As the Range Rover P38 celebrates 25 years we look whether a P38 would be a good buy in the secondhand market.
If you were to buy a brand new Range Rover, it would set you back at least £80,000. But you could buy a Range Rover P38 that design-wise and conceptually looks similar to the later generation models for around £1500! That is cheaper than a second-hand Ford Fiesta, but it goes off-road and when you turn up at the point-to-point you will instantly look the part!
So, before you, all rush out and buy a Range Rover P38 let’s take a look at the whole package and point out the things to be aware of.
The body, gearboxes, chassis, mechanicals, drivetrain… are all pretty good on the P38. Things that let it down are coolant issues with the petrol engines, the underpowered diesel’s, problems with air suspension that often go unresolved and, most of all, the electrics.
Everything runs through the body control module, located under the driver’s seat. Water ingress can damage it, one day it will be fine and the next day not. While a good service history is essential in terms of oil changes etc., it is no guarantee that your P38 will not let you down when you least expect it.
There is lots of room and a raised driving position with good visibility to boot. Best of all, fully loaded the P38’s air suspension, assuming it has not sprung a leak, will keep it composed.
Even if the 4.6 petrol engine, in particular, is known for dodgy cylinder liners and springing internal coolant leaks, the P38’s basic mechanicals are by and large tough. If they do go wrong but they are repairable by an experienced mechanic.
Power comes courtesy of a pair of V8 petrols – a 4.6 and a 4.0, the latter less prone to the engine problems outlined above – and a BMW-sourced 2.5-litre turbo diesel that is a little weedy, so check it hasn’t been thrashed or even chipped, a common mod. The 4.0 petrol and the diesel engine were available with a manual or automatic gearbox, both reliable. The 4.6 was an automatic only. Today, automatic’s dominate the classifieds.
Engine: On petrol engines, check the coolant level because the steel cylinder liners can corrode the alloy block, allowing coolant into the combustion chamber, where it vapourises. It usually occurs from 90,000 miles onwards and is an expensive fix.
On petrol and diesel engines, watch for overheating at idle and oil in the coolant. Diesel’s can be reluctant to start from cold, an issue caused by faulty glowplugs and associated electricals, fuel system leaks or a weak fuel pump.
Transmission: On the manual ’box, feel for a rough down change from third to second and that the clutch isn’t worn. Check low range works on the transfer ’box.
Wheels and suspension: Wobbles and shudders could be driveshafts, joints or wheel bearings but maybe just a wheel balance issue. The air suspension can develop leaks, causing the pump to work overtime. It then fails, is replaced and fails again, so make sure the system is leak-free.
Interior: Check the operation of the air-con system and every electrical control.
Steering and brakes: Vague or rough steering could be a pump issue or worn ball joints. Juddering under hard braking may be worn front dampers, steering components and/or worn discs. Check rear brake pipes aren’t corroded.
Body: Inspect the underside for off-road mishaps and the rear wheel arches for rust. Water in the wheel well may be faulty seals, but in the cabin, it can wreck the electrics.
All-in-all if you are in the market for a good looking 4X4 at a good price it’s worth looking at a Range Rover P38. We would always recommend taking along a good mechanic whenever you are buying a used car to check it over – especially if you are clueless yourself!
Are you looking to buy a Range Rover P38? Lets us know in the comments below