A conservative attitude toward change both helps and hinders the 2006 Land Rover LR3. Although the company's market focus has leaned toward the upscale over the years, the LR3 keeps the toughness and the off-road capability on which Land Rover built its reputation. But the cabin electronics feel like they've been grudgingly added in, with Land Rover designers never really buying into anything other than the classic metal dashboard from pre-1971 Land Rover Defenders.
The LR3 is available in three different trim levels, starting at a base model with a V-6 engine for $39,000; moving up to the V-8 SE, which starts at $45,700; and ending with the fully loaded V-8 powered HSE, for $53,700. The HSE, which we had as our test car, includes all the electronics: navigation, voice command, Bluetooth, and a Harman Kardon Logic 7 stereo. And while we expected to be impressed by the feature set, especially when it showed up under the Land Rover badge, we were very disappointed with the poor implementation.
On the other hand, the only aspect of the performance technology that left us cold was the poor gas mileage. The 4.4-liter V-8 engine felt like it had just the right amount of power, whether for around-town trips, freeway excursions, or steep hill climbs. The six-speed automatic has some intriguing technology and was generally good, but it showed some occasional quirkiness. Land Rover's Terrain Control system works as an essential part of the LR3's off-road gear. We've observed the LR3 handling a very technical off-road course, so this car isn't just for show.
As mentioned above, our test car was a 2006 Land Rover LR3 HSE, which comes with most cabin electronics standard. Our test car also had the Heavy Duty package, which includes an active locking rear differential and a full-size spare tire, for a reasonable $625. We also had the Luxury Package, which encompasses the Cold Climate Package and adds adaptive headlights and a refrigerated center console box, for $1,750.
The cabin of the 2006 Land Rover LR3 disappointed us at first glance. Although it looks a little more refined than that of the 2006 Range Rover Sport we reviewed earlier, the center stack is still a sea of black plastic, and the seats are too firm. It doesn't look like the interior of a car worth more than $55,000. The front seats offer adequate power adjustment: eight ways for the driver and six ways for the passenger. They are, of course, covered in leather and perforated for ventilation, but they aren't exactly welcoming. They are very firm and probably contribute to good posture.
Second-row seats are of the same firm nature, while two third-row jump seats are small and probably where people with offensive habits or poor hygiene are forced to sit. The second- and third-row seats fold down easily, creating a large cargo area, augmented by the rising roofline. In the HSE, all seat rows get their own sunroof, although only the front one opens. Audio/video controls built into the door sills let back passengers listen to the entertainment system with headphones, but without a rear-seat DVD system, these controls are pointless.
The Land Rover LR3 HSE includes all the cabin electronics that usually boost a car's rating way up in our reviews. But poor implementation mars them considerably. It has the full gamut: voice command, satellite navigation, Bluetooth, and a Harman Kardon Logic 7 stereo. The voice command is so useless that we gave up on it after a few days. We repeatedly tried to enter commands, with the car indicating it couldn't understand what we were asking for. Help documentation is minimal and doesn't include a list of common commands.
The nav system and stereo use different displays, showing a lack of integration in the interface.
The navigation is viewed in an LCD with good resolution at the top of the stack. The LCD is a touch screen, which we ended up using exclusively since the voice command wouldn't work. The car includes on- and off-road navigation, and both work well. An onscreen keyboard with predictive entry makes programming destinations easy, and the system also keeps previous destinations in memory. The system includes a points-of-interest database, which includes the usual categories but falls short of the cutting edge by not noting individual stores, just malls under its shopping category. When the car is moving, the system locks out destination programming--unfortunate if there's a navigator in the passenger seat.
Route guidance also works well. The system quickly calculates routes and wasn't terribly bothered when we got off course. It just quietly recalculated and presented a new route. We were particularly charmed by the male British voice telling us where to turn, so we didn't bother switching to the other voice options. The system let us avoid freeways and toll roads, among other choices. The volume of the route guidance, along with the Bluetooth phone system, is individually adjustable from the stereo volume.
The navigation screen also shows other information, such as information about where the wheels are turned and how the four-wheel-drive system is set--useful for off-road activities. But the stereo and Bluetooth information show up in a separate display: an old green LCD in the middle of the stack. Integrated with the stereo, the Bluetooth system has a numeric keypad, which makes entering phone numbers intuitive and easy. It paired up with our Motorola V551 test phone without a problem, but it didn't copy over our address book, so we had to make all calls manually.
Speakers run up the front doors but are too close to the seat occupants for immersive audio.
