2006 Land Rover LR3

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2005 Land Rover LR3

This 2005 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2009.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

New Land Rover has lots more to offer than snob appeal.
Pros:
  • Redesigned for American tastes
  • Roomy
  • Powerful
Cons:
  • Fuel hungry
  • Small gauge numbers
  • Not as sporty as some rivals

The redesigned British Land Rover LR3 is a big improvement over its Discovery predecessor and is the first Land Rover designed with Americans expressly in mind.

The Discovery had quirky styling, offbeat controls, an underpowered engine and an interior mainly for slightly built Europeans. It even needed an optional suspension to make it handle decently on roads, where most Land Rover driving is done in America.

While the Land Rover name has lots of snob appeal, many folks understandably passed up the expensive Discovery for rival sport-utility vehicles from such automakers as Lexus, BMW and Jeep.

The Discovery, like all Land Rovers, had great off-road abilities, but snob appeal was its major selling feature.

Ford Takeover
The larger, more powerful 2005 LR3 is the first Land Rover completely developed by a new management team that took over Land Rover in July, 2000, after Ford bought it from Germany's BMW. Previous to BMW ownership, Land Rover was an all-British operation that offered the first upscale sport ute in 1970, but eventually fell behind rivals in many areas.

The LR3 is about 6 inches longer, an inch wider, several inches lower and has a wheelbase almost 14 inches longer than the Discovery, which looked top-heavy. The LR3 also is costlier than the Discovery, with list prices of $44,320 and $49,320.

Most Powerful Ever
The LR3 also is 850 pounds heavier than the 217-horsepower Discovery, but has a strong 4.4-liter 300-horsepower V8. It's the most powerful engine put in a Land Rover and is derived from the 4.2-liter V8 from Jaguar, which also is Ford-owned. Land Rover reportedly spent millions of dollars making the high-torque engine suitable for the LR3.

The engine is hooked to a responsive 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift gate that is easy to use. Acceleration is brisk up to 60 mph, and the 65-75 mph passing time is good—although not neck-snapping—because the LR3 is pretty heavy.

Low Fuel Economy
The V8 loafs at 2000 rpm at 70 mph for relaxed long-distance cruising, but fuel economy isn't good. The engine delivers an estimated 14 mpg in the city and 18 on highways.

The fuel tank holds 22.8 gallons and the high 10.75:1 engine compression ratios calls for high-octane fuel.

The long LR3 wheelbase allows a spacious area for a set of optional ($1,250) third row seats, which come with a side-curtain airbag that goes with the standard curtain airbag for first- and second-row seats. Up to eight airbags are available.

Room for Seven
The front bucket seats provide sports sedan support, and the middle of the second-row split seat isn't hard, as it is in many sport utes and even upscale cars. There is standard 5-passenger seating, with the third-row seats allowing room for seven occupants.

The third-row seats are fairly easy to reach and aren't just for kids, as is the case with many sport-ute third seats. Even 6-footers have decent room in them, although there isn't much legroom to spare.

Fold-Flat Seats
Cargo room is marginal with the third-row seats in their normal position, but second- and third-row seats fold flat to allow an impressive cargo area.

The LR3 is ruggedly built and equipped for serious off-road driving. It has a permanent four-wheel-drive system, separate low-range gearing and locking center differential, with an available locking rear differential. A hill-descent feature takes the worry about going down steep grades.

Good Handling
Happily, the LR3 handles much better on roads than the Discovery, and has an antiskid/traction control system.

A new driver-controlled Terrain Response system changes suspension and powertrain electronic calculations to suit general driving and various treacherous on- and off-road slippery conditions—including "rock crawl" during low-speed, off-pavement driving.

Optional adaptive headlights swivel with the direction of travel to illuminate the road.

The power steering is quick, but a little heavy. Handling is good in town and on interstate highways, although quick lane changes and zooming through curves elicits some body sway. After all, the LR3 is a tall (74.1-inch high) sport utility that can't match the sporty on-road handling of, say, the 67.5-inch-high BMW X5.

Comfortable Air Suspension
Replacing the Discovery's old solid axles and metal springs is an all-independent air suspension, which works with big wheels and tires. It provides the LR3 with a nice ride over bumpy roads and keeps things serene during off-road motoring.

Braking with the anti-lock, all-disc system is reassuring. While a little soft, the pedal has a nice linear action.

The LR3 has crisper styling than the rather odd-looking Discovery. It looks modern, but isn't especially distinctive despite its split-level roofline. That roofline allows "stadium seating"—each seat row sits higher than the row before it to give occupants a good view out the windshield.

Styling Heritage
Land Rover says the LR3's "clean, simple, minimalist shape ensures a fresh look for many years." While some might want more styling pizzazz, the LR3 is very clean-sided, as was the original 1948 Land Rover.

Easily gripped door handles make it easy to enter the quiet, upscale interior, which lets occupants sit high and gaze out of tall windows. Gauge numbers should be larger, but the steering column is adjustable and sound and climate system controls are large. There are plenty of beverage holders and storage areas. And all side windows lower all the way.

A glass liftgate and drop-down tailgate replace the Discovery's awkward swing-out cargo door, which complicated curbside loading. The spare tire is under the trunk and thus no longer is on the outside rear end.

The LR3's more mainstream design should increase Land Rover sales, as should its continuing snob appeal.

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BB02 - 9/21/2014 1:40:14 AM