It was here, half a block from Huntington Beach’s crowded main drag on a Friday night, where our mud-splattered 2005 Land Rover LR3 lurched and bucked to an unscheduled stop. For at least two miles, the LR3 had exhibited the classic symptoms of a vehicle about to run out of gas. But the fuel gauge read full, the trip computer assured us we had hundreds of miles to go until empty, and the low-fuel warning light remained dark. Yet the LR3 sputtered and stalled, surged and slowed as the fuel injection system’s thirst for life-giving liquid went unquenched. Sitting mystified behind the wheel, I couldn’t guess what might be wrong with the LR3. Clearly, however, the SUV wasn’t going to make it to the next filling station.
After several frustrating minutes spent looking for a roadside assistance number (why the heck isn’t it printed on the inside cover or placed on a discreet sticker on the windows?), it took a call to a colleague, and a 90 minute wait for a kid driving an old beat-up Volvo station wagon to arrive with a couple of gallons of unleaded. That solved the problem, and got us five blocks to a gas station, where the truck sucked up more than $50 of premium fuel.
While this particular example of Land Rover’s new suv is reminiscent of the old Discovery in more ways than just a bad fuel gauge, the LR3 is a huge improvement over the Disco in terms of drivability and design. With its more powerful V8 engine, better brakes, significantly improved handling, and high-tech traction control systems, combined with no loss of off-roading capability in an effort to soften it for the mass market, the LR3 is a success. Combine this newfound on-pavement prowess with its endlessly useful interior design, impressive utility, and outstanding occupant comfort levels, and it’s easy to see why luxury suv buyers might be inclined to select the LR3.