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2006 Land Rover LR3 review

October 19, 2005 01:51 PM EST | Land Rover , SUV's | Email to Friend

View large imageA powerful V8 engine, cutting-edge suspension technology and interior appointments fit for royalty land the LR3 in the top tier of luxury SUVs, especially for those who actually plan on traveling off the beaten path.

Pros
Highly advanced suspension well suited for on-road cruising and off-road adventures, fold-flat second- and third-row seats, opulent interior, optional 550-watt stereo, powerful V8.

Cons
Excessive weight hurts performance, complicated audio and climate control interface.

What's New for 2006
A third-row seat is now standard on the HSE model

Introduction:
Over the past 50 years, a small British company with a simple green and gold logo has become legendary in the world of off-road exploration. While other marques such as Jeep and Hummer have tried to duplicate the mystique and reputation of the venerable Land Rover brand, none have been able to match its reputation for providing luxury and reliability in the most extreme conditions known to man. Once cherished by jungle explorers and Saharan desert trekkers, Land Rover has undergone a significant makeover in recent years and now represents the creme de la creme of the booming luxury SUV market. This image was helped by a short-lived buyout deal with BMW that lasted just long enough to produce the opulent and exclusive new Range Rover. Unfortunately, the BMW deal came undone before the same magic could be worked on the midsize Discovery, which arrived in the U.S. in 1995 slotted beneath the Range Rover as the more affordable way to obtain a Land Rover. The old Discovery benefited from the same off-road prowess as its big brother, but was otherwise an outdated and overpriced dinosaur in the highly competitive SUV marketplace. Ford came along a few years later and snapped Rover up, hoping to apply the same formula that has proven successful at other legendary British brands recently acquired by the Blue Oval. The LR3 is the first product born out of that relationship, and from what we can tell, it looks more than worthy of carrying the Land Rover badge. When the development began on the LR3, engineers started on the inside and worked their way out. The interior is unmistakably Land Rover, boasting luxurious leather seating and a muted elegance that reflects its British heritage. Three-row seating for seven is available, and a stadium-style layout guarantees every passenger a stellar view of the world passing by. The LR3 can also be ordered with a fixed glass roof that filters out heat and UV rays while letting in the view above, and both the second- and third-row seats can be folded flat for increased cargo capacity. Other interior amenities include a touchscreen navigation system, Bluetooth-enabled communication and an optional 14-speaker, Harman Kardon surround sound stereo. All that luxury and technology wouldn't be worth much if it wasn't riding on a proper platform, so the Ford/Rover team designed a new hydroformed backbone that is purportedly one of the strongest in the industry. A V8 borrowed from the Jaguar parts bin channels 300 horsepower through a six-speed automatic transmission, and a cutting-edge four-wheel independent suspension actively dampens each corner of the vehicle separately to accommodate changes in terrain. A less expensive 216-hp V6 model is offered as well. The LR3 also boasts full-time, dual-range four-wheel drive and ride height control, so it can tackle everything from rain-slick turnpikes to mud-filled bogs with ease. Overall, the LR3 is a refined and well-engineered addition to the Land Rover lineup, offering a nice balance of luxury and capability with a dash of Ford engineering thrown in for good measure.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The LR3 is offered in two trim levels, SE and HSE. Both come standard with leather upholstery, stadium seating, fold-flat rear seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a nine-speaker 240-watt Harman Kardon audio system with a six-disc CD changer and all-wheel drive. HSE models get 19-inch alloy wheels, a third-row fold-flat seat (boosting seating capacity to seven), a 14-speaker 550-watt Logic 7 digital surround sound system, a navigation system and rear parking sensors.

Powertrains and Performance:
The 2006 Land Rover LR3 has two available engines. The SE model can be ordered with either a 216-hp, 4.0-liter V6 or a 300-hp, 4.4-liter V8. The HSE comes with the V8 only. Both engines have an adaptive six-speed automatic transmission that channels power to the ground through a sophisticated Terrain Response four-wheel-drive system. With a rotary knob controlling five settings (general, snow-grass-gravel, mud and ruts, sand, and rock crawl), the 4WD system optimizes everything from throttle response to the stability control system to the differentials for the conditions. The LR3 also features a fully independent suspension, which utilizes electronically controlled air springs to automatically adapt to virtually any terrain or off-road challenge. Properly equipped, the V8-engined LR3 can tow up to 7,700 pounds.

Safety:
Safety features include adaptive headlights that "look" around corners and adjust up and down to counter the effects of hard braking, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, active antiroll technology, hill-descent control, side-impact and head curtain airbags and even an electronic parking brake.

Interior Design and Special Features:
The LR3 features a spacious cabin packed with clever storage solutions, as well as either five or seven seats trimmed in English leather. All rear seats fold into the floor when not in use to create a vast flat-loading space. A commanding driving position and elevated stadium seating give the driver and passengers alike a clear view of their surroundings and an optional glass panoramic roof enhances that view even further. The dash has a simple, geometric look that is very similar to the elegant design employed in the Range Rover. Switches are kept to a minimum, thanks to built-in technology that minimizes the need for driver input, and every tactile surface is thickly padded, as one would expect in a vehicle of this caliber.

Driving Impressions:
Even with 300 horsepower on tap from the top-shelf V8, the 5,700-pound LR3 is no rocket, but thanks to a stellar four-wheel-drive system and the adaptive six-speed transmission, there is always sufficient power (and traction) available underfoot. However, given the LR3's weight, you can expect adequate acceleration at best from the entry-level V6. The advanced suspension makes for a comfortable ride on the highway and ensures plenty of traction if you ever feel the need to go exploring off-road. Nimble rack and pinion steering lends the Rover a crisp feel behind the wheel.

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