For many years Land Rover and reliability could never be used in the same sentence. The Land Rover brand has been tainted with mechanical, electrical, and build quality problems. The brand, however, represents adventure, off-road ruggedness, and luxury but is never famed for its reliability. With that being said, in order to venture into remote places with confidence, one needs a reliable, well-built 4WD that inspires trust. So what has been the cause of Land Rover obtaining such a bad rap sheet and has reliability and build quality improved over the years?
What is a modern land Rovers’ reliability like? Land Rover’s 2018 and 2019 Discovery image has been tainted somewhat by customer complaints about infotainment glitches, transmission faults, and water leaks inside the cabin. Many Land Rover Discovery 3 & 4 reliability issues stem from air suspension failures, Electronic park brake failures, and the dreaded crank-shaft seizures.
Given each brand has its faults, and to be fair some are more prone to dependability issues than others. Land Rover owners are for the most part die-hard fans. If you read through forum posts you will find many happy Land Rover owners who swear by the brand and do not intend on changing brands anytime soon. In fact, the brand has one of the biggest followings worldwide. So can reliability really be that bad or are people just skeptical with land rover reliability being under a spotlight due to older models’ build quality and design faults from years past?
Reputation For bad Reliability
So how did the Land Rover brand acquire such a negative stigma for reliability over the years? To understand where all the reliability and build quality issues stemmed from we need to go back in time and look at the history of the brand.
Below is a summarised list of the ownership and financial issues the brand suffered over the years:
- On the 30 April 1948, the first Land Rover was officially launched at the Amsterdam Motor Show. It was based on a Jeep chassis and some other design components. The independent company was called Rover at the time.
- In 1967 Rover became part of Leyland Motors and was later called British Leyland.
- 1974 Land Rover abandoned the US market due to stiff competition from the Japanese 4×4 brands. In
- 1975 British Leyland collapses as a company and Land Rover splits from the BL group operating separately within BL.
- In 1978 Land Rover is formed as a separate subsidiary of BL.
- 1994 The Rover Group is taken over by the German car manufacturing giant BMW
- 2000 BMW dismantles the Rover group and sells Land Rover to Ford
- 2007 Ford plans to sell Land Rover and Jaguar
- 2008 Ford sells Land Rover and Jaguar to Tata Motors
- 2013 Land Rover and Jaguar Cars merged to form a single company, Jaguar Land Rover Limited
So what is the significance of the above timeline?
Well throughout the history of Land Rover, the company has changed hands quite a few times. Manufactures acquired the desperate Land Rover company simply to rip off its 4WD engineering pedigree so they can polish it up and implement it into their brands, only to ditch them shortly afterward.
The Land Rover Company was in financial disarray and the brand was on the verge of closing its doors. Throughout its inception, the constant disruption at management levels and change of ownership resulted in poor quality control and a lack of funds for Research and Development. This translated into their products and resulted in vehicles rolling out of manufacturing plants with many defects and build quality issues without enough budget or time available to rectify it.
The company was trying its utmost not to fold and vehicle sales were the only way to keep them afloat albeit producing defective products. The vehicles were popular and the demand was high so Land Rover kept producing them. Simple supply and demand…
Combine the above situation with the fact that Land Rover is a very specialized brand and had a philosophy of always spearheading unique innovation. The company takes a very bold approach and never hesitated to implement new technology or features unheard of at the time. They did not always have the luxury of thoroughly testing or spending millions on R&D.
What this meant was, in order to properly service and maintain these vehicles required special training, special tools, and experience to adequately do so. Back in those days, many repair shops mechanics did not have the Land Rover training and expertise to adequately carry out these services and repairs resulting in the Land Rover brand suffering further at the hands of inadequate mechanics.
Many owners did not want to put up with these “specialized” vehicles for much longer and sold them for more basic oriental makes, which offered reliability. This, in turn, resulted in a knock-on effect of badly serviced vehicles exchanging hands, acquiring an even worse reputation as they moved between owners.
Fast-forward to today and many of those build quality issues of older models are well documented with a host of information readily available online on forums. Most Land Rover owners who drive series I and II Landy’s, Discovery I & II, Defenders, and Freelander’s are rather hands-on, DIY type people and can carry out basic repairs and modifications to older Landy’s with a DIY guide over a weekend.
The newer land Rovers such as the Range Rover Evoques, Discovery 3 & 4 models are a lot more technologically advanced and need quite a bit more know-how and special diagnostic tools to repair.
So how do the modern Land Rovers stack up against its German and Japanese competitors?
The Modern Land Rovers
Climb into any modern Land Rover and you will be forgiven for thinking you’ve just stepped into a luxury German sedan. Shopping mall parking lots are crawling with Evoques, Freelander’s, and Discovery SUVs. These vehicles are built impressively with stylish exteriors and interiors fixed with quality plastics and materials.
At first glance fit and finish combined with high-end material oozes luxury. Interior design and layout can even rival the German brands and safety are world-class. Onboard gadgetry and modern technology are no scarce commodity with the dashboard and instrument panels littered with an array of buttons and informational screens. The vehicle monitoring information is readily available with a flick of a button to keep your finger on the pulse and heart at ease.
But with all this fancy technology and gadgetry, has the reliability improved, or are the modern Landy’s still a reliability risk? Let’s see what the actual owners have to say
What are customers saying now
Consumer surveys are good for determining dependability. Over the last year based on 290 customer ratings, Land Rover received 3,5/5.
let’s have a look at what actual customers had to say about the brand.
