Review and photos by Russell Purcell

2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE
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I remember many a lazy afternoon or Saturday morning spent watching great programs like Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and the outstanding National Geographic Specials as a kid, where the main characters were usually big game animals spotted while on safari through the lens of a cameraman strapped to the side of a venerable Land Rover 80.

While the Jeep was the all-terrain staple in America (and her theatres of military operation), it was the Land Rover that dominated the rugged regions of the Middle East, India, Africa, Europe and Australia. Bulletproof reliability and simple mechanicals were the order of the day during the company’s early years, but almost six decades later ‘simple’ isn’t going to cut it. For 2005, Land Rover introduced its all-new LR3 into the Canadian marketplace: a cutting edge SUV ready to take on all comers both on and off road.

Exterior styling

2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE
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The Land Rover LR3 is so well executed on paper, that the fridge-on-wheels effect that plagues similarly shaped vehicles like Nissan’s Pathfinder is camouflaged by the LR3’s clean profile which is free of bolt-on bits and other clutter. Though it retains the basic shape of the Discovery model, the LR3 has been smoothed out aerodynamically mimicking some of the grace and high style of the bigger Range Rover. The upswept roofline and tall rear windows resemble the Discovery, while the durable ABS plastic wheel flares and bumper shrouds hint at the utilitarian roots that made Land Rover synonymous with exploration and glamorous safari expeditions.
Interior

2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE
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The tall rectangular design makes for excellent interior space, especially with regards to headroom, and the elevated seating positions provide all occupants with a good view. The driver’s seat offers adjustability fore and aft as well as for height, but road visibility is awkward in tight spaces (read-narrow trails and tight parkades) due to the long hood and squared off corners. The steering wheel also adjusts fore and aft as well as for height.

Access to the second and third row seating (if so equipped) is more easily accomplished as the LR3 has much wider rear doors than the Discovery. The seats are in a stadium placement, meaning each row is elevated to allow for the rearmost passengers to see over the heads of those seated in front of them.

2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE
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My test unit came standard with perforated leather seating which appeared to be well-stitched and looked to be of a very high quality, and also covered the front armrests, steering wheel and shift knob. The seats themselves offered excellent support and comfortable cushioning. Both front seats were power operated, although lumbar is an awkward twist knob on the side of the seatback. The optional adjustable armrests fitted to the front buckets helped to hold me in place when the terrain got dicey. Heating elements, which would be blessing after a day on the slopes, are standard for both front seats as well as the outboard seating positions in the second row.

2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE
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Most of the controls and switchgear fall readily to both hand and eye in the LR3, and all have a feeling of quality and durability in operation. The one exception would be the window switches, but I will touch on that in a minute. The controls for the LR3’s off road system are excellent, and easier to wade through than some of the other advanced systems like those in Porsche’s Cayenne and VW’s Touareg. Placement on the centre console is excellent, and quickly accessible when on the go.

2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE
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Power windows, mirrors and locks are standard, as is a dual-zone automatic climate control system with pollen filter. Cruise control, remote locks and a security system are also on the menu. There is no shortage of convenience features in the LR3, as the vehicle has auxiliary 12-volt sockets available for all three rows, cup holders in all seating positions, as well as four extras (perfect for soda cans and water bottles) in the lower door panels.

The centre console cubby can be ordered as a ‘Cool Box’ which sounds like a nice alternative to the mess involved with a portable cooler. Rubber mats are secured to the deep pile carpeting with quick-releases which allow for quick cleaning after a day of exploration.

Audiophiles will enjoy the Hi ICE (In Car Entertainment) Package that comes standard on the LR3 V8 SE, as it features a Harman Kardon 240-watt sound system with 9 speakers, six-disc auto-changer with MP3 disc compatibility and audio amplifier. The driver has steering-wheel mounted controls for tuning and volume, while rear passengers get remote audio controls so they can listen to their own music, a luxury further facilitated by an auxiliary input for an iPod or MP3 player.


Smart technology

2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE
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The LR3 comes equipped with a very smart six-speed automatic transmission that has been designed to optimize the vehicle’s performance both on the highway as well as when the pavement ends. The system can be left to operate on its own accord, which monitors the car’s performance to optimize economy and engine efficiency, or the driver can select their own shift points using ‘Manual’ mode which is selected by sliding the shift lever into a side gate and selecting gears using fore and aft operation. This was the preferred manner of shifting when it came time to exercise the LR3’s 300 ponies on a windy back road.

