On the Road Past Discovery
Land Rover's new LR3, the replacement for the long-running Discovery, intrigues me more than most other new vehicle
|Land Rover's new LR3, intrigues me more than most other new vehicle entries. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)|
So when it was introduced in New York in April of this year I spent a great deal of time snooping around the Land Rover stand. Fortunately for me the place was buzzing with heavy hitters, like the designer manager Andy Wheel, chief program engineer Steven Haywood and manager of vehicle engineering Doug Hervey.
I had nothing but accolades to give Andy Wheel, as I particularly love the new sheetmetal. It takes all that was good about the old Discover and melds it together with the new Range Rover, which is plenty good already. To me, there's no better looking sport utility vehicle, and the fact that this one can be used to take on the wild unknown, something I thoroughly enjoy to do, makes its utilitarian exterior design all the more intriguing.
I parked myself inside with Andy in tow, and continued to express my enthusiasm for the general layout and styling
|To me, there's no better looking sport utility vehicle than the very capable Land Rover LR3. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)|
But I'm not military issue, nowhere near tough enough, and unfortunately after living large for much too long, I've developed a rather snobbish penchant for perfection in everything that I buy. Tap, tap tapping the plastic surfaces inside the cabin, in my usual highly annoying way, I sighed in obvious disgust, Andy looking on in horror. I looked at him and said, "All this work to make it look fabulous and the beancounters wasted your efforts with cheap, sub-grade plastics?"
Andy took me over to Steven and Doug and I asked them about the decision to only go halfway with interior tactile quality. While they reminded me the vehicle on display was an
|"All this work to make it look fabulous and the beancounters wasted your efforts with cheap, sub-grade plastics?" (Photo: Land Rover)|
But maybe my initial reaction was worthwhile after all. Early reports of the production LR3, which I have yet to see up close, are filled with positive comments about interior
|The optional third row seats fold flat into the floor, and offer decent head, shoulder, hip and legroom for an average size adult. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)|
What I did like was the flexibility of the interior. The optional third row seats fold flat into the floor, and offer decent head, shoulder, hip and legroom for an average size adult. When folded down, the cargo area opens up for loading large items, especially handy due to the LR3's tall configuration. The second row of seats folds flat too, which opens up a truly cavernous cargo hold.
What I like best about the cargo area is the door that accesses it. Gone is the horribly useless swinging door, which not only was too heavy to stay open on steeper grades, but
|Gone is the horribly useless swinging door, replaced with a more practical minivan-like upward opening liftgate. (Photo: Land Rover)|
It was smart thinking to ditch the old 4.6-liter V8 too. While it has come a long way since Rover sourced it from Buick decades ago, it wasn't very refined or efficient anymore, at least compared to modern multivalve, quad-cam V8s. The replacement is refined and efficient, however, now sourced from Jaguar's 4.2-liter unit. In LR3 trim the 32-valve DOHC engine's displacement gets enlarged by 200 cubic centimeters to 4.4-liters. The engine now makes 83 additional horsepower over the outgoing overhead valve, 2-valve per cylinder lump, matching the old V8's peak torque rating with its 300 horsepower. The new 4.4-liter V8's improved 315 lb-ft of torque maximizes at a higher 4,000 rpm compared to the outgoing model's 2,800 rpm, which shouldn't make much of a difference getting off the line but may be felt in extreme
|Gone is the old 4.6-liter V8 Land Rover engine, replaced by a refined and efficient Jaguar 4.2-liter unit. (Photo: Land Rover)|
While the new 4.4-liter V8 is much more efficient than the outgoing 4.6-liter, with fuel costs escalating to the point that most consumers, including myself, are feeling a significant pinch in their budgets, buying patterns are starting to show smaller SUVs rising in popularity. Large SUVs are still selling fairly well, however, but long-term extortion at the pump will no doubt reduce their market dominance in the U.S. especially.