Traded in my 2016 RR Diesel on 2018 HSE. Wish I could get my 2016 back. The 2018 model has been problematic from day 1 regarding the electronic display. Has been in 3 times for repairs and each time, they magically have an update that will “fix it all”. Still having issues. Now, unless I wait until the “disclaimer screen” shows up on the screen before putting in reverse I get a TEENY TINY camera. The car also takes 30 seconds for it to engage in reverse AND many times the backup camera will not shut off for MILES. The last upgrade got me Apple CarPlay which I hate!!!! UGH, what happened? I was so excited that my 2016 had ZERO issues and now so disappointed in my 2018! What a mess! Land Rover doesn’t seem to have a clue how to fix this issue.
I took the vehicle to Land Rover to complain about an engine noise. They found out the engine bearing was bad and need a new engine. Further testing, they found out one of the systems needs a new update software. After getting a new engine it took 2 months to get the vehicle back. At the cashier department, I overheard customers complaining about the high cost to normal maintenance. After this, I will never ever buy another Land Rover. It just a cheap made, over price vehicleTony from Austin, TX
I bought the new Land Rover Disco in June 2018 and it has been at the dealership for more than half the time of my ownership. This is my first JLR vehicle and very disappointed. An issue with Diesel engine jerking and acts like it is stalling every morning after cold start for almost a minute – it will not let me accelerate. Big safety issue. Then there is the Infotainment system – it just hangs and the rearview camera is choppy initially – objects suddenly appear dangerously close when the camera refreshes.Danielle of Beverly Hills, CA
Dropped it off at dealer to get these issues checked – they took 1 month to supposedly resolve the issues – however they found the windshield to be leaking (on a 4 month old car). This took almost 1.5 months to arrive (heated windshield) from UK. After installing it, they found none of the electronics will power on – apparently water damage was found in both electronic controllers and they are currently replacing them. After 3.5 months I still did not get my vehicle back. With the water damage I am seriously concerned about mold and breathing it continuously through the AC system. It’s a safety hazard. This is ridiculous and just bad quality control. It’s a Safety and Health Hazard. JLR needs to ditch the buggy infotainment system – at some point a good business needs to realize when to cut the losses and switch to a different option.Av of Brookfield, WI
11000 miles in going in year two of ownership. Yes the software updates for in control pro and screen blanking out were pain early on but our service has been great and our dealer gave us 4 years of annual service free for our early software issues. I really like the truck and judging by how many people own them here in Connecticut, have a true following and loyal fan base who all live through the little things. Also bought wife 2017 Disco Sport that is now on 30000 miles now going in 3 years and outside failed water pump under warranty, been pretty dependable and bullet-proof.Mike of Norwalk, CT
That car was a complete gem and loved it to bits, without a single fault over the following 12 months/35,000 miles. However, I had a complete rush of blood to the head and stupidly traded in for a brand new Discover 4. Surely, this money pit had to be my undoing? Nope. The nicest car I’d has to date, with the only “fault” being squeaky rear brakes that were easily fixed. Unfortunately, Land Rover then introduced the nasty new Discovery 5 and I panicked. I had wanted to keep the Discovery 4 for a while, but decided to buy one of the last new D4’s before it was too late. Unfortunately, it was already too late. But, I did manage to trade my 1 year (and, you’ve guessed it) 35,000 mile old D4 in for a beautiful green 12,000 mile old D4 HSE Luxury…John of Liskeard
So it’s a bit of a mixed bag of reactions from owners with some giving it 1 star and others 5/5 stars. Many of the 2018 and 2019 Discovery issues seem to be electronic and infotainment-related. Still a few build quality issues to be ironed out but overall build quality seemed to have improved a lot. Many of the complaints are also for transmission issues. The Land Rover Discovery 3 and 4 are synonymous with air suspension and electronic park brake problems.
I wrote an in-depth article about that and the solutions which you can read here
C’mon land Rover you need to up your game here. These vehicles come with a heavy price tag!
Is it safe to buy a Land Rover now?
All the new Land Rovers are a far cry from their original ladder frame chassis and basic structures. One workshop mechanic commented on Land Rover reliability. In his opinion, he admits it is difficult to say. Working at a service center you tend to see cars go wrong as opposed to cars that are running just fine. Still, based on his experience at other garages he’s opinion is Land Rover reliability is worse than most. A bit shocking considering the price tag.
There is no rhyme nor reason why Land Rovers break down. Engines, gearboxes, front suspension arms, even the bloody electric seats break every once and a while. We’ve replaced a few engines on relatively low mileage cars as well (40–60k miles). I once looked at a customer’s file and noticed that in his 10-year ownership of a Disco 3, he’s spent on average about £2000 per year on maintenance. He basically had fairly serious issues every six months. He’s not the only one either.
JLR has been an industry success story since Tata Motors purchased the struggling Land Rover SUV and Jaguar sports sedan brands from Ford Motor in 2008. The company was “near bankruptcy,” says Ralph Speth, the former BMW executive who was hired to fix the mess at the British company.
JLR has tried its best to improve the historically poor reliability of its cars, but the Jaguar and Land Rover brands still finished second-to-last and last, respectively, on JD Power’s 2018 U.S. quality study. Shocking!!!!
There are many examples of happy owners whose Discovery One and Two have racked up over 300km’s of mostly reliable miles. Many of these basic built vehicles are being used as daily drivers or even as a trading vehicle and then taken off-road over weekends.
The new-generation Land Rovers and Range Rovers are very high-tech and sports lots of electronic gadgets. The fit and finish of some of their vehicles still seem to be slightly off. Transmission problems are still largely reported and many customers complain about the infotainment system and rear cameras malfunctioning. Land Rovers and Range rovers are truly lovely vehicles when they are working fine.