The LR3 in an impressive achievement. While other mid-luxury SUVs are surrendering off-road competence, the LR3 continues to combine responsive on-road performance with go-anywhere off-road capability in a single comfortable, safe and secure vehicle.
The LR3 offers the competence of the Range Rover and some of its luxurious feel. Underway, the LR3 feels composed and secure, with little noise and vibration transmitted into the cabin. The brakes are excellent. The LR3 incorporates the latest in electronic systems, which select the best combination of traction, power, gearing, and braking to suit any type of terrain and surface, to put serious off-road trekking within the reach of most enthusiasts. Simply twisting a knob to Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, or Rock Crawl optimizes the settings for the LR3's mind-boggling array of electronic controls and traction aids. In short, the LR3 can go just about anywhere on the planet. And it does it in style.
The LR3 has a spacious, airy cabin with comfortable seats and intuitive controls. It can seat up to seven passengers with the optional third row, and the seats fold flat into the floor individually, making this a versatile utility vehicle.
The LR3 comes with a choice of V6 and V8 engines. For 2007, Land Rover has added more standard equipment for the V6, including leather upholstery, a power lumbar adjuster for the driver's seat, a power glass sunroof, and a 240-watt Harman/Kardon stereo with steering-wheel controls. The 4.0-liter, all-aluminum V6 produces 216 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque.
The V8 is a 4.4-liter engine from Jaguar that, with variable cam phasing, develops 300 horsepower and delivers strong throttle response with 315 pound-feet of torque. The third-row seat and rear-seat heating and air conditioning are standard on all V8 models.
All models come with a six-speed automatic transmission, two-speed transfer case and permanent four-wheel drive. The LR3 comes with a remote-controlled rear suspension height adjuster that's useful for towing. A dealer-installed Class III hitch gives the LR3 a 7700-pound tow rating.
The Land Rover LR3 presents a contemporary design, but one that still conveys a sense of functionality. Land Rover styling has always been distinctive, generally driven by real-world functional requirements. The LR3 is no exception.
Most distinctive is the stepped roof line, a recognized brand element preserved from the previous-generation Discovery, re-named the LR3 when it was redesigned for 2005. The stepped roof offers a distinct visual profile, but also creates headroom for rear-seat passengers while compensating for the high floor. The high floor is required to clear the center differential and to give the LR3 sufficient ground clearance to cross a savannah.
Another example of distinctive Land Rover design is the asymmetric tailgate, which operates as an easy-open clamshell for the top half, and a standard tailgate for the bottom half. The result is exceptional ease of access, and reduced load lift height, while preserving a sheltered fold-out tailgate surface for true tailgating at a campsite or stadium parking lot.
Also noticeable is a functional air intake on the right of the engine bay; it's only on one side because that was all that was needed. The 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels fitted to the V6 SE and V8 SE are new designs for 2007.
The LR3 is considerably larger than the previous Discovery. The LR3's wheelbase of 113.6 inches is as long as a Ford Explorer's. That not only gives LR3 ample room for three-row seating, but better highway stability, particularly when towing.
The Land Rover LR3 is a comfortable vehicle. Driver and front passenger get power-adjustable seats with adjustable armrests, and the second-row seats have generous headroom and legroom. Even the third-row seats can be considered habitable for adults.
The large windows, long wheelbase, and overhead Alpine windows create a spacious, airy interior. The low beltline, with window sills well below shoulder level, not only helps lower the center of gravity, but also improves forward and downward vision, an important advantage when driving through rugged terrain or traversing narrow tracks, especially those with exposures to seemingly bottomless ravines.
The instrument panel is clean, modern, and in keeping with the geometric exterior design. Controls are good sized, tactile, and significantly more intuitively arrayed than Land Rovers of the past.
In fact, LR3's interior design gives up nothing to other SUVs in practical flexibility. The second-row seats fold down into the footwell, leaving a perfectly flat surface. Many SUVs do not offer the benefit of flat cargo areas. The optional third-row seats can also fold flat, creating a six-foot load floor. Each rear seat folds independently, leaving numerous options for seating and cargo.
