Ford Tries Reining In Land Rover
by TCC Team (9/12/2004)
Going for growth – on a managed scale.
Spy Shots: ‘06 Range Rover Sport
by Hans Lehmann/Hidden Image (9/12/2004)
Shorter, sportier, and more dynamic.
Ominous storm clouds hang in the sky above. But turn to the west, and a rainbow has risen off the edge of the horizon. If you don’t like the weather in northern Scotland, just wait fifteen minutes. It’s bound to change. And it seems like the same thing applies to the terrain. One minute, you’re surrounded by boggy marsh, another you’re at the top of a barren, windswept hilltop.
This is a harsh and rugged place, and certainly not your typical tourist destination. On the other hand, it’s a perfect setting for the debut of Land Rover’s new LR3, the long-awaited replacement for the British marque’s equally harsh-yet-rugged Discovery sport-utility vehicle.
At first glance, you might mistake the new ute for the top-of-the-line Range Rover, particularly the front end, with its crossbar grille and jewel-like headlamps. Such similarities are purely intentional. The design of the new LR3 is more elegant, refined and upmarket than the ungainly Disco, which was a clear case of function over form.
Where the Range Rover was the work of BMW, which briefly owned the British manufacturer, the LR3 is the product of Ford Motor Co. Ford purchased Land Rover for $2.9 billion in March of 2000, and has invested plenty more since then in its effort to transform the long-struggling subsidiary into a profitable operation.
2005 Land Rover LR3
Ford’s touch has been reasonably deft and largely invisible. At one point, it was debated whether to make the Discovery replacement share platforms with the popular Ford Explorer. From a balance-sheet perspective, a reasonable case could have been made for such a move. It certainly would have saved a lot of money, but it would have cost the British maker a chunk of its soul, and in the end, common sense prevailed.
About the only apparent case of so-called “badge engineering” can be found under the hood, the U.S. version of the LR3 powered by a 4.4-liter V-8. With 300 horsepower, the Jaguar-derived engine is acceptably quick on the highway, despite the heft of the new Discovery turning in 0-60 times of 8.0 seconds. And with 315 pound-feet of torque, it has plenty of towing power — and enough torque to haul its way out of even the most sodden Scottish bog.
The Discovery was the workhorse of the Land Rover fleet, and that’s not about to change with the debut of the LR3, as we discovered during three days, and several hundred miles, of driving the high roads and low roads at the northern tip of the British Isles. The trip revealed some breathtaking scenery, but also introduced us to some off-road challenges that repeatedly had us holding our breath.
Yet confidence is something the new LR3 quickly inspires. And one reason is all the electronic hardware built into the new SUV. “This is the most advanced vehicle we’ve ever produced at Land Rover,” boasts Pete Rickings, one of the project’s development managers.
2005 Land Rover LR3
There are such niceties as Hill Descent Control, a now-familiar system to Land Rover aficionados that permits you to nose your way down even the steepest knoll at a safe speed, without having to ride your brakes and pray. But nothing justifies Rickings’ claim more than a sophisticated new feature that Land Rover has christened Terrain Response. By simply rotating a chunky knob on the center console the driver instantly sets the LR3 up for a wide range of off-road driving conditions, from “Mud and Ruts,” to “Sand and Dunes.” Each of the five modes optimizes the various electro-mechanical controls built into the new SUV, including the air suspension, differential, brakes, and chassis controls. Terrain Response even adjusts throttle response and shifts, something particularly useful when you’re trying to feather your way across a jagged boulder.
With the ability to ford a full 27 inches of water and nose down a nearly vertical hillside, it’s hard to imagine anything more adept off-road.
Yet in today’s SUV market, does that really matter? A study by the California market research firm, Strategic Vision, suggests that as many as 40 percent of all Land Rover owners will hit the trail at some point or another. But let’s face it, bog crawling and hill climbing are the exceptions to the rule. These days, even the most rugged sport-ute is more likely to see duty on a suburban superhighway.
There, the new LR3 holds its own. The ride is acceptably smooth for a truck, which Land Rover credits to LR3’s Integrated Body-Frame structure. The concept blends attributes of classic ladder-frame and car-like unibody construction. An added advantage is that the LR3 is “friendlier” in crashes to any car it might strike.
2005 Land Rover LR3
Overall, this SUV is responsive, with reasonably quick steering and a solid, on-center feel. Unlike the old Disco, you don’t have to manhandle the new ute to keep it pointed where you want. You’ll feel its mass in a hard corner, and LR3 doesn’t have the sort of nimbleness of some of the new car-based crossovers, such as Cadillac’s SRX, but for those who desire the added off-road capabilities, it’s not an excessive tradeoff.
The overall refinement level is significant, both in terms of road manners and appearance. As with the exterior, the cabin bears more than a passing resemblance to the big Range Rover, though there’s lots of grey plastic where the flagship ute boasts wood and chrome. Nonetheless, it’s an acceptably attractive cockpit, with controls and gauges in an even more ergonomic arrangement than the Range Rover. And there are plenty of cupholders, for American owners.
There’s also a lot of room, with seven-passenger seating available. And unlike many of the current crop of three-row SUVs, those dispatched to the back won’t be cursing at you for their misery. There’s a real back row here, and even some room left over for luggage.
The oversize windows in the rear quarter panels, matched with a sunroof and dual moonroofs, provide a great sense of openness, also much appreciated by those in back. And the offset design of the back hatch makes it especially easy to stow cargo, especially if it’s something light you want to toss in.
2005 Land Rover LR3
All this is, of course, probably should be expected from any vehicle pushing into the mid-$40,000 range, once you get it out of the showroom. The original plan, Land Rover insiders concede, was to bring a base LR3 into the U.S. for just under $40,000. Alas, with the fall in value of the American greenback, that simply was not to be.
The higher price point certainly will have an impact on sales, and that’s unfortunate, for those who are drawn to this sort of full-range sport-utility vehicle will find that this is perhaps the best product ever to wear the Land Rover badge. Disco may be dead, but the LR3 is making some great music.
2005 Land Rover LR3
Base price: $44,995
Engine: 4.4-liter all-aluminum V-8, 300 horsepower/315 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed electronically-controlled automatic with low range and locking center differential, four-wheel drive
Length by width x height: 190.9 x 75.4 x 74.5 in
Wheelbase: 113.6 in
Curb weight: 5426–5796 lb
EPA City/Hwy: 14/18 mpg
Safety equipment: Dual front airbags with occupant sensors, side airbags for front row, overhead bags for all rows, seatbelt pretensioners, ABS brakes, Traction Control, Stability Control, tire pressure monitoring system, electronic brake distribution, emergency brake assist, rear Parking Assistance system
Major standard equipment: Keyless entry; engine immobilizer, dual-zone digital climate control, power windows and doors, dual heated power mirrors, power adjustable pedals, 300-watt Harman/Kardon AM/FM system with six-CD in-dash changer, fog lamps, cruise control, Terrain Response System, Hill Descent Control
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles
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