Land Rover's bread and butter model, the Discovery, was well received by true off-roaders, but the eccentric SUV never hit its stride in the mainstream market. The redesign of the Discovery changes everything, including the name, with aspirations of appealing to a broader customer base. In the U.S., the Disco replacement will be known as the LR3, and it has high expectations to meet. Not only does it have to prove true to the core Land Rover philosophy, it also has to cater to seasoned Land Rover veterans, all while bringing fresh faces through the showroom doors.
After spending two weeks with the LR3, we think it is going to succeed. More contemporary than the Discovery it replaces, the LR3 still maintains the quirky Land Rover charm and off-road capability but improves comfort and convenience by leaps and bounds. Our LR3 SE was well-equipped and stickered at a palatable $46,620.
For the price, the '05 LR3 is packed full of technology, including the ultra stiff Integrated Body-frame chassis and a new four-wheel independent cross-linked air suspension system. With this suspension, the vehicle can raise or lower to suit terrain conditions and provides the best ride of any SUV we have tested in recent memory. With more than 10 inches of front and 13 inches of rear wheel travel, the LR3 can handle the harshest terrain. Highway handling is predictable, and the steering feel is class-leading with good feedback and excellent weighting. Another major change comes under the hood, where the Disco's tired old pushrod V-8 has been replaced by a sophisticated, Jaguar-derived 4.4L DOHC V-8, producing 300 hp and 315 lb-ft of torque. Teaming up with the 4.4L is the new six-speed ZF automatic transmission. With this combo, the LR3 shifts precisely and never left us wanting another gear, perfectly matching the engine's powerband. Another notable technology is the Terrain Response system, which is an off-road aide that is driver selectable via a center console control knob. The settings, such as general driving, grass/gravel/snow, mud and ruts, sand, and rockcrawl, use a different algorithm to control the LR3's various systems (from ride height and traction control to the electronic lockers and throttle response), delivering maximum traction to the driver.
The exterior design, while thoroughly modern, furthers the Land Rover corporate look. We think the Land Rover LR3 wears its slab sides and beveled edges well. The asymmetrical styling contributes to the crisp and futuristic look, although some staffers weren't wowed by the design direction. Overall, the LR3 gained its fair share of looks out on the road, particularly because ours was only one of two in the United States when we were doing our testing.
The LR3's first-class cabin was impeccable, with a serene, squeak- and rattle-free ride, very high-quality materials and superb fit and finish. We were also impressed with the fold-flat rear rows of seating and the ample room at each seating position. If you like an all-business interior, then you will love the LR3's expanse of rich charcoal leather, otherwise the tan two-tone is still an option for those looking for some warmth.
This new LR3 is hands-down the best 7-passenger SUV on the market. We think that Land Rover has expanded the reach of its middle child beyond those dedicated customers that have typically been associated with Land Rover of the past, and the LR3 will no doubt accomplish its mission of drawing a fresh audience to the Land Rover franchise.