Land Rover's replacement for the Discovery, the LR3, is not only bigger and better looking, but it is a showcase for technology.
This all-new Land Rover, the first to be developed since Ford Motor Co. purchased the company, is a solid piece of work. It is comfortable, luxurious and roomy. Motor Trend magazine chose it SUV of the Year.
Prices start at $44,995 for the SE and $49,995 for the HSE.
While Land Rovers are known for their off-road prowess, the LR3 is designed to bring comfort and convenience to the road. It rides almost as smoothly as a luxury sedan, and the interior is very well appointed.
The LR3's styling clearly resembles that of the Range Rover. The flat sides create a carved-from-a-brick look that is enhanced by large wheels that are placed out toward the corners of the vehicle.
The LR3 sits tall, yet getting in isn't problematic. The high driving position gives an excellent view of the road. The rear seats are slightly higher so rear-seat passengers can see forward and don't feel closed in. The interior has numerous storage bins in addition to seating for five or seven people. The rear seats fold flat into the floor to create an obstacle-free load space.
The optional third-row seat is large enough for an adult, but as is often the case with three-seat SUVs, it is better suited for children or small adults. When open, the third seat occupies most of the cargo space.
The LR3 has an integrated body-frame architecture that is similar to a unibody vehicle that is bolted to a separate frame. High-strength steel, including Boron steel in the A and B pillars, enhances vehicle rigidity and crashworthiness. The aluminum hood saves weight.
Land Rover turned to Jaguar, also owned by Ford, for the engine. The 4.4-liter, 300-horsepower V-8 is derived from Jaguar's 4.2-liter AJ-V-8. This engine is slightly larger and is tuned to produce 315 pound-feet of torque. Plus, it gets more weatherproofing to protect it from dust and water in extreme off-road conditions.
The engine is mated to a six-speed, electronically controlled ZF automatic transmission that offers a "sport" mode for performance driving. This transmission also lets the driver take full manual control.
Naturally, the LR3 has four-wheel drive with electronic traction control and a stability control program that modulates the throttle and brakes for maximum grip in extreme conditions. A computer controls throttle response, gear changes and suspension settings according to speed and driving conditions.
Low range is also available for tough terrain, and it can be selected while on the move. The central differential fully locks if conditions require greater traction.
A Terrain Response system allows a driver to choose one of five terrain settings using a rotary dial on the center console. Small pictograms denote driving conditions such as grass/gravel/snow or rock crawling, and the car then picks the appropriate settings for those conditions.
Terrain Response adjusts ride height, engine torque response, hill descent control, and settings for electronic traction control, transmission and differential. All are very slick and easy to use.
A fully independent suspension, with height-adjustable air springs, has double wishbones for good on- and off-road handling. Steering is by rack and pinion.
The base price of the test vehicle was $44,995. The cold climate package, heavy-duty package, rear climate control, third-row seat and navigation system brought the sticker price to $51,520.
Four years or 50,000 miles.
Engine: 4.4-liter, 300-hp V-8
Wheelbase: 113.6 inches
Curb weight: 5,426 lbs.
Base price: $44,995
As driven: $51,520
Mpg rating: 14 city, 18 hwy.
At A Glance
Point: The LR3 is comfortable and luxurious. It drives quietly, has ample power and rides as smoothly as a luxury sedan. A knob with pictures of various driving conditions makes it easy to select the optimum four-wheel-drive setting.
Counterpoint: A well-optioned SE costs almost as much as the HSE, which has most of the equipment standard. Gas mileage is poor, and the optional third seat takes up most of the luggage space.