Land Rover Discovery 3:In Style and Off-Road

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Physician's Money Digest, June15 2004, Volume 11, Issue 11

The new Land Rover LR3 was unveiled inNew York on Apr. 7 this year. As part ofFord's Premiere Auto Group, the new SUVwill be built in England and marketedworldwide as the Discovery 3.

Sturdy and Graceful

The first thing you will notice about the Discovery3 is its distinctive Land Rover look. With its signatureheadlights, hood, and horizontal grill, the square lookis clearly prevalent and radiates a strong brand image.The undercarriage sports a powerful full-length framethat gives added strength to the unibody. In comparison,the Jeep Grand Cherokee uses a unibody withouta ladder frame underneath, and the Mercedes G500relies primarily on only a strong ladder frame underneath.This impressive structure is really terrific for drivingbecause it allows you to better sense how thewheels are contacting the road.

The suspension is completely different from previousDiscovery models. Gone are the solid front and rearaxles, replaced by a well-articulated independent suspensionthat rides on an adjustable cushion of air. We'vedriven off-road on some of the toughest terrain in thecountry, but nothing is tougher on a vehicle than NewYork City streets. The new LR3, with its structure andbumper protections, is perfect for Manhattan motoring.

An especially roomy interior challenges minivans forversatility. The LR3 has maximum seating for seven, andsix full-sized adults can sit very comfortably. Unfortunately,access to the two back seats is not simple. Yet,because of the raised roof in the aft, the large side windows,comfortable seats with headrests, armrests, cupholders, and a unique glass roof for the five back seats,comfort is unrivaled for this configuration. The wholeinterior design is comfortable, flexible, soft, and clean.We expect the Discovery 3 to come in three model editions,with the top of the line called the HSE.

Dynamic Performance

We also expect all levels of the Discovery 3 to comestandard with a 4.4-liter Ford/Jaguar V8, with fourvalves per cylinder and well over 300 horsepower. Thishigh-tech engine has been shown to be a real workhorse.Of course, the Land Rover engine has been modifiedwith more low-end torque to make it easier to traverserivers, climb dusty and muddy mountains, andrun well at angles usually reserved for geometry problems.Although most owners will never take their vehiclesto these extreme levels, there is a certain confidencein knowing that you could.

Attached to this premier engine is a 6-speed automatictransmission and permanent four-wheel drive.Most thrilling is the production debut of the innovativeTerrain Response System (TRS). Land Rover was first toperfect Hill Descent Control that walks you down thesteepest of grades as if you are a blooming off-roadexpert, a true off-road confidence builder. Now the TRScreates optimum drivability and traction with a rotaryswitch on the center console. The driver can select fromone of five terrain settings. Most of the time you willleave it on the general driving setting, with another settingfor snow and three more settings for different offroadsituations. There's even a setting called "rockcrawl" for when you are doing the most treacherousinch-by-inch driving. The TRS controls all mechanicals,including engine, transmission, and suspension height.

For more great options, consider the DVD navigationsystem as well as the adaptive headlights thatmove in your general direction of travel. If you're consideringspending $40,000 or more and want to avoida minivan while increasing your versatility and safety,you should wait and drive the 2005 Discovery 3,expected for sale this fall. If you want to know yourproduct even better, consider taking an off-road drivingcourse offered by Land Rover.

Jean Swenson and Ashly Knapp are independent research reportersand the founders of AutoAdvisor.com.