. However, you might want to keep a tow truck at the ready.

Yesterday, Thomas gave you an intense matchup between a hero and a villain from the James Bond universe. The E38 BMW 7 Series and the Jaguar XKR convertible were both vehicles prominently featured during Pierce Brosnan’s run as Agent 007, and unlike Brosnan’s face, these cars haven’t aged so gracefully. You had the choice of German complexity versus British beauty, and complexity. Both of these vehicles have had a lot of work done to them, yet the cheaper Jag and its timing chain work won out over the much more expensive Beemer.

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In this case, evil prevailed and our titular hero has fallen, maybe next time double-0. Perhaps the voting could have been different had the BMW been priced a lot closer to the competing Jaguar. Our recent articles about BMW regrets and repairs probably haven’t convinced readers to roll the dice on the roundel.

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Today, I’m continuing the theme of pitting the Brits up against the Germans, but now we’re no longer in the world of Bond. Even better, the prices are going to be very close to each other.

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If you can believe it, there was once a time when Volkswagen was known for building vehicles capable of surviving some of the harshest environments. Beetles have been in places and taken part in races most cars could only dream of while the Volkswagen Iltis has real military bonafides. There was a time when Volkswagen was a bit obsessed with getting its cars rough and dirty, too, as evidenced by the Golf Country.

Land Rover’s contributions to off-roading don’t need an introduction. Many of you are already picturing the Camel Trophy SUVs and images of 4x4s conquering the English countryside and beyond. Land Rover is to the Brits as Jeep is to Americans. Yet, both of these brands are very different today. Volkswagen has no real off-road presence in America right now and Land Rover makes its cash from hyper-luxurious SUVs usually owned by people who scoff at the idea of leaving pavement. Let’s go back to the late 1990s and the early 2000s.

2005 Volkswagen Touareg V8 – $3,099

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Engine/drivetrain: 4.2-liter V8 making 310 HP, six-speed automatic, permanent 4×4.

Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Odometer reading: 153,000 miles.

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Operational status: Runs and drives “strong.”

The Volkswagen Touareg is easily one of the most underrated off-road vehicles of the modern era. It looks like a boring crossover, but these SUVs have proven themselves to be outrageously capable when the going gets tough. The Volkswagen Touareg and its partner Porsche Cayenne were designed in a development program to create a pair of super SUVs.

It started with Porsche, which desperately needed a popular, mass-market vehicle to fill its coffers over the long term. The Cayenne was originally supposed to be a high-performance variant of the Mercedes-Benz ML, but that fell through, landing Porsche back with its old friend Volkswagen. The two companies weren’t joined yet, but did collaborate. This time, madman Ferdinand Piëch was at the helm of Volkswagen and saw potential in making a super SUV with Porsche.

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Out of the other end came a pair of mid-size SUVs with a 7,716-pound tow rating, short overhangs, limited-slip differentials, lockers, off-road traction control, and more than enough power to pull a Boeing 747 down a runway. In the case of the Porsche, you could have used the SUV to tow your racecar to the track and then you had enough power to race your Cayenne on the track after your racecar broke down.

This Volkswagen Touareg is a well-optioned example. It comes equipped with the middle engine that was offered in North America, the 4.2-liter V8. It’s good for 310 HP and drives a permanent four-wheel-drive system with a center-locking differential and low range. However, this one is a bit special as it has the rare rear-locker option as well. Also somewhat rare is its peanut butter leather interior. So many Touaregs were optioned with boring black or gray leather.

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Surprisingly, this example shows no warning lights on its display or in its instrument cluster. That said, these SUVs can fail in spectacular ways. The air suspension gives you great ride height but also likes developing leaks and blowing bags. The V8 under the hood sounds great and punches out decent power, but requires premium fuel, and its camshaft chains are known for wearing out. But hey, that’s for future you to worry about.

It’s $3,099 from the seller in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

1999 Land Rover Discovery – $3,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 4.0-liter V8 making 182 HP, four-speed automatic, permanent 4×4.

Location: Cedar Lake, Indiana.

Odometer reading: 147,465 miles.

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Operational status: Runs and drives with new parts.

Back in the 1980s, Land Rover discovered that it created a problem for itself. It moved so far upmarket that it essentially abandoned its past of building tough off-roaders for outdoorsy types. There was a demand for an SUV that wasn’t as luxurious but could still tackle the toughest regions of the world.

The Land Rover Discovery I hit the trails in 1989. It rode on the same chassis and used the same four-wheel-drive system as the Range Rover, but was priced to attract a broad demographic of buyers. The Discovery filled the family off-roader void left by the luxury Range Rover. Here in America, competition from American and Japanese off-roaders convinced Land Rover that the Range Rover needed some backup. In 1994, the Discovery left its Solihull, United Kingdom factory for America.