How will this reflect on the LR3? Personally I'm hoping North American Land Rover product planners are starting to think
|I'm hoping North American Land Rover product planners are starting to think seriously about importing the diesel-powered LR3. (Photo: Land Rover)|
OK, the fuel economy benefits are obvious but how does an oil burner reduce emissions first of all, and then what makes it better for serious 4x4 expeditions? To answer the former, the additional pollutants excreted by diesel engines are compensated by the engine not using as much fuel in the first place. The benefits do not follow an exact science, but overall there is usually about a 17 percent reduction in emissions. Depending on the diesel fuel itself, however, particulates can actually go up. By 2007 diesel fuel has to be refined to a new, much higher tolerance, which will dramatically reduce particulate pollutants, meaning diesel technology will become a lot
|Diesel power not only delivers greater torque at lower revs than gasoline, but the improved fuel economy allows adventurers to go farther into the wilderness. (Photo: Land Rover)|
And why does a diesel powered SUV make a better SUV off the beaten path? Well, once again the word "better" needs to be defined. Conventional diesels won't make the 1,400 horsepower necessary to jump Dennis Anderson's "Gravedigger" monster truck over a stack of cars and a school bus, but most outdoor adventurers adhere to the tread lightly philosophy as it is, so this won't be an issue. Diesel power not only delivers greater torque at lower revs than gasoline, the ideal scenario for crawling over rocky crags and fallen logs, but the improved fuel economy will allow adventurers to make treks farther into the wilderness before needing to turn back. A quick glance at the resale value of diesel powered Land Rover Defenders and rival Toyota Land Cruisers in your local classified ad section will show they are the popular choice among 4x4 enthusiasts.
And the LR3 is said to be an even more capable off-road vehicle than its superb predecessor, making the availability of a diesel
|The LR3 is said to be an even more capable off-road vehicle than its superb predecessor. (Photo: Land Rover)|
The engine features dual overhead cams, on both banks of cylinders of course, the latest common rail technology, which makes it extremely quiet, and electronically adjustable nozzles for a more thorough injection process, making use of all available fuel. As is almost always the case with modern diesels, the TDV6 is turbocharged, this one with variable geometry, enhancing performance.
Being that a much higher percentage of Land Rover owners take their vehicles off-road when compared to those that own
|More Land Rover owners take their vehicles off-road when compared to those that own competitive brands. (Photo: Rolls Royce)|
Ironic is the fact that what might be Land Rover's most capable off-road vehicle isn't available on the continent with the most opportunity to make use of it, North America being riddled with dedicated off-road trails and more untamed wilderness than just about anywhere else on earth. And most likely the only way it's going to change is if enough potential customers let their desires be known to their local Land Rover dealers.
Until then the only sport utility vehicle to offer a diesel engine in North America will be Jeep's updated 2005 Liberty, what
|The new gearbox is "intelligent," adapting its shift patterns to a driver's personal style. (Photo: Land Rover)|
Engines aside, a major improvement which will allow for benefits in performance and fuel economy is the addition of a 6-speed automatic transmission with Command Shift manual actuation. The new gearbox is also "intelligent," adapting its shift patterns to a
|A unique Integrated Body-frame architecture is said to provide "a stable foundation for refined on-road performance, while maintaining the off-road qualities essential to every Land Rover vehicle". (Photo: Land Rover)|
The LR3 should also be a much better performer through the curves. Its rolling stock is completely revised from the ground up, now with a unique Integrated Body-frame architecture which is said to provide "a stable foundation for refined on-road performance, while maintaining the off-road qualities essential to every Land Rover vehicle," in a Land Rover press release. The Ford Motor Company owned British SUV-maker made sure to endow its 2005 model with a low center of gravity, important for high-speed road-holding as well as traversing challenging lateral grades while off-road. That said its ground clearance has been dropped from 208 mm (8.2 inches) to 185 mm (7.3 inches), which will be a disadvantage off-road.
Helping make up the difference is Land Rover's Terrain Response system, which adds to the standard SE features list while doing its part in upping the base model's entry-level
|The electronically controlled air suspension can be optimized for highway or rough terrain driving. (Photo: Land Rover)|
The electronically controlled air suspension system will also be overkill for most owners. While improving on-pavement ride quality somewhat over a conventional suspension system, the true benefits of air suspension are its ability to reduce the vehicle's center of gravity during high-speed highway driving and raise its ground clearance when scaling difficult terrain. In comparison, Volkswagen chose to offer its ride-height adjustable suspension system as optional equipment, which is one of the reasons the German brand has been able to lower the
|Land Rover Canada has upped the price of the LR3 by nearly $13,000 over the old Discovery. (Photo: Land Rover)|
While we're on the subject of price, at a time when most automakers are attempting to lure new buyers by offering more content for the same or less money, Land Rover Canada has upped the price of the LR3 by nearly $13,000 over the old Discovery.
That $61,900 base price, which is actually $12,900 more expensive than the 2004 Discovery S, that incidentally is still available
|The reason Land Rover has raised LR3 pricing is due to a much higher level of standard equipment in base SE and HSE trim levels. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)|
The new price point is actually $4,600 higher than the this year's top-line $57,300 Discovery HSE, which if fully featured with the optional rear seat DVD entertainment package, rear air conditioning, third row seating package, and more, eclipses the new base price by $950 at $62,850. The top-tier 2005 LR3 HSE now starts at $67,900, $10,300 more than last year's HSE. Neither price includes freight or pre-delivery inspection (PDI) costs, which were $995 for 2004 model year Discoverys.
