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Page 1: Introduction
NEW YORK, NY - Much like powdered wigs and sweetbread pies (ummm, baked thymus glands), the Land Rover Discovery is a rather obsolete British institution that relies more on its heritage for sales than on the strength of the actual product. Although it enjoys a rugged image and the cozy affiliation with the Land Rover tradition, when it comes down to reality, the Discovery is an overweight, under-talented vehicle besieged with build quality problems. In order to distance itself from this rather lackluster model, Land Rover is dropping the Discovery name here in the States and will take on a more modern alphanumeric designation - thus, the third-generation Disco will be dubbed the 2005 Land Rover LR3. Actually, Land Rover is following the trend of other luxury carmakers in assigning letters and numbers to their products, rather than names. As such, we may see a Land Rover LR2 (the compact-ute currently known as Freelander) and a bigger Land Rover LR4 sometime in the near future. The exception will be the legendary Range Rover, whose name still possesses positive brand association (hey, batting a 0.333 average ain't bad, right?). Again, these name changes will only be for the fickle American consumer; elsewhere in the world the Discovery and Freelander nameplates will live on. No wonder the rest of the world makes fun of us.
Based on completely new underpinnings, the 2005 Land Rover LR3 is bigger and is constructed upon a more modern architecture than the Disco. An integrated body-on-frame design rides on a fully independent suspension system; an air suspension system is optional. The Land Rover LR3 is powered by a Jaguar-derived 4.4-liter V8 grunting out 300 horsepower and 313 pound-feet of torque. Europeans get the choice of a 2.7-liter turbodiesel V6, and with the reemergence of diesel-gulping powerplants for the U.S. market we may see this oil-burner version in the future. Power is routed to a permanent four-wheel drive system via a six-speed automatic transmission.
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Page 2: Features
From a styling standpoint, the Land Rover LR3 loses the rugged and chunky shape of the Disco in favor of a smoother, more tailored silhouette. Styling cues like headlamps and functional side gills are lifted from its handsome older brother, the Range Rover. Another trickle-down feature is a split clamshell-type rear tailgate that facilitates loading and unloading cargo.
The 2005 Land Rover LR3 will hit showrooms by the end of this year. Pricing has not been released, but it will probably stay in the midsize luxo-ute range of about $40,000. While the LR3 doesn't seem to possess the features or specs to make it stand out head and shoulders above its competition - the BMW X5, Lexus GX 470, Mercedes-Benz ML-Class and Volvo XC90 - the new Rover should have wider appeal than the outgoing Discovery. Especially with its sophisticated, modern new name that just rolls right off the tongue.
--Photos Courtesy of Land Rover North America
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