As MT editor-in-chief Angus MacKenzie once said in regard to the 2005 Land Rover LR3 (our 2005 Sport/Utility of the Year award winner), "Whether it's Rodeo Drive or the Rubicon Trail, there isn't a sport/utility in the world that will cover the terrain as quietly, confidently, or comfortably." While we didn't get the chance to tackle the Rubicon during our recent drive of the 2009 Land Rover LR3 HSE LUX, we can attest that the latest edition of Land Rover's midrange premium off-roader still lives up to all the hype when cruising Rodeo.
Grabbing our initial attention were new-for-2009 body-colored wheel arches and tailgate trimmings that give the LR3 a refreshed, almost Range Rover appeal. Its side indicators now sport clear lenses in true Euro-style, and its exterior door handles are finished in a new Tungsten livery, which again adds to a cleaner, more sophisticated profile. Larger, sportier 19-in. wheels and lower-profile 255/55 tires replace the LR3's standard 18-in. rolling stock. Further, the LUX's 19s are edition-specific Slotted Seven alloys.
Inside the neatly crafted cabin, the supportive black-leather swathed front captain's chairs elevate passengers to a strikingly clear view of the road ahead. Grand Black Lacquer wood (a no-cost option) with matching black leather covers the dash and console, adding a hint of chic-ness to the capable 4x4. Easily cleanable and rugged rubber floormats and storage-bin liners remind passengers they can still have fun in the mud should adventure duty ever call.
As you've probably surmised by now, the LUX in this LR3's name denotes luxury, so it gets all the top-shelf goods like a 14-speaker Harman/Kardon surround-sound audio system, hidden console refrigerator, bi-Xenon headlamps, and electronically adjustable steering column, seats, and mirrors. All this is in addition to the HSE's already standard DVD-based navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, parking sensors, and front/rear automatic climate control.
Cruising through "The Hills" of L.A., the LR3's reputation for providing a smooth ride was obvious after only a few hundred feet, thanks in large part to the tunable Electronic Air Suspension system. With independent self-leveling air springs at each corner, the LR3 unhesitatingly soaked up L.A.'s notorious jarring bumps and Grand Canyon-style potholes. Like earlier versions, the air-spring system allows the driver to adjust the suspension for on- and off-road conditions. Three modes -- access (lowers it for easier entry), and standard and off-road (both of which raise the body) -- are selectable via a center-console-mounted switch. If you happen to leave it in access when driving, the springs automatically rise to the standard level and also lower back down once the LR3 is parked.
Also assisting with ride comfort is what Land Rover calls its Integrated Body-frame construction, which consists of hydroformed-steel frame rails welded to the rigid monocoque body. In addition, rubber mounts and dampers are set between the body and frame, making the LR3 as seemingly smooth-riding as a Jaguar.