2009 Land Rover LR3Posted on March 2nd, 2009
Luxury sport-utility vehicle gets wheel and interior upgrades
By Nina Russin
Of all the products in Land Rover’s line-up, the LR3 is the model that resonates most with active buyers. It combines the automaker’s legendary off-road capability with an ergonomic interior that incorporates the technology these buyers look for, without some of the luxury accoutrements they don’t want.
Over the past two years, Land Rover has added some upscale features to the LR3’s standard equipment: leather upholstery, nineteen-inch wheels, and seating for seven passengers. While the leather seats are less practical than cloth, they make sense in light of the vehicle’s mid-luxury positioning.
Buyers can upgrade from standard halogen to brighter bi-xenon front headlamps and adaptive lighting that swivels the lamps according to steering wheel inputs. An optional center console cooler box keeps drinks cold on long trips. Other new options include enhanced parking assistance, satellite radio, a cold weather package and Bluetooth connectivity.
Terrain-response system improves cold-weather and off-road performance.
The terrain response system that debuted on the original LR3 is one of the car’s greatest assets. A rotary dial on the center console allows the driver to modify the engine’s throttle response, transmission shift points, differential operation, and dynamic safety systems according to the following conditions: general road conditions, grass/gravel/snow, mud and ruts, sand, or rock crawl.
Having experimented with the technology at Land Rover’s off-road course outside Montreal, Canada, I can vouch for how well the system works. When combined with the vehicle’s permanent four-wheel drive system, terrain response enables the LR3 to negotiate trails that would not only stop most vehicles, but accomplished hikers as well.
An electronic parking brake engages via a small lever on the center console: the device is easier to reach and control on the trails than a foot brake. The car’s antilock braking system is engineered to work both on and off-road. Hill descent control works over a range of speeds, from 2.2 to 3.7 miles-per-hour, depending on the severity of the terrain.
The LR3 is capable of wading through twenty-seven inches of water with no damage to the engine. It can climb a forty-five degree grade, and remain stable on a side slope of up to thirty-five degrees.
Powerful on-road machine
On the other hand, the LR3 has the horsepower and torque to be a formidable performer on the highway. Its aluminum V8 engine and six-speed automatic transmission produce excellent low-end power for merging into high-speed traffic, while providing enough on the high end for passing vehicles at speed. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is 8-½ seconds. The trade-off is in fuel economy: about fourteen miles-per-gallon on average.
Despite its high profile, the LR3 is remarkably stable during high-speed maneuvers. The chassis stays flat and very much in control when driving through decreasing radius turns at high speeds. The independent front and rear air suspension features load-leveling software to make towing easier.
Ground clearance on paved roads is 7.5 inches: plenty to clear the occasional snow bank without compromising high-speed stability. The suspension can raise the vehicle 2.2-inches for off-road driving.
Stadium-style seating positions each row of passengers slightly higher than those in front. Its advantage is giving everyone in the car a clear forward view. But on the highway, the back seats cut into the driver’s rear vision
On a positive note, the car’s tall greenhouse provides better than average visibility to the sides. The LR3 is one of the few sport-utility vehicles that does not have thick D pillars that obstruct the driver’s view to the back corners.
Four-wheel brakes stop the car in a firm, linear fashion without being grabby.
An interior full of light
One of the things I love about the LR3 is the amount of light inside the car, thanks to its large greenhouse and Alpine glass panels over the second and third rows. It is unique among sport-utility vehicles because rear passengers don’t feel like denizens of a dark cave.
Passengers throughout the car will find plenty of cup and bottle holders, and power points. Dual ashtrays in the center stack are an unwelcome surprise, but they are probably the only misstep designers made.
Land Rover’s dual-stage seat heaters in the front row are the best in the industry. Buyers who don’t live in cold climates can use them for physical therapy. I always enjoy them after a long, hard run.
A navigation screen at the top of the center stack displays maps both on and off-road. The center stack is a little cluttered, but basic audio and temperature controls are easy to find and reach from either front seating position.
A two-piece glovebox includes a lower bin for registration papers, and an upper bin slotted for storing compact discs. There is a handy shelf above the glovebox for stashing cell phones or other small electronic devices.
Three-position memory allows multiple drivers to share the car. Separate armrests for the driver and front passenger travel with the seats. The power tilt steering wheel includes redundant audio and Bluetooth controls to minimize driver distraction. First and second-row seats have ample lower lumbar control.
Overhead reading lamps in the first and second rows make it easier to read maps at night. All three rows of passengers have access to volume and channel controls.
Stadium-style seating positions the second-row seats far enough above the transmission to eliminate a tunnel in the floor. The second row can comfortably hold three adults. Second-row seats collapse flat using a strap on the seatbacks, but they do not fold into the cargo floor. However, the seats will tumble forward to ease third-row access, or loading large cargo into the back.
While the third-row seats are comfortable to sit in, I find them difficult to lift into place. Tumbling them into the floor is less of a problem.
Unique clamshell-design liftgate
A unique asymmetrical liftgate is easy for smaller drivers to open. With the third-row seats folded flat, the LR3 meets our bicycle friendly standards. A 12-volt powerpoint in the cargo area allows riders to recharge electronic devices on the go.
All models come with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control, hill descent and rear park control. Buyers can add front parking assist as part of the HSE luxury package ($6,750).
Base price on the LR3 is $45,975 not including a $775 delivery charge. Land Rover builds the LR3 at its Solihull, UK assembly plant.
Likes: Exceptional off-road capability and excellent handling on paved roads. The LR3’s large greenhouse and Alpine glass panels bring lots of ambient light into the car’s well-designed interior.
Dislikes: Poor fuel economy.
Make: Land Rover
Base price: $45,975
As tested: $55,500
Horsepower: 300 Hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 315 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 8.47 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Comments: Base price does not include California emissions or a $775 delivery charge.
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