Same off-road. Approach, departure, and breakover angles, as well as turning circle and towing capacity, have been improved over the outgoing Discovery, and not a single comparably equipped or priced SUV comes close to matching it. Despite the LR3's new control-arm suspension, the front wheels can travel up to 10 inches, while rears arc through nearly 13 inches for real rock-crawling articulation.
But what truly sets the LR3 apart from the crowd is its Terrain Response System. After analyzing 50 different types of off-road surfaces, Land Rover engineers determined the five best vehicle setups necessary to maximize traction and minimize driver effort on each. A five-position rotary dial at the base of the shifter accesses each setup, customizing the LR3's ride height (also manually adjustable), differential locking, throttle application, gearshift points, and the control strategies of the stability, traction, and braking systems as well as the speed permitted by the Hill Descent Control system. And if you're unsure of which (high or low range) gearset or what ride height to use, the system will make a suggestion in the message center for the selected mode.
In simple terms, Land Rover has made serious off-roading as easy as point (vehicle) and click (mode). Your grandmother could drive the LR3 everywhere we did, although be warned: Terrain Response doesn't suspend the laws of physics. Technical editor Kim Reynolds, who's not fond of trailblazing, summed it up after successfully climbing and descending a steep, rock-strewn hill: "If this thing can't do it, what can?"
How do you put a price on a vehicle with such a varied and accomplished repertoire? Land Rover reckons $44,995 is just right for a midsize near-lux V-8 4x4 category. While the LR3 SE costs about $6000 more than the 2004 Discovery SE, it's easily twice the machine. The Lexus GX 470, Mercedes-Benz ML500, and Volkswagen Touareg V8 have base prices of $46K, $47K, and $43K, respectively--the LR3's price lands it midpack, but the LR3 also offers far more for the money. Nowhere else will you find a sport/utility vehicle of this caliber, with these capabilities, wrapped in such an enticing and useful package. Truck Trend editor Mark Williams says the LR3 is "like a Range Rover for $25,000 less."
Make no mistake, the Land Rover LR3 sets a new benchmark for its segment in terms of its design, packaging, technology, and functionality. That's why it's Motor Trend's 2005 Sport/Utility of the Year.