Further customization is available at the touch of a button. The driver can select ‘Sport’ mode which holds lower gears for an extended time to improve mid-range performance. This proved impressive during long duration climbs or when passing multiple cars at a time.

2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE
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The transmission utilizes a technology the company calls ‘Commandshift’ which allows it to react quickly to the needs of the vehicle’s driver whether it be for engine braking when off-roading or performing a sudden acceleration manoeuvre to avoid an accident. This clever transmission allows for instantaneous kick-down at the punch of the throttle. When you stomp on the pedal the appropriate gear is selected via downshift to facilitate rapid acceleration until you ease up on the pedal. This happens in manual and automatic modes and is great for passing manoeuvres.

The LR3 also comes with Terrain Response, a unique system designed to let the driver select the optimal settings based on five terrain types, ranging from on-road use to snow, mud, sand or rocks. The system is always active and seeks to maintain optimal traction and drivability based on road conditions. A simple-to-operate dial on the centre console quickly adjusts the response of the vehicle’s engine, transmission, differentials, dynamic systems and air suspension to best tackle the surrounding environment.

2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE
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Hill Descent Control (HDC) is also available at the touch of a button. This will inspire confidence when descending severe gradients as HDC works with the ABS brakes and gears to help control the speed of your descent if engine braking is insufficient due to gravity or slippage.

The LR3’s electronic aides also offer a high coolant temperature mode for users that operate in extreme heat, or use the vehicle to pull a trailer, as well as Hill Ascent, trailer and high altitude modes. All of these situations are countered by the LR3’s electronics to maximize the vehicle’s performance and overall efficiency.


High and low transfer case

The LR3 is one of the true off-road worthy vehicles on the market and comes equipped with both a high and low transfer case. This system is electronically controlled but informs the driver of appropriate steps via the cluster-mounted driver information centre. Selection can be done while moving, but is speed sensitive.


Air suspension

2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE
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An advanced air suspension system offers automatic self-levelling when in its ‘normal’ operating mode, but it also allows the vehicle to raise its overall ground clearance by a respectable 55 mm (2 in.) to clear obstacles, at speeds up to 40 km/h. If 50 km/h is reached while operating in the elevated position the vehicle will drops down to normal mode. For loading passengers or cargo, the air suspension can also be lowered by 50 mm (1.9 in.) which will make the vertically challenged and elderly much happier. Interestingly, both operations (raising or lowering) can be programmed to the remote.


Performance

The lightweight integrated body and frame design gives the LR3 a nice tight feel, whether carving through the esses or orienteering through a mountain pass. The truck tracks straight and true, steering exactly where you point its big square nose. The 4.4-litre V8 is smooth and strong, and delivers a sufficient grunt to catapult the LR3 from 0-100 km/h in about 8.5 seconds.

2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE
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The 300 hp and 315 lb-ft of torque is immediately on tap. Luckily all this grunt is corralled by Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and Electronic Traction Control (ETC) which combine to monitor vehicle dynamics and control stability when accelerating to maintain traction and combat under steer and over steer. At the touch of a button these systems can be turned off to allow for greater fun while off-road.

The LR3 is equipped with four-wheel disc brakes with full anti-lock capabilities (4-channel ABS) and even after a day of hard off-road use, seemed fade-free. The braking system features electronic deputies: Cornering Brake Control (CBC) for enhanced stability, and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) which automatically boosts braking force when full force is required. Whether braking hard in a panic or feathering the pedal to a gradual stop, the brakes bring the LR3 to a stop with authority.


Adaptable cargo

My test vehicle featured the optional Rear Seat package which allows the second and third row seats to fold to create a perfectly flat floor which can be configured a number of ways as the rearmost set is a 50/50 split, while the second row is a tri-split (35/30/35).

2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE
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This latter set-up was great as you could have long items centred between two rear occupants, or fold the centre portion down to use as a table. In 5-seat models the rear seat is a two-part split of 60/40 design.

The rear cargo door is also a split design, which allows for the lower ‘tailgate’ portion to serve as a seat or shelf while the upper glass ‘hatch’ swings up to protect you from the elements. There is a clever fill flap that automatically deploys to close the gap between the gate and car when you drop the tailgate.

2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE
Click image to enlarge

The tailgate itself is shorter curbside, which allows for easier access to cargo when the hatch is up, and adds a simple styling element that sets the LR3 apart.

The cargo area features four floor-mounted anchor points for securing items with the standard cargo netting, as well as covered bins on both side walls, and a handful of bag hooks. A retractable cargo cover can be deployed to conceal your gear from prying eyes, but the deep tint privacy glass is also on duty.


