There comes a point in every enthusiast's life when it's time to slow down– at least until some of the penalty points on their license expire. To avoid a complete loss of personal mobility, hamstrung throttle jockeys often find themselves transitioning into a slower vehicle. Not being attuned to The Ways of the Sloth, these once and future speed demons usually slide into some po-faced laggard. Bad move. The miserable car nut simply ends up thrashing the horseless carriage until it reaches extralegal velocities. If you have to go slow, there's only one way to go: the Land Rover LR3.
The LR3 is Oxycontin on wheels. Here's the pharmacology: command seating, a light and airy cabin, widescreen windscreen, superior sound system, silken slushbox, progressive brakes and roll-suppressing air suspension. Press the right pedal and the British-made SUV doesn't administer the G-force jolt pistonheads crave. Instead, it unleashes something just as intoxicating: a seamless surge of forward progress known to the luxury-class cognoscenti as "imperious wafting". Within minutes, driving slowly is as sensually satisfying as lying in a hot tub after a long day's work. Ten minutes later and the "go-faster" part of your brain goes numb.
The LR3's ability to inflict stately progress on unsuspecting hooligans stems from Land Rover's "integrated body-frame". This unique steel and aluminum platform combines the strength of a traditional ladder frame chassis with the rigidity of a hi-tech monocoque. It also weighs a bloody ton. Make that THREE tons. Even with a 4.4-liter, 300hp V8 chuntering away under the bonnet, the highly gravitational LR3 is significantly less than swift. The fact that it's shaped like a Sub-Zero refrigerator certainly doesn't help matters, but contemplating the LR3's aerodynamic deficiencies is like worrying about putting a teaspoon of sugar into your coffee after annihilating a piece of cheesecake.
Side effects: poor fuel economy. Land Rover's clinically obese SUV is one of the last true gas hogs. I can't remember the last time I saw "6.5" on a mpg display. OK, I generated the numbers during a crawl-blat-crawl through the urban jungle carrying a truck full of rug rats and six bags of cedar mulch with the AC on full blast. And I eventually managed to eke out 14mpg on the highway, sans sprogs and climate control, doing the double nickel (and not a penny more). Even so, the LR3's single digit fuel consumption matches the burn rate achieved whilst chasing a Ferrari Enzo in a Lamborghini Murcielago. Up a mountain. That's… awesome.
Prognosis: off-road nirvana. The heavyweight LR3 is robust enough to transform an Oregonian survivalist into a weekend commuter. The SUV's four-wheel-drive system (complete with four-wheel traction control) is a boat anchor for the sporting-minded driver, but it's utterly effective over slippery surfaces. When it comes to the genuine rough stuff, the LR3 boasts the kind of approach and departure angles that would terrify an aircraft carrier pilot. It's also equipped with enough traction, suspension, gearbox, braking and GPS gizmology to keep an airborne navigator occupied for a week.
Or not. Amateur adventurers need only program their destination into the LR3's sat nav– be it on road or off– and dial-in the appropriate terrain using the "set and forget" knob in the center console. The LR3's computer automatically keeps track of where you are and how you got there (in case you want to go back), and tweaks all the electronic systems to suit the surface conditions (or lack thereof). Pedants may get a bit twitchy driving over recently-sanded highways with drifting snow, but the rest of us will appreciate the de-skilling of the whole Mountain Man shtick.
I digress. While I'm sure plenty of people will use the LR3's brandatory off-road prowess to find an out-of-the-way place to smoke pot and shag, most LR3 buyers will probably be of the soccer Mom persuasion. The LR3 offers these domestic engineers a second row that's more accommodating than a Tokyo hotel room and fold-flat third row seats that don't demand anatomical origami. The LR3's cabin materials are perfectly practical, pleasingly tactile and totally intuitive. Inexcusably, the family-sized SUV lacks a rear seat DVD system. Land Rover's CEO should be barred from watching Manchester United soccer games until he corrects this glaring deficiency.
Speed freaks would probably prefer to give up their collection of widescreen TV's than consider helming a beast as fundamentally ponderous as the Land Rover LR3. In this they're wrong. Not only is the LR3 an acceptable form of automotive intervention for those who need it, but it also provides some the best four-wheeled feel-good factor money can buy. Of course, this is the worst of all possible times for Land Rover to be producing a gas-guzzling SUV like the LR3. Which means it's the best of all possible times to purchase one: a buyer's market, like none before. Enthusiasts would be well-advised to strike now, while their license is hot.