Land Rover LR3 HSE Review

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

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.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Ph0enix Ph0enix on Mar 02, 2008

    I've had a LR3 (V8 SE) for about a year and half now (it's a 06). I think 0-60mph in 8.5s is anything but slow for a 7,700lb machine. The only complaint that I have about my LR3 is the wear of the breaks. I shouldn't be needing new front rotors at 23,000 miles. One could say that this may be due to the way I drive but last SUV I owned had 70,000 miles on it before I needed new rotors.

  • Edslittleworld Edslittleworld on May 03, 2009

    I have to admit they look nice, but what are they good for? It looks like you could high-center on pea-gravel and those low-profile radials would be like putting knobbies on my sportbike. It looks like just another overpriced pimp-mobile to me. I'll stick with my Jeep, instead....and buy a Miata with the change.

  • MaintenanceCosts Why do you have to accept two fewer cylinders in your gas engine to get an electric motor? (This question also applies to the CX-90.)
  • Zipper69 Do they have unique technology that might interest another manufacturer?
  • Ger65690267 The reason for not keeping the Hemi is two fold, one is the emissions is too high, it would need a complete redesign to make it comply. The other is a need for a strong modern 6 cylinder within Stellantis portfolio of vehicles moving forward.They decided they rather invest in a I6 turbo which is designed to incorporate future electrification systems and not also updating their V8 engine. Unlike both GM & Ford, a brand constantly pushing smaller displacement turbo engines has decided to still keep V8s in their truck line up, because they know it's important to their core customers.GM has invested billions for their next gen small block V8s and Ford has already updated their 5.0L V8. However, Dodge and RAM which is a brand built on the Hemi name and having a V8 has decided to drop it. I think it's clearly a strategic misstep for RAM not to do the same for their trucks, Chargers/Challengers going forward.Stellantis relies heavily on the profits from their NA operations, I think they may not fully understood how important the Hemi was in their 1500 class trucks. On a side note, no one in the media seems to be noting that while the Hurricane S.O. puts out more hp/torque to the outgoing Hemi, that for some reason has lost both towing and payload capability.  
  • Ajla I'm going to whine about it. It should have a V8 available. Preferably a new one but at least offering the old one as a mid-level option. That this brand new engine outperforms something introduced 2003 and last updated in 2009 doesn't impress me. Also, journalists seem to be unaware that it is possible to add forced induction to a V8.
  • Calrson Fan I'll say it again, terrible business model doomed to fail. If your gonna build an EV PU the only market that makes sense to go after is fleets. How many other BEV companies are making money pushing only truck type vehicles?