Several thoughtful touches have been added for '07. The Harman/Kardon stereo, which comes standard for 2007, incorporates a time display. Yet a separate clock has been added to the information center in the instrument cluster making it easier for the driver to tell time at a glance. A three-flash lane-change function has been added to the turn signals. The front passenger's power window opens and closes with one touch, and the front power seat adjusters operate without having to have the key in the ignition switch.
As with every previous Land Rover, practicality in the outback is reflected in functional interior appointments. For the variety of stuff carried on a camping trip, there are four glove boxes, readily accessible stash zones and numerous drink holders. Flip-down grab handles are located at all four doors, and comfortable, solid grab points built into the front-seat headrests give occupants something to hold on to when the driver is exploring the LR3's impressive tilt, climb, and descent limits.
Driving the Land Rover LR3 down flooded forest trails, curving mountain roads and high-speed freeways reveals a class-leading combination of capability, utility, luxury and style. The LR3 handles the toughest of off-road obstacles brilliantly, yet is comfortable on rush-hour freeways. Though far from best in class in terms of on-road handling dynamics, the LR3 is much better on paved roads and in daily driving than the previous-generation Discovery. Yet it gives up nothing in off-road capability.
Driving on paved surfaces, the immediate sensation is of security, composure and protected personal space. The driver is seated high above the average car, and insulated from outside noises, vibrations or intrusions. Steering is notably solid and progressive, and very little road vibration is transmitted through the thick steering wheel.
The LR3 is the first Land Rover built with what the company calls integrated body-frame architecture, which combines hydroformed steel frame rails with a rigid monocoque body shell. Rubber mounts and dampers between the frame and body provide isolation from noise, vibration and harshness. Premium materials such as aluminum, magnesium, and high-tensile-strength alloy steel are used in key areas to save weight. Outer steel body panels are two-side galvanized to prevent corrosion. The two-piece tailgate is aluminum for ease of opening and closing. This new approach accounts for much of the LR3's (relatively) light weight, crisp handling, and solid feel. Granted, the LR3 doesn't feel as taut as a BMW X5, but it's more comfortable than the X5 on dirt roads.
The LR3 will reliably hold a given line through a tight corner, but the air suspension allows some body travel. On corners, the body leans, but the grip of the tires is readily apparent, creating a feeling of hanging out over the edge of the road. Nevertheless, with rack-and-pinion steering, independent double-wishbone suspension at all four corners, stiff wheels, wide tires and the latest in electronic stability control, the longer we drove, the more confident we became of the LR3's capabilities at speed. It takes a set in corners and rewards smooth driving techniques. It's not as forgiving of poor driving technique as, say, a Lexus RX.
Braking is remarkable, both in terms of overall feel and sheer stopping power. The pedal is progressive, with no vibration coming through, and it always feels like there is more stopping power readily at hand. The brakes themselves on V8 models are large 13.3-inch discs in front and 13.8-inch discs at the rear, with four-channel ABS. (Brakes on the V6 SE measure 12.5 and 12.8 inches in the front and rear, respectively.) The anti-lock brake system is designed to work off road, as well.
An array of electronic systems help the driver to better control the vehicle in emergency stopping and handling situations. Among them: Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Emergency Brake Assist, Cornering Brake Control, and Active Roll Mitigation. Essentially, all of these systems track driver input at the steering wheel, throttle, and brake pedal and compare it to what is happening at each road wheel. When a tire loses grip or an emergency braking situation is sensed, one or more of these systems react to improve the vehicle's operating position. In many cases, these adjustments will be transparent to the driver.
Two brake-based systems, Hill Descent Control (HDC) and all terrain Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) work to enhance driver control off road in rugged terrain. The Hill Descent Control system, used to restrict downhill speeds on steep, slippery grades, is adjustable through the steering wheel cruise control buttons. It works amazingly well.
The LR3 offers strong throttle response, a departure from older Land Rovers. The 4.4-liter V8 rated at 300 horsepower is a stroked version of Jaguar's 4.2-liter, adapted to the LR3's particular requirements. The increased stroke lengt
The Land Rover LR3 offers brilliant off-road capability with on-road comfort. The V6 model lowered the cost of entry last year, and is even better equipped for '07. The LR3 may be the best vehicle for anybody who needs a comfortable daily driver that really can go anywhere any four-wheel vehicle might go.
John Stewart filed this report for New Car Test Drive.
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