I grew up in a family that had a very utilitarian view of cars. We had reliable and safe cars, without too many bells and whistles, that got us from Point A to Point B consistently over the course of 100,000 or 200,000 miles. Pragmatic. No frills. I married a man with this same attitude, and thus have spent my whole life living in ignorant bliss. Then I started test-driving the latest and greatest cars on the market for Mother Proof, and have since changed my motto: "Screw utilitarianism! Bring on a high-performance luxury car that will offer me a real driving experience!"
Take the 2008 Land Rover LR3 HSE, for example. I didn't want to return it. Driving that car was an experience, and I loved it, even if it was a slightly impractical car for me. When I dropped it off at the end of my test-drive week and got back in my utilitarian sedan, I felt shlumpy. Boring. To see a full rundown of this car - and what separates it from the previous model - check out a side-by-side comparison here.
Exciting as it is, the LR3 can still just get you from Point A to Point B, but it can also do so if Point A is in the middle of the desert and Point B is at the top of a snow-covered mountain - and it will do it without so much as batting an eyelash. Land Rover's Terrain Response System allows you to simply turn a dial to get your car geared up for different types of terrain: general, sand, rock crawl, mud/ruts or grass/gravel/snow.
I decided to put this system to the test by packing the whole family into the car and heading for the hills. By "hills" I mean the great Rocky Mountains, which just happened to get record amounts of snow during the weekend I had the LR3. Almost every other car we passed was sliding around and getting stuck, but not the LR3. I turned the dial to the snow setting and cruised up and down the mountain without a problem.
Not only was our cruising safe, it was also comfortable. We were cushioned in comfy leather seats inside a cozy interior. My husband's side was set at 76 degrees and mine at 84, and soothing classical music piped through the car on a kicking stereo system. The optional third row seating is pretty easy to maneuver, and there are helpful proximity sensors on the rear and sides that beep as you approach obstacles, plus a standard sunroof and even cooler fixed-glass roof panels over the backseat and third row. My son totally dug looking up into the sky through them. All over the interior is a stylin' grained walnut trim. Love it.
The storage space is also to-die-for. We shoved so much into the back of this car, and it swallowed everything and even seemed to want more. There are also two glove compartments and mucho cupholders. So dreamy.
There were, however, a couple things that give me pause. There's a V-8 engine that, while providing the kind of sexy power I so love, is also a gas-guzzler; fuel economy in this car is about 12/17 mpg city/highway. Ugh. I'm kind of a green gal, not to mention the fact that busy moms don't like to be constantly filling up the tank. This car works against all of that. This issue tugs at my heart, though I'm embarrassed to say I'm almost willing to overlook it.
There is, however, another issue that I can't overlook, at least not at this point in my life. In order to fit my son's rear-facing car seat into the back, the front passenger seat had to be pushed up so far that anyone sitting there had almost no room for their legs. My poor husband sat there with his knees in his chest, which made me feel bad (though not bad enough to let him drive). Land Rover, please give us a few more inches in the backseat. I love this car, and for those of us using rear-facing seats, it's not workable as is.
If your kids are older than mine, though, I say go for it - you won't regret it. This is a driving experience you don't want to miss.
For more information on the 2008 Land Rover LR3 and its safety features, visit Cars.com. With questions or comments regarding this review, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
LET'S TALK NUMBERS
Latch Connectors: 2
Seating Capacity (includes driver): 7
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great
Fun Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove On): Groove On
2008 Land Rover LR3 HSE
Base price: $54,025
Price as tested: $58,675
Engine: 300-hp, 4.4-liter V-8
Fuel: 12/17 mpg
Step-in height: 6"
Turning radius: 18.8'
Cargo space: 9.9 - 90.3 cu. ft.
NHTSA Crash-Test Ratings
Driver's side: Not rated
Passenger's side: Not rated
Front occupant: Not rated
Rear occupant: Not rated
Rollover resistance: Not rated
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