A cooler in the central cubby box keeps drinks chilled, and an optional state-of-the-art DVD navigation system shows even topographic contours and drops retraceable "breadcrumbs" when off-road. The nav system's seven-inch high-res color screen also shows the direction the front wheels are pointed (handy to know in sloppy mud, on deep sand, and over big rocks). And it'll tell you which differentials are active or locked, the degree of suspension articulation, and the height of the air-suspension settings. Ever wonder how tall your truck is? Land Rover has printed a diagram showing exactly that information on the driver's sunvisor. Got sunroofs? How about three, although only the front one opens.

Some of the LR3's most clever thinking is tucked away out of sight, however. Land Rover's patented Integrated Body-frame construction gives the LR3 the benefits of unibody and frame construction. The actual metal-to-metal construction is similar to that of a unibody: Two steel monosides are welded to the roof, bulkheads, and floor creating a single, rigid perimeter structure. But beneath the floor is a complex hydroformed "frame" that's lighter, stronger, and stiffer than a conventional frame while providing tighter tolerances than the multiple beams and/or stampings it replaces. Most vulnerable systems, cables, and pipes are packaged within the frame, minimizing the risk of snagging obstacles off-road, and the design allows the halfshafts to pass through the frame, rather than under it, lowering the center of gravity, and keeping the interior floor and undercarriage unusually flat.

This innovative new chassis design enables the vehicle to work better on- and off-road. Land Rover has tossed out the old Discovery's two live axles in favor of four fully independent corners with crosslinked air suspension. While the old Disco meandered down the freeway like two bowling balls connected by a rope, the LR3 feels as buttoned down as a BMW and yet as posh as a Lexus. Its combination of unflappable structure and computer-controlled air suspension makes any road or trail feel paved. So refined is the ride that 90 mph feels like 55, and you don't have to raise your voice to have a conversation with others in the cabin. It's like a vault with all-season tires.

It's excellent on twisting blacktop, too. Our track testing shows the LR3 to be as good or better than its V-8 4x4 peers with low-range transfer cases (Lexus GX 470, Mercedes-Benz ML500, and Volkswagen Touareg V8). Thanks to the Jaguar-sourced 4.4-liter, 300-horsepower V-8, and head-of-the-class six-speed ZF 6HP26 automatic transmission, the LR3 sprinted to 60 mph in class-average 8.7 seconds and covered the quarter mile in 16.4 at 84.0 mph. The engine has been thoroughly modified to suit the LR3's requirements. For instance, the oil sump has been enlarged for sufficient lubricant delivery at extreme angles (35-degree side slope or 45-degree ascent/ descent angles). Other mods ensure the engine will operate when the LR3 is wading in nearly 28 inches of water.

There's more feel and accuracy in the steering than anything in its class, and the brakes are first rate: Despite weighing in at over 5600 pounds, the LR3 stunned us by pulling up from 60 mph in just 124 feet. That's within three feet of a BMW 545i. Get too frisky, though, and you'll get a rap on the knuckles from the Dynamic Stability Control and Active Roll Mitigation systems. Both limited Land Rover's ultimate performance in the slalom, skidpad, and figure-eight tests where it placed dead last in each. But, as senior road-test editor and official track-tester Chris Walton points out, "It's the second flick that was discouraged so forcefully by DSC, and that's the one that usually accounts for an SUV going toes up into a ditch." Bottom line: On real-world roads, the LR3 rewards smoothness and punishes aggressiveness--and it looks after you.