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Smooth ride for LR3
Even when powered by a V6, the 2006 Land Rover is very quick off the line, but the V8 makes it a rocket
DAVID BOOTHCanWest News Service

Monday, November 21, 2005

I'm obviously going to have to soften my reputation. Project a more Zen-like image. Learn to disguise the throttle-stomping twitch I get any time I sit behind the wheel of something with a V8 that generates more than 300 horsepower. Maybe even attend a few select auto journalist meetings driving a Kia Rio to temper my reputation as a speed freak.
I was all set to pick up Land Rover's new V6-powered LR3 for my weekly test drive, when I fielded a frantic phone call from Barbara Barrett, a spokesperson at Aston Martin Jaguar Land Rover Canada.

"Dave," went the gist of the conversation, "now, you know this isn't a sports car, right? You're not going to try to peel rubber and smoke Corvettes with this thing, are you?"

"Moi?" I think I replied, feigning complete innocence.

"It's only a V6, Dave, and it's an SUV, so no drag racing for pink slips, no Fast and Furiousing for the young girls on Yonge St. and, above all, do not, and I repeat, do not, even attempt your famous Viper-like burnouts down on Cherry Beach."

I was starting to feel like a trapper at a PETA meeting. I'm going to have to stop insisting on supercharged and turbocharged versions of all my test vehicles. At the very least, I need to write a very long and comprehensive article on the virtues of fuel-efficient vehicles. Maybe even get my picture taken behind the wheel of a hybrid.

As it turns out, I drove around for a week in the V6-powered LR3 and hardly noticed the loss of the two pistons. Land Rover's concerns centred around the sport-brute's 2,411-kilogram curb weight and the Ford-sourced 4.0-litre's 216 horsepower.

But, the more important - though far less understood - number is the V6's 269 pound-feet of torque. Better yet, those pound-feet arrive at a lowish 3,000 rpm. What this means in practical, everyday driving is that, up to about half-throttle, you don't miss the top-of-the-line LR3's extra 0.4 litres of higher-revving V8. The base LR3 gets off the line quick, passes smartly and cruises easily up into the 120-to-140-kilometres-per-hour range.

Above that speed, when that high-rpm horsepower is more important than low-rpm torque, is the only time when the V6 has a hard time motivating the Land Rover. Hit the gas at 140 km/h and the V6 strains to accelerate. The engine revs hard enough and it's plenty smooth; it just doesn't rocket ahead. If rocketing is the kind of driving you relish, you need the V8.

The upside of forgoing those two pistons is that this new-for-2006 version of the LR3 is bunches cheaper than the V8, starting at $53,900, compared with $61,900 for the V8. That, to put the value equation in perspective, is right in the heart of the price range the old Discovery used to occupy. And the new LR3's V6 is worlds ahead of the Disco's ages-old, overhead-valve V8.

Not to mention that the LR3 is at least three generations improved over the Disco. Still possessing all the requisite Land Rover values - available (and unusually spacious) seven-passenger seating, immense off-road ability and rugged, take-me-anywhere styling - the LR3 is as sophisticated as any sport utility vehicle on the market. And, yes, I'm counting products from Germany as well as Japan.

The list of improvements over the no-longer-lamented Discovery is seemingly endless. The ride is much improved because the LR3 sits on a four-wheel independent suspension. It's air-controlled, allowing easy height adjustment (through a flick of the innovative Terrain Response system, which automatically determines ride height and all-wheel-drive settings as well as the differential and the Hill Descent Control) and excellent ride quality over any road surface. On-road handling also is vastly improved with absolutely no loss in Land Rover's deservedly vaunted ability to clamber over places no human - let alone any vehicle - should venture.

The biggest improvement, however, is the transformation of the Discovery's mid-'80s interior into something thoroughly modern. One could grouse about the LR3's relative lack of hedonistic touches that put the top-of-the-line Range Rover in a class of its own, but its $40,000-plus larger price tag has to buy something.

Even if the LR3's interior isn't brimming with luxurious touches, it's clean, competent and built with almost Japanese-like attention to detail. Big knobs make working the air conditioning system a doddle even with gloved hands, the twin cup holders are easily accessible and there's a wide array of redundant controls on the steering wheel.

But what makes the LR3's interior a standout is that it is the only true sport-ute that offers useful seven-passenger seating. Adults can sit comfortably in the third row of seats, if only temporarily, and access doesn't require contortions worthy of a Romanian gymnast.

New for this year is an optional wood applique to various interior points that elevates the LR3's dashboard from competent but pedestrian to fully luxurious. Land Rover Canada wants $800 for the kit, but it adds so much to the interior, I think it should be standard equipment.
 

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Yeah, I already know I want one. The V6 sounds somewhat worthy, even though I've had one in my 01 Ranger. Good engine but I thought it was on its way out for Ford.
 
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