2005 Land Rover LR3 HSE
The 2005 Land Rover LR3 is the first Land Rover to be completely developed under Ford's ownership of the famed British off-road marque. Offered in SE and HSE grades, the LR3 is built on a completely new platform that combines features of a traditional truck-style ladder chassis and a carlike unit construction. A 300-horsepower, 4.4-liter V-8 derived from the Jaguar AJ-V8 generates power, which gets to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission and a dual-range transfer case. The LR3's roomy and versatile interior, though not as sumptuous as the Range Rover's, is appointed in accordance with its $50,000-class standards. The LR3 also excels in every category of technology: performance, safety, information, and entertainment. Standard equipment for the HSE includes the high-tech air suspension and Terrain Response systems, an easy-to-use navigation system with voice and touch-screen interfaces, and a high-grade 14-speaker audio system.
As you'd expect, all of this doesn't come cheap. The base price of our 2005 Land Rover LR3 HSE was $49,330, with a destination charge of $665. Add the $1,050 Cold Climate Package, the $625 Heavy-Duty Package, the $950 Rear Climate Control Package, the $1,250 Rear Seat Package, and the $375 Tow Package, and that's $54,245 worth of seriously capable and comfortable high-tech SUV.From the outside, the 2005 Land Rover LR3 HSE builds on themes that originally appeared in the Discovery's functionally minimalist styling. It's an elementally boxy vehicle with a beveled edge to the front of the hood, cutlines in front and to the rear of the slab-sided doors, and a Discovery-like split-level roofline with high third-row Alpine windows. Black door handles and black-plastic wheel arches give it an outdoors-ready look.
The interior is as functional as the exterior but still classy. The dashboard design is appropriate for a contemporary luxury car, with stylish metal bezels around the instruments and HVAC vents. And while our test LR3 lacked fancy wood and metal trim (they're available as a dealer-installed option), the seating surfaces are perforated leather, and the mudproof rubber floor mats highlight the SUV's off-roading talents. The end result is a businesslike appearance--that is, the business of high-class, high-comfort exploration. All seven seating positions are meant for full-size adults, although the third row is best for limber people under six feet tall, as you get to it over a folded outside second-row seat. The HSE's second row is split 35/30/35, and any section can fold flat to be level with the rear cargo floor when the third row is stored. The load floor isn't unreasonably high, and a removable cargo shade keeps items from view. Visibility from the driver's seat is good, and a triple sunroof ensures a sky view for all passengers.
Topping the control-laden center stack of the LR3 is a bright 7-inch screen that displays the navigation system, the 4x4 information, and the system settings. All work through a generally intuitive touch-screen interface, with some voice options. The voice-recognition system can also be used for audio system control and verbal note taking. Two marked hard buttons below the screen allow access to navigation mode or main-menu screens at any time.
The navigation system, standard in the HSE, is one of the more intuitive we've seen. It offers a logical command structure and fast position and route calculation with a choice of normal, quick, or shortest distance routing (in on-road mode). Because the display is not well shaded, it can sometimes be difficult to see. You can enter destinations using the usual virtual keypad or by tapping a point on the screen with a finger. Interestingly, you can arrange the keypad in alphabetic or QWERTY order. Points of interest, which may be entered through the menu system or by voice command, also supply information when you tap on the icon. Off-road mode displays latitude, longitude, altitude, and compass direction. Route direction, voice information, and displays can be set to most Western European languages, with a choice of male or female voices.
The 4x4 information screen shows both a top and rear view of wheel positions. The top view displays steering angle; the rear view displays suspension information, including wheel height. This could be the closest thing to undercarriage cameras for serious off-road situations.
The standard 550-watt, 13-speaker Harman Kardon Logic 7 surround-sound audio system reproduces sound at a high level of quality. In addition to the usual AM and FM radio and six-CD changer inputs, there's an auxiliary input for an MP3 player or a similar device; the input is located in the rear of the center console for the convenience of second-row passengers. With the optional third-row seats, all four outboard rear passengers have access to headphone jacks and auxiliary audio controls. The sound system supports two different audio modes: one for the main speakers and one for the headphone system. The CD changer plays MP3 CDs as well as standard CDs, and there is an accessory jack for an iPod or some other MP3 player. A Bluetooth phone system is available as part of the Premium Package ($3,000). A rear-seat DVD system is also available as a dealer-installed option.The 2005 Land Rover LR3 HSE uses the latest structural and electronic technology to enhance its performance and off-road abilities. Gone are the separate ladder chassis and solid axles of the Discovery; they've been replaced by the LR3's Integrated Body-Frame and fully independent double-wishbone suspension with computer-controlled air springs. Land Rover integrated hydroformed frame members into a unibody-like structure to give the best combination of body-on-frame ruggedness and unibody rigidity. In addition to regular steel, the LR3 uses aluminum, magnesium, and high-strength boron steel in strategic locations to improve strength or reduce weight. Its maximum towing capacity is 7,716 pounds with a braked trailer or 1,654 pounds with an unbraked trailer.
The LR3's air suspension allows adjustable ride height and is cross-linked for improved off-road performance. The Active Roll Mitigation system did an admirable job of providing a comfortable ride with minimal body roll in corners, especially considering the LR3's height and high center of gravity. Damping was good, with none of the float found in some long-travel SUV suspensions. In keeping with the LR3's capabilities and nature, its steering, throttle, and brake efforts are higher than in a luxury car. And while it's almost as quiet as a luxury car, this is definitely a capable off-road vehicle.