Built on an all-new platform, Land Rover's LR3 replaced the Discovery for 2005. Seating up to seven occupants, the LR3 premium sport utility vehicle can be equipped with a Jaguar-derived 300-horsepower, 4.4-liter V-8 that's been altered to handle severe offroad conditions. Terrain Response technology has five terrain settings for on-road to extreme offroad conditions.
Optional adaptive headlights turn to illuminate road curves more effectively. A height-adjustable air-spring suspension is standard. A low access setting permits easier entry and exit.
Two trim levels have been available: SE and step-up HSE. A new model with a 4.0-liter V-6 engine joins the lineup for 2006. Third-row seating is now standard in the HSE model, which includes a 550-watt Harman Kardon Logic7 audio system with 14 speakers.
The upright, angular LR3 has rectangular rear quarter windows and uses a monocoque structure. Short overhangs and a large greenhouse are familiar touches, along with a front fascia and a split tailgate that echo the company's flagship Range Rover's features. A power sunroof and separate rear glass roof panels are installed.
Seating for five occupants is standard, but the HSE can seat up to seven. Rear occupants enjoy stadium-style seating, and Land Rover claims the third-row seat is big enough for 95th-percentile adults. The second- and third-row seats fold flat. A DVD-based navigation system with offroad capability is available.
A rotary switch selects from five Terrain Response settings. One is for normal driving, a second is for slippery conditions, and the remaining three are offroad settings for mud, sand and rock crawling. a
Under the Hood
Enlarged from a Jaguar engine, the 4.4-liter V-8 develops 300 hp and drives a six-speed-automatic transmission. Permanent four-wheel drive is standard. The newly available 4.0-liter V-6 develops 216 hp.
Antilock brakes and an electronic parking brake are installed. Side-impact airbags and side curtain-type airbags for the first and second rows are standard. Separate side curtains are included to protect third-row occupants.
It takes a while to get accustomed to its controls and idiosyncrasies, but the LR3 is an excellent touring machine that's well ahead of its Discovery predecessor. In addition to an impressive selection of offroad features, this squared-off SUV boasts a beautifully refined powertrain that shifts gears smoothly and has no shortage of V-8 power.
The seats are comfortable and supportive despite firm cushioning. Many of the bewildering controls may seldom be used, but the suspension's access setting helps ease entry and exit. The taut suspension yields a firm ride; it's pleasant on the highway and acceptable on urban pavement. Parking the LR3 could be easier, but this SUV maneuvers adeptly with satisfying steering feel. Little correction is needed to stay on course, but the LR3 does demand close attention.
Other than a head restraint that impedes the over-right-shoulder view, visibility is good. Backseat headroom and foot room are ample, but legroom is modest. Reaching past the lower cargo door to grab luggage isn't too easy, and folding down the third-row seat demands a long reach.