Like I just mentioned, the reason Land Rover has raised LR3 pricing is due to a much higher level of standard equipment in base SE and HSE trim levels. Included standard is Land Rover's Terrain Response technology, plus a Jaguar-derived 300-hp V8 engine and 4-corner,
|"An excellent value considering the amount of features, content and innovation." (Photo: Land Rover)|
"The all-new LR3 is the most technologically advanced, boldest, Land Rover ever launched in the history of the company," commented Vic Bernardini, president of Aston Martin Jaguar Land Rover Canada. "This premium SUV, with its unmatched versatility and capability, is an excellent value considering the amount of features, content and innovation Land Rover is bringing to the market."
Optional is Land Rover's alpine roof option, which replaces the standard all-steel roof with a power glass sunroof over the drive and front passenger, plus two fixed glass sunroofs over the second and third rows of passengers.
The new LR3 will be available in eight standard colors, including Chawton White, Bonatti Grey, Alveston Red, Java Black, Adriatic
|Land Rover will face even tougher competition than when the series-1 Discovery entered the market in 1993. (Photo: Land Rover)|
The extra change needed to purchase the top-line LR3 HSE will buy a touch-screen, voice-activated navigation system, 600-watt audio system, 19-inch alloy wheels, Bi-Xenon headlamps and memory seats.
Land Rover will face even tougher competition than when the series-1 Discovery entered the market in 1993 as a 1994 model, as now there are many more carmakers which have entered the luxury SUV market. Not many offer true off-road capability, which will set the British entry apart from the masses for a select few who actually use the vehicle for such purposes, but that still leaves it fighting it out with Chrysler Group's all-new and much less expensive HEMI-powered, albeit 5-occupant-only Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango models, GM's TrailBlazer/Envoy/Rainier/Ascender SUVs and Tahoe/Yukon sport utes, Ford's Expedition/Lincoln Navigator, and Volkswagen's Touareg, once again with best in class interior quality. To some extent Porsche is also in the running, with its very capable Cayenne. While all but the full-size
|Land Rover is hoping, despite the competition, that the LR3 will be enticing enough to pull it out of red ink. (Photo: Land Rover)|
Land Rover is hoping, despite the competition, the LR3 will be enticing enough to pull it out of red ink. While the SUV's dramatic entry-level price increase makes it look less competitive than the outgoing model at first, it does feature many more standard features and therefore appears reasonably priced compared to rivals offering similar equipment. Obviously Land Rover has equipped and priced its LR3 commensurate with the average price its buyers are paying for the current Discovery Series II, so it shouldn't see a significant drop in sales by the exclusion of Discovery S buyers. According to the automaker, it will go on sale this fall.
So, if in fact Land Rover gets the interior right, with high-end plastics and top-tier panel fit, etc., and then again if they export the new diesel to North America, will I
|If Land Rover gets its quality right, and then gives me a diesel I'll be first in line to buy an LR3. (Photo: Land Rover)|
I did get a laugh out of Mark Fields, head of Ford Motor Co.'s Premier Automotive Group, when referring to Land Rover's placement on various reliability charts he said, "The only way they look good is when you take the page and turn it upside down."
So, if Land Rover gets its quality right, and then gives me a diesel I'll be first in line to buy an LR3. The chances of that are slim to none, but a guy can dream right? I suppose I'll go by an old Discovery SE7, rewire it with Toyota harnesses and drop in a Cummins diesel. It'll probably cost me about $61,900 after I'm done, but I'll have the SUV I want.
- Price Range (SE - HSE MSRP): $61,900 - $67,900
- Body Type: 5-door SUV, integrated frame
- Layout: front engine, 4WD
- Engine: 300 hp, 315 lb-ft of torque, 4.4-L, 32-valve, DOHC V8
- Transmission: 6-spd auto with manual mode
- Brakes (front/rear): disc/disc, ABS with EBD
- Curb Weight: 2,461 kg (5,426 lbs)
- Seating Capacity: 5 (opt 7)
- Cargo Volume (behind second row): 1,192 L (42.1 cu ft)
- Payload (max): 769 kg (1,695 lbs)
- Ground Clearance: 185 mm (7.3 in)
- Towing Capacity (estimated): 3,500 kg (7,716 lbs)
- Fuel Economy (city/hwy): N/A
- Warranty (mo/km): 48/80,000 comprehensive
- Direct Competitors: Buick Rainier, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, GMC Envoy, Infiniti QX4, Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited, Lexus GX 470, Mitsubishi Montero, Oldsmobile Bravada, Toyota 4Runner
- Web Site: www.landrover.com