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Land Rover tried to make the Discovery more than just a family off-roader, but a lifestyle product. Everyone sat high up with visibility and storage was abundant including roof bins and magazine holders. Rear passengers got their own vents and if you really wanted to be stylish, you could carry around a branded bag.

The Discovery is a pretty adept off-roader just like the Volkswagen and features a center locking differential and low range. Yet, it’s old-school with its solid axles and body-on-frame design as opposed to the VeeDub’s unibody. I’ve seen these getting dirty right there with the Touareg and don’t forget the iconic Camel Trophy SUVs! Of course, the elephant in the room is the fact that the aluminum V8s under the hood are notorious for eating up their head gaskets. Avoid that and you still have to fight rust and any number of problems that could put you on the back of a tow truck.

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This example is said to have heated seats and working air-conditioning. New parts include a serpentine belt, water pump, and brakes, but it will need a stereo.

It’s $3,000 from the seller in Cedar Lake, Indiana.
(Correction: This example is not a Series II. We regret the error.)

Both of these SUVs will get you far and beyond while being a bit different than the parade of Jeep Wranglers, Toyota 4Runners, and Ford Broncos that you see absolutely everywhere. The Volkswagen is an off-road sleeper that is far more capable than it looks while the Land Rover is a classy beauty that looks good in front of any rugged backdrop. Both of these SUVs are affordable options to get you into the sticks this summer. What’s your pick?

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Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
1 month ago

I’m reluctantly sticking with the Brits today. Not nearly the slam dunk as yesterday’s Jag, I voted Disco simply knowing that either one will likely break soon. There’s a shop in my town doing small-block Chevy conversions of assorted Land Rover models as a side-gig, so at least I’ll have a place to unload the purchase once the inevitable happens.

Jim Stock
Jim Stock
1 month ago

For a back woods toy, I would have to go for the disco. I feel I could rig it better when it died in the back country and easier to cut sheet metal for bigger tires.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
1 month ago

Damn, if I had cash to blow, the Disco is within reasonable distance to go grab. I’ve owned one of these before as a daily driver — they’re well within the realm of the DIY mechanic if you have tools that go up in size large enough to deal with the big and heavy-duty parts found in the undercarriage and driveline. They got a bad rap from original owners who bought them as status symbols and then had bad experiences with costly dealer service, and dealers that were ill-prepared for taking on Land Rovers.

Disco 1s with Lucas GEMS engine controls are no worse to work on than many other 80s/90s OBD1 cars. If I remember correctly, most of the sensors are all parts-bin GM parts except for the (expensive) MAP sensor. And the MAP sensor often doesn’t really “fail” — it just gets dirty and causes irregular signals and rough running.

Many electrical issues like faulty power windows are easily fixed by re-flowing or removing/replacing solder on discrete components on the controller circuit board — that’s buried behind the glovebox in a water-resistant plastic box. There was an issue with the low-lead solder used; sooner or later they all need re-work. Or the fan control that goes on the fritz because the traces on a strip of plastic wear out; the solution is to just replace it with one from a junker, and there are plenty of Land Rover salvage operations out there. A lot of issues are just typical late 80s/early 90s car issues due to Land Rover using the same suppliers as everybody else in the world. They’re really mostly-mechanical beasts that will happily work and play hard.

Now, if it were a Disco 2, that’s a whole other can of worms. Good mechanicals. Expensive and troublesome Bosch electronics.

Last edited 1 month ago by UnseenCat
Frank Wrench
Frank Wrench
1 month ago

I like the cut of that Land Rover’s jib. And when the V8 inevitably blows up I’ll throw in a Euro diesel and 5 speed.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
1 month ago

I’d be off-roading less than 2,000 miles a year, so in truth, either would be fine.

The Touareg is a beast when it’s running properly, especially with the dual locker option.

Given the choice, I would take the VW’s much stronger V8 over the Land Rover. I also think it looks better, but not by much.

Jeffrey Antman
Jeffrey Antman
1 month ago

Two unreliable pieces of crap. No thanks.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
1 month ago

Honestly, these vehicles have outlived their attrition-stage, where all the worst examples have long since failed beyond the point of saving. I’ve known owners of Touaregs which were vicious money pits, as well as those with solid ones – when they go bad, they go horrendously expensively bad.

The Land Rover, on the other hand, I prefer being that it actually ties back to the classic Range Rover – so if it doesn’t have terminal frame rust, it should be (mechanically) solid. And should be (mostly) fixable with a reel of wire (for inevitable wiring failures), and a local mechanic on standby.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
1 month ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

It’s a Land Rover, so at least the front half of the frame will be self-protecting with a constant supply of fresh oil 😛

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
1 month ago

This is the definition of an irrational purchase so if I’m going to have my life ruined by a car, it needs to at a minimum be charming. Not that the Touareg’s design is bad by any means, but does it look like a car that’s worth pulling your hair out for?

