There are plenty of rough-and-tumble SUVs out there but it's tough to beat one produced by a company known for its SUVs, which have been built for over a half-century. Certainly Land Rover has had its critics through the years. For a while, the original LR3 blueprint - the Discovery - was praised for its off-roading capabilities but was drubbed by some auto journalists for too few extras.
I never drove a Discovery but my recent test drive of an LR3 showed the SUV has plenty of Indiana-Jones-as-an-SUV moves and has plenty of top-of-the-line extras to suit even techno geeks. If those don't satisfy, I submit that a buyer would be hard-pressed to find an automaker that offers more optional packages than Land Rover does for this SUV.
2009 Land Rover LR3 Exterior
There is no mistaking the broad, masculine look of the LR3 - this is no SUV in name only. But that doesn't mean the designers didn't add some jazzy touches. Consider the optional 19-inch alloy wheels and fog lights, geometric bumpers and oversize windows, which offer some of the most unobstructed views available from modern SUVs.
The 75.4-inch body width and 190.9-inch length make the LR3 just large enough to handle almost any harsh environment - including snow, brush, and rocks - yet not so large that the driver feels out of control. That's a nice mix to have, especially when the LR3 will be on duty in some urban jungles.
Land Rover offers seven exterior color packages - with names such as Rimini Red Metallic and Tonga Green Pearlescent. Don't look for any LR3 photos of this SUV workhorse splashing mud on a mauve or baby blue body. The colors - like the body - are reminiscent of special forces militia color schemes. It's tough, solid, with no feminine frills or decorative do-dads that will snap off at the first bump. Carpets are beige or black. Period. Think of this SUV as the Ken equivalent of SUVs with no Barbie colors in sight.
But when you think of the LR3, don't confuse masculine with stark. There are plenty of SUV appropriate options including two trim levels - the SE or HSE - and sunroofs are standard on all models.
2009 Land Rover LR3 Interior
Much has been made about the standard third row of seats offered in the LR3 at no extra cost. What I found noteworthy was the comfort of the head and legroom in each row. Even the third-row has a respectable 40.1 inches of headroom and 36.3 inches of legroom, just about six inches less than the front and second rows offer. I've read reviews noting that the third-row is comfortable enough for six-foot adults. I'm not that tall and I wouldn't want to ride cross country in the third row, but it's a decent size for kids, smaller adults, and even adults who are taking short trips.
If you're like most drivers, you won't use the third row for seating as much as you'll want the extra space for cargo. The maximum cargo capacity with all seats folders is 90.3 inches. If you just want to tally the room behind the second-row seat, that's still a hefty 44.5 inches. The cargo is 9.9 cubic feet behind the third row seat, which isn't huge but respectable.
While all of these features were pluses, what I liked were the high-tech features - an array of safety equipment, a 14-speaker audio system, an easy-for-anyone-to-use navigation system and leather seating. Of course there's a full package of safety equipment including front, side and side curtain airbags.
What makes the LR3's interior exceptional is that the material all look and feel first-rated. There is no sloppy stitching or apparent plastic-but-we'll-pretend-it's-wood details. Plus, you don't need a treasure map to find basic things such as outlets and light switches. The navigation and audio system are intuitive. Anyone who's parked on a side street for 10 minutes pushing buttons to try to control volume will understand exactly why that is important. Everything's handy and functions as expected.
2009 Land Rover LR3 Performance
It's not tough to believe the 300-hp, 4.4-liter V8 can town 7700 pounds. The drive is powerful and firm but never out of control. One of my personal requirements for a top ride - a tight turning radius - is more than ample on this SUV, which is amazing considering its size.
The smooth, powerful ride also belies the SUV's size. There's no hesitation when the car's six-speed automatic transmission shifts and the ride is solid even on less-than-optimal roads. Braking is incredibly responsive.
The fuel economy rating of 12-mpg city/17-mpg highway is certainly not high, but when you consider the size and power of this SUV, it's not surprising. And those that are in the market for this type of quality can't seriously exclude the LR3 for that reason.
With a Manufacturers' Suggested Retail Price starting at just $49,300, buyers get more than their money's worth.