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Land Rover LR3 - 2005 SUV Buyer's Guide

by Martha Hindes

Land Rover LR3
Land Rover LR3

Picture an expedition of vehicles transversing uncharted terrain almost anywhere around the globe, and what comes to mind. We bet it would be badged Land Rover. The longtime Brit automaker (now owned by Ford) has countless rugged laurels to rest on following down and dirty forays through seemingly impassible territory.

So it wasn't surprising a highlight of Land Rover's new LR3 sport utility was an abundance of four-wheel-drive technologies for serious off-roaders. LR3 took widespread honors when it debuted in 2005 as a truly utilitarian sport vehicle that can safari with the best of them on 18-inch aluminum wheels. Something Land Rover calls "Terrain Response," four-corner electronic air suspension, electronically-controlled infinitely variable locking center differential and hill descent control all contribute to a safe return to civilization. (One undoubtedly would need those spunk factors when dodging a rampaging rhino, or those relentless super market baskarts that seems magnetized towards the nearest fender.)

But wait. There's more to the beauty of LR3 than a brutish capacity for sustaining hard knocks. Unlike some just plain ugly Land Rovers of the past, this ground-up midsize redo that supplanted the maligned Discovery model is fresh and handsome while retaining Land Rover DNA. There's a wealth of comfort and high tech treats (guided by fiber optic electronics) both inside and out. Among them: Adaptive front lighting, leather trim, luscious nine-speaker harman/kardon AM/FM audio with six-disc in-dash CD and triple sunroof system. Beneath -- for driving joy -- a hearty Jaguar-derived 4.4-liter, 300-HP V-8, mates to a six-speed "intelligent shift" automatic trans with Command Shift for full manual control.

LR3, based from $44,995 to $49,995, lands in mid price range for SUVs, more than bargain models but below elitist ones. (Add a few thou when tallying up some nice upgrades -- fold down rear seats, side curtain airbags, cold weather package for those Arctic tundra trips, on-road/off-road DVD nav system, plus either of two tow packages serious use demands.) Land Rover didn't wait long to broaden appeal of the LR3, announcing in April a new, high torque 4.0-liter V-6 in the mix that shaved the base price down to $38,950. We can catch a lot of fantastic animal pix cruising the African veldt or nearest American safari park, with its 269 horses under hood.