Let the sun shine in

The LR3 has a unique triple sunroof set-up they call the Panoramic Alpine Roof. This is standard fare on the V8 equipped SE and the top-of-the-line HSE. Only the front unit retracts and unfortunately it is rather narrow, as the triple design shortens the amount of roof available to hide the glass panel. The roof strut between the front and rear seats also houses secondary controls for the second row seating area’s HVAC (part of the optional Rear Climate Control Package) as well as dual air vents, which also prevents the storage of a larger unit within. The third row seating area has vents in the rear pillars, but control of airflow is held by the second row occupants – so be nice to your siblings. All three roof panels have retractable perforated sun screens and the opening one has anti-trap like the side windows.


Safety

Dual front airbags, as well as side thorax and side head units protect the front passengers, while rear occupants benefit from side curtain bags in all outboard seating positions. If you order the Rear Seat Package the car comes with airbags for the third row as well.

2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE

2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE
Click image to enlarge

Niceties include power mirrors with automatic fold operation and curb-view capabilities when the vehicle is put in reverse. Buyers with small children or free roaming pets will probably choose the Park Distance Control, which places parking proximity sensors on the rear bumper to alert the driver when there is an obstacle.

A message centre integrated into the gauge cluster reveals everything from service items like vital fluid levels and tire pressures, to in- depth details about the transmission, or all-wheel-drive system and air suspension status.

The windshield, mirrors and washer jets are heated, so winter driving just got a little less taxing when it comes to visibility. The standard halogen lighting is excellent, and both front and rear fog-lights are on board, but Land Rover does offer Bi-Xenon units as an option on the SE.


Popular options

Other options include Homelink and a DVD-Navigation system, as well as an integrated Bluetooth phone system. A Heavy Duty Package is also available which adds a full-size spare and an active locking rear differential.


Faults

I really liked the layout of the passenger compartment, especially from the driver’s position, but there were a few hiccups I felt worthy of mention. For some reason Land Rover designers decided to place the window switches at the end of the window sill, on the top edge, which proved to be a long reach (and I am 6’2″).

2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE

2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE
Click image to enlarge

This also seemed to be the preferred collection point for water drips whenever the windows are opened. I can’t imagine this regular assault of moisture being healthy for the well-being of the window’s electrical system. I was also surprised that only the driver’s window benefited from ‘one touch’ operation. All windows do feature anti-trap protection to prevent harm to the legs and limbs of wayward kids and pets, and the driver can also lock rear window controls.

The lower glove box in my test unit (the vehicle has two) seemed to have a mind of its own as well. The slightest bump or hard cornering caused it to fall open. I emptied it out, thinking it may just be over-loaded, but even empty anything that caused any flex caused it to drop open.

The headlights were completely fogged up with condensation, which seemed strange as we are in the middle of summer here, and the vehicle had a mere 10,000 kilometres on the clock. The Land Rover rep showed me another unit with similar mileage on the lot and it did not have any hint of moisture in the light housings, so maybe the press unit had been abused or submerged beyond the expected tolerance levels of the lamp seals.


Conclusions

2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE
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In my opinion, the Land Rover LR3 is going to bring the storied brand the recognition and respect it has been seeking in North America – the ‘land of plenty’ when it comes to the sport-utility vehicle. The LR3 is an outstanding all-terrain warrior dressed in a package stylish and luxurious enough to capture the eye of the upwardly mobile executive, and when the going does get rough, this vehicle is a contender, not a pretender.


Technical Data: 2005 Land Rover LR3 V8 SE

Base price $61,900
Options None
Freight $995
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $62,995
Type 5 or 7-passenger full-size SUV
Layout longitudinal front engine, 4WD
Engine 4.4-litre V8
Horsepower 300 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque 315 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission ZF HP26 6-speed automatic with CommandShift
Curb weight 2461-2629 kg (5,426-5,796 lbs.)
Wheelbase 2885 mm (113.6 in.)
Length 4848 mm (190.9 in.)
Width 1915 mm (75.4 in.)
Height 1891 mm (74.5 in.)
Ground clearance 185-240 mm (7.3-9.5 in.)
Angle of approach 32.2-37.2 degrees
Angle of departure 24.9-29.6 degrees
Cargo capacity seats folded: 2,475-2,557 L (87.4-90.3 cu. ft.)
Towing capacity 3,500 kg (7,700 lbs.)
Fuel consumption City: 16.7 L/100 km (16.9 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy 11.9 L/100 km (23.7 mpg Imperial)
Warranty 4 years/80,000 km

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