In an auto universe increasingly populated by alphanumeric designations (Acura and Cadillac come to mind), Land Rover’s names always seemed among the most descriptive: top-line Range Rover: for roving the range in comfort and style; mid-range Discovery: quintessential safari wagon for discovering rain forests and the sands of Seringhetti. More affordable Freelander: for carefree cruising over this grand free land.
Now comes the all-new LR3 to replace Discovery in North America. (Elsewhere, it’s Discovery 3.) Perhaps the previous Discovery’s name was sufficiently tainted by questionable quality that LR marketing mavens chose to differentiate this new one from it.
Because this first new model wholly developed by the management team installed after Ford purchased the storied British marque in July, 2000, is easily the best mid-line LR yet. It boasts a Jaguar-derived 300-hp 4.4L V-8 mated to a 6-speed ZF automatic and a host of high technology including Electronic Traction Control (ETC), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and LR’s patented Terrain response system, which optimizes driveability, comfort and traction on and off-road. Select one of five terrain choices – general, slippery (grass/gravel/snow), mud and ruts, sand or rock crawl – and the computer controls ride height, engine torque, ETC, transmission and differential settings and LR’s (patented) Hill Descent Control. Also important are the LR3’s contemporary new look and its integrated body/frame construction, which blends car-like unibody handling, ride and refinement with truck-like body-on-frame toughness.
When my wife and I scaled Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro last summer, we were driven from hotel to park entrance in beat-up Land Rovers over some of the poorest excuses for roads on this planet. If this much more expensive ($45-50K) new LR can retain that legendary level of ruggedness and durability with its new-found comfort and sophistication, it may eventually replace all those trusty old LRs in the furthest reaches of the world