Land Rovers are strange animals; when not in their native environment, they don't always thrive. The 2009 Land Rover LR3 is a case in point. While I have no doubt the LR3 shines in the British countryside or African savanna, it didn't work quite as well in an American suburb. The LR3 is tall, thin and luxuriously appointed, but it lacks some of the typical kid-hauling SUV amenities of its competitors. It'll go on safari in the African savanna with aplomb, but it suffers in the U.S. drive-through confines.
No matter the environs, the LR3 is beautiful-looking and refined, with plenty of luxurious elements, including wide leather seats. But I struggled to get the optional third-row seats stored away - working up a sweat isn't refined. This difficulty as well as some other problems I had in the interior left me confused by the LR3.
One thing I'm not confused about is the LR3's power. It has an impressive V-8 engine that guzzles gas; it gets an EPA-estimated 12/17 mpg city/highway. Talk about conspicuous consumption - that gas mileage is downright shameful. The LR3 is fun to drive under the right conditions. It handles well on the highway, but it felt top-heavy when turning, even at low speeds.
The LR3 is a real standout on the road; even in Colorado's suburbia, I haven't seen many of them around.
The LR3 is unique-looking - in a swanky way - with its tall, asymmetrical rear window that lets in tons of light to the second and third rows. I tend to think of the LR3 as the giraffe of the SUV kingdom because it's taller and narrower than you'd think. Despite its height of 74.3 inches, it fit perfectly in my garage. With its narrow width of 75.4 inches, it didn't put my husband's car in danger of receiving any door dings.
I thought the liftgate was going to be troublesome for me to use because the LR3 is so tall, but it was incredibly easy to reach when open. A small tailgate made it easy to load up the cargo area; it also made for a nice place to sit.
One of this SUV's most noticeable traits is its impressive turning radius that trumps its competitors. At 18.8 feet, I can turn this puppy around in one shot. Even though it's easy to turn around, the LR3 is still large and kind of cumbersome to drive; navigating parking lots and teeny drive-throughs required some extra care.
The LR3's front end is modern-looking, with its sturdy and strong angles, but it's not too trendy looking. It says "I'm a Land Rover" without adding a "dahling!" at the end of the sentence. The LR3 has a clean, simple design that camouflages all that's going on inside.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair-Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
The LR3 lives a dual life; it's rugged and refined, luxurious and pared down. Sometimes this duality was nice, at other times it was a pain in the butt.
The LR3's sophisticated walnut trim and delicious leather seats said this Rover was for the more discerning types, yet the rugged-looking center console said, "Get some mud on me, please!" The LR3's Terrain Response system, Hill Descent Control, adjustable ground clearance, traction control, and Electronic Air Suspension scream to be taken off-road, but the LR3's lovely detailing implores me to wipe my feet.
The eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat and tilt/telescoping steering wheel invited me to get comfortable and led me to believe the LR3 would strive to accommodate me. Wrong. I struggled to fold down the available third row because of its tight springs and the long reach to the lever.
The automatic suspension kept the SUV lowered for daily driving and loading, but it wasn't low enough for smaller kids to get in unassisted. There was plenty of room in the second row for three kids in booster seats, but the recessed seat belt receptors kept the younger kids from buckling up on their own. Stadium seating in the third row is enhanced by deep footwells and a moonroof, but it's tricky to get back there without feeling like you're mucking up the second row. The Latch connectors were incredibly easy to access and use, and, well, there's no counter to that one. Nice job, Land Rover!
With its first-row sunroof and two additional moonroofs in the second and third rows, the LR3 would be perfect to take on a nighttime safari. Yes, that's a total of three glass panels for viewing the sky. These panels also prevent the third-row passengers from feeling cramped.
The Land Rover is pretty good in the cargo/cupholder category. There are dual glove boxes, one of which has a center partition for your CD cases. The center console houses a refrigerated bin that'll keep drinks cold as long as the LR3's engine is running. The third row is like a pouched marsupial, with huge storage bins and cupholders, but the second row is a whole other animal. Cupholders exist, but only in the back of the center console, which is hard for kids in car seats to reach. Any other storage in the second row is virtually extinct.
Also extinct is any sort of sense involving the design of the LR3's controls on the center stack. It's overwhelming and not intuitive. Fortunately, your kids can control the stereo from their seats in either the second or third rows. You can keep enjoying the silence as your kids rock out with their available headphones.
Another thing I found frustrating was the LR3's heated windshield. There are tiny wires running through the windshield to heat it up when needed, but they're a distraction because it's hard to train the eye to see past them.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
Unsurprisingly, the 2009 LR3 doesn't skimp on safety. When an animal is built for serious off-roading, it ought to have serious standard safety features. The LR3 does just that with an electronic stability system with traction control, antilock brakes, brake assist and an electronic parking brake.
The LR3 has front, side-impact and side curtain airbags for the first and second rows. Side curtain airbags for the optional third row is included in the 7 Seat Comfort Package.
When the third row was down, the LR3's asymmetrical rear window gave me great rear visibility. When the third row was up, rear visibility was terrible. To make matters worse, a rear camera isn't available on the LR3. Huh? It's got a parking alert system that beeps when you get too close to something, but rear cameras are great for getting out of parking spots unscathed as well as helping you keep an eye out for kids and their gear behind the SUV.
In Diapers: There's so much room in the second row, I was able to place three booster seats side-by-side.
In School: The leather seats made it easy to clean up the crumbs; younger school-age kids might have trouble buckling up because of recessed seat belt receptors.
Teens: They'll love that they have their own climate and stereo controls in the second and third rows.