The stereo, although above average, was a mixed bag. With 14 speakers and 550 watts, it produces well-separated sound that holds up into the higher volumes and fills the cabin well. However, in the front of the car, a stack of three speakers comes down from the A-pillar to the door, so close to the driver and passenger seats on their respective sides that they can easily overwhelm the seat occupant. We found rock music particularly susceptible to this effect, lacking any feel of immersion. Classical was better, with the system producing a more evenly distributed sound. Sources for the stereo are modern but not leading edge--it's prepped for satellite radio, has AM/FM, and includes a six-disc CD changer that handles MP3s, but it doesn't display ID3-tag information nor does it have an auxiliary input.
The bottom of the stack includes the dual-zone climate control panel, and there are controls for air conditioning in the second row. We were particularly amused with the electric cooler in the console box, which would certainly keep a few sodas at a good drinking temperature for a road trip. The cooler turns off when the engine is off, a good thing since it would be easy to forget it's on and drain the battery.
Land Rover built a reputation on utility and off-road capability, neither of which are missing in the 2006 Land Rover LR3 HSE. In fact, with a variety of electronic suspension and differential controls, this LR3 even enhances the reputation. It starts with an engine that's a good size for the car, without being overblown, through an advanced six-speed automatic transmission, then down to all four wheels via electronic differentials, enhanced by air suspension and stability control. The 4.4-liter V-8, which comes with the HSE and SE trim levels, moves the Land Rover LR3 nicely off the line and up into freeway speeds. Even at 70mph, the engine can produce enough extra acceleration for passing. Its torque, 315 pound-feet at 4,000rpm, pushes the LR3's 5,796 pounds up steep hills without strain. The engine is of reasonably modern design, using aluminum-alloy construction and regulated by chain-driven dual-overhead cams.
The engine's electronic throttle combines with an electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission to try and anticipate what the driver wants, generally with success. The driver gets to choose from Drive, Sport, or Manual modes, and the car monitors driving style to tips the scales toward performance or fuel efficiency. In practice, we noticed a couple of odd moments, such as one instance of hesitation when we really wanted some acceleration, possibly caused by a light touch on the pedal over the previous 40 miles. At another point, we threw it into Sport mode, where it dutifully held a lower gear up through the revs but didn't produce much speed, leading to a sluggish feeling. But for the most part, the transmission gave us the gears we wanted.
Off-road controls are easy for anyone to use, with preconfigured settings for different terrain types.
Land Rover is particularly famous for rugged duty, and the LR3 has no end of electronic systems to make sure it stays unsurpassed. The driver uses Land Rover's Terrain Response controls to set the type of ground the car will be traversing. A large dial on the console lets the driver choose paved road, loose gravel and snow, mud, sand, or rock crawl. Other switches turn on hill-descent control and differential locking. We've seen the LR3 negotiate a highly technical off-road course and don't doubt the system's effectiveness. The car can handle a 37-degree angle of approach and maintain its balance on a 35-degree side slope. It has 9.5 inches of clearance under the differential.
The LR3 may have an advanced six-speed transmission, but the lack of variable valve timing on the engine is partly responsible for its poor gas mileage. The EPA tested it at 14mpg (city) and 18mpg (highway). In our mixed city and freeway driving, we observed 13.9mpg. With its 22.8-gallon gas tank, that means a range of just more than 300 miles. This engine inefficiency is also reflected in its pollution rating of BIN 8, out of a maximum of 11.
All the off-road technology on the 2006 Land Rover LR3 translates to active safety technology, as well. Although the LR3 feels wobbly around corners, its stability program combines with all-wheel traction control to keep it planted. Its antilock brakes also get electronic brake-force distribution, putting the braking power at the wheels that need it most, along with emergency brake assistance, a technology that applies additional brake force when a panic stop is detected. And the four-wheel drive contributes to traction on slippery roads. The Land Rover LR3's headlights do a great job for nighttime visibility. The bixenon lights produce a distinctly defined white light. In low-beam mode, a shutter slips down over the top of the lamp, making a very distinct line at the top of the light area. Our test LR3 also had the adaptive headlight option, which not only pivots the lights around corners but moves them up and down to compensate for hills.
Adaptive bixenon headlights produce a bright, distinct light field and compensate for turns and hills.
An audible park-distance control system should keep drivers from backing into parking garage pillars or other obstructions. The system also looks forward, letting the driver know if they are about to drive into an object. This system is extremely useful, as the high front and rear make visibility poor. Even better would be a rearview camera, but that is not an option on the LR3.
Passive safety features include the Land Rover LR3's steel safety-cage construction and side-impact beams, along with buckle points designed to absorb the force of a frontal collision. Air bag coverage is also complete, with eight bags for LR3s with three rows of seating, such as our test vehicle. That's regular front and seat-mounted side air bags for the front seats, plus curtain air bags along the sides. The NHTSA has no published crash test results for the LR3.
The Land Rover warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles and includes scheduled maintenance along with roadside assistance. Corrosion coverage lasts for six years with unlimited mileage.