Disco doesn’t suck, today.

EastbayLoc
EastbayLoc
1 month ago

Took the Disco. When I met my wife, her family had just bought a new Touareg. They had nothing but problems and each one required a trip back to the dealer which wasn’t close to their ski town in the Rockies. Mostly electrical gremlins but also issues with a fuel pump, the AC and the suspension before they “gifted” it to my brother-in-law who at the first issue promptly used it as a trade in for a Subie.

So I’ll take the Disco knowing that they too have their demons (cooling issues, head gaskets, etc.).

ExAutoJourno
ExAutoJourno
1 month ago

Despite, well, everything, I’m in for the VW.

I’ve had some distinctively dodgy experiences with Range and Land Rovers, and found the Disco to be a bit tippy and top-heavy. The Touareg, in contrast, was a good driver. And I don’t go off-road enough — intentionally, anyway — to need all that advertised rock-climbing goodness.

If the VeeDub was a V10, I’d shy away. But the V8 was pretty nifty.

At least the initial hit isn’t too bad.

WR250R
WR250R
1 month ago

If it was as close to me I’d take the Rover. But Milwaukee is less than an hour away so VW it is

Angry Bob
Angry Bob
1 month ago

AAA only gives you 6 tows a year. Not gonna be enough.

Picked the Disco because I think I could fix it myself.

XLEJim700
XLEJim700
1 month ago

Think Small

Live Large

Rolling German today.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
1 month ago

The Discovery could be actively on fire and I’d still probably choose it over a VW. Especially a touaraeg

MY LEG!
MY LEG!
1 month ago

Oh, they want me to pay them for these cars? That’s cute.

You might talk me into the Disco if you reminded me of the super-fast cop/park ranger Discoveries in the early NFS games that could pace a Corvette and got me nostalgic, otherwise no.

Last edited 1 month ago by MY LEG!
Bryan McIntosh
Bryan McIntosh
1 month ago
Reply to  MY LEG!

“20 to County. In pursuit of a Corvette, near Rocky Pass!”

MY LEG!
MY LEG!
1 month ago
Reply to  Bryan McIntosh

lmfao yep. *pulls a sick 180 at speed to make you crash into him on the side*

“20 to County. THIS BOY’S DONE.”

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
1 month ago

OMG are you trying to kill us?
Yes on getting a AAA membership. Maybe get two, just in case.
Find the nearest German mechanic and become his best friend. Buy him pretzels and beer. Double-date with him and his spouse, and pick up the check.
You might also want to buy one of those little Jeeps to tow behind, like the RV geezers do. Y’know, just in case.
Aw, hell, just buy a goddamned tow truck, it’ll pay for itself.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
1 month ago

Hell, double date and be willing to swap. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

Turbotictac
Turbotictac
1 month ago

I have driven and worked on one of those VWs before and it wasn’t bad. Sign me up for that one

Musicman27
Musicman27
1 month ago

At least the Land Rover has “offroading” ability and a cool roof window.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 month ago

Mercedes, your experience with a Toureg almost got me to click on that vehicle.

But your experience with every OTHER VW you’ve had made me click on the Disco.

Pneumatic Tool
Pneumatic Tool
1 month ago

The VW is probably the better vehicle here, but God help me, I do have a thing for these Discos.

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
1 month ago

For once I didn’t click the VW just from brand loyalty. My old boss had a Disco, which I one time drove to a meeting. I imagine that driving a tractor trailer in cross-winds is a similar experience. I don’t even think it was dramatic weather, but that thing is as aerodynamic as an office block, so I spent the drive struggling to keep it in my line. No thank you.

Allen Lloyd
Allen Lloyd
1 month ago
Reply to  Jason Roth

I had a friend who drove a Disco in a spirited manor and the body roll was mind bending. It was like a test to see if you could get a person car sick. I remember body roll while driving straight on a non-windy day. That day I decided I never wanted a Disco.

Ben Lamb
Ben Lamb
1 month ago

My ma had a disco 1 just like that. Plus there’s kits out there to put an LS in it. Sold.

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
1 month ago

I feel I would have an easier time trying to fix all of the Rover’s problems compared to trying to fix the VW. Rover it is.

Church
Church
1 month ago

I think the Rover is cooler if you can keep it running, but this is definitely a day where everyone loses.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
1 month ago

I would rather stick my dingaling in a hornet’s nest than deal with a VW or Land Rover with 150,000 miles.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
1 month ago

COTD

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
1 month ago

We don’t kink-shame here, but tell us what you think of the presented vehicles.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
1 month ago

NOT THE BEES!

I’d like to imagine that Nic Cage’s character in The Wicker Man changed his tune about the bees when they showed him the title to a VW Touareg as the alternative.

NEVERMIND THE BEES ARE FINE!

Last edited 1 month ago by Taargus Taargus
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