Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Test Drive: 2006 Land Rover LR3 HSE

SUMMARY: 2008 Land Rover LR3 HSE

PROS: Looks, luxury, ruggedness, fun off-road tech gadgets, flexible seating configuration, open "airy" interior, large windows=great visibility, HID headlamps.

CONS: Seats tricky to fold and unfold, soft suspension, minimal space behind the third row, reliability(?).
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I have a terrible track record for keeping cars and in the last several years, I haven't been able to keep one longer than 5 years before I traded it in for something new. I'm starting to get that feeling again so on Monday, I went out to a Land Rover dealership to test drive the LR3....

What attracted me to the LR3 at first was its looks. I've always admired the new design that was introduced in 2005. The clean modern lines and luxury headlight treatment coupled with its off-road DNA always made it desirable to me. A couple of weeks ago when I first popped in to take a look at it's 7-passenger configuration, I got really excited.

The LR3 can seat 7 people in a 2+3+2 setup. I was impressed with the room in the 3rd row because at 5' 10" (178 cm) I could sit back there without hitting my knees against the 2nd row seat-back. The theatre-style seating and tall roof with 2nd and 3rd row glass roof panels gave me plenty of headroom and an open, spacious feeling. The nice thing about the 2nd row is that can split 35/30/35 so there's a lot of versatility. We need something that will fit 5 children: 1 x Rear-facing, 1 x Front-facing, 2 x boosters, and 1 x slim 9-year-old. The LR3 seemed to have that flexibility to suit our needs. Also, the space behind the 3rd row looke a bit larger than some other cars I've looked at (including the disappointingly tight 2008 Toyota Highlander). One of the advantages of the LR3's split-opening hatch is that it would give us the ability to pile things up in the back without having to worry about falling out. The only problem with the the 2nd and 3rd rows is that folding them seems a bit puzzle-like and definitely not as simple as other vehicles I've seen.

Although we talked to the salesperson about about the 2008 LR3 HSE, I knew that used LR3s were very plentiful and heavily discounted. I wanted the HSE for its V8 engine and navigation system. Unfortunately, Land Rover suffers from a poor-reliability reputation that may or may not be deserving. That means a 2006 model LR3 HSE with full options like adaptive lighting and an electric cooling box can be bought for around $45,000 CAD. Since there have not been major changes over the years, it's a huge savings over a similarly equipped new 2008 LR3 HSE that has a MSRP of almost $70,000 CAD. When it was time to finally go out on the test drive, we were given a 2006 LR3 HSE.

Actually, the first LR3 we tried broke down. This Land Rover dealership had a rock obstacle at the side of the building where salespeople could demonstrate the off-road capabilities of their vehicles. When our salesperson activated the Terrain Response system to Rock Crawling and tried to switch the transfer case into low gear, the LR3 just wouldn't do it. In the 4x4 information display on the NAV screen I noticed a red dash flashing above each front wheel but I didn't know what it meant--I'm sure it wasn't good. We moved to a different vehicle and were able to go over the rock obstacle without any problems. I have to admit it was quite impressive. It was kind of like the sort of the challenge that I would look for when we used to go off-roading in our 2003 Toyota Sequoia. I'm not sure if the the Sequoia could have done it with such ease and in a tight space as in the LR3. While we were going up the rocks, though, I did think to myself: "I'm not going to do this kind of off-roading any more. I've grown out of it."

Sitting behind the wheel of the LR3 is very nice. Right away I notice the tall side windows and the large side mirrors. Visibility is great. The seats are comfortable and it feels like everything is within easy reach. On the road, I didn't get a chance to test the performance of the the 300 hp V8 engine, but it seemed to pull the LR3 reasonably well. It has a 6-speed transmission that you can switch from normal to sport mode. You can also do your own sequential shifting if you want. There actually was a noticeable improvement in performance when set in sport mode. Gears are held a bit longer and acceleration seemed more smooth and the throttle response was quicker. That would definitely be what I would want it set at all the time, but I'm sure that doesn't do fuel consumption any good!

The air suspension on the LR3 is nice. You can set the car to "Access" height so that it lowers 2" to make it easier to get in and out of the car. It makes a noticeable difference because I could touch the ground easily when I stepped out. On the road the LR3 is very comfortable. The prescribed route we took covered some rural roads with cracked, undulating pavement and the LR3 handled it all with very quiet luxury. Because of the softness of the suspension, there was slight body roll that reminds you that the LR3 really is a truck, but the ride quality is very nice and the roll is minimal. I had driven my Subaru STI with sport suspension out for the day, so coming from that I'm sure anything else I drove that day would feel soft!

The last test was when we got back to the dealership. I brought our Peg Perego Pliko P3 umbrella stroller to see if it would fit behind the 3rd row. I admit that compared to other umbrella strollers, this one is a bit more bulky but we love it because it can carry a 2nd child standing in the back. Besides, using the stroller to compare storage space between different vehicles will give us a much better reference point. Unfortunately, the LR3 was not deep enough to fit the wheels and was short by a couple of inches. Does that mean that the LR3 is out of contention? I'd hate to base a $50,000 purchase on a simple thing like a stroller (since a regular umbrella stroller for $25 would fit no problem) but it makes it harder to choose the LR3 to be our Number One.

SUMMARY: 2008 Land Rover LR3 HSE

PROS: Looks, luxury, ruggedness, fun off-road tech gadgets, flexible seating configuration, open "airy" interior, large windows=great visibility, HID headlamps.

CONS: Seats tricky to fold and unfold, soft suspension, minimal space behind the third row, reliability(?).



The next test drive: 2008 Toyota Sequoia Platinum.

5 comments:

  1. I've always like the LR3, and wished I had gotten one since the room in my FJ is very minimal. Have you considered a Toyota 4runner ? Similar vehicle (no 3rd row..), but you've got the Toyota reliability which is almost the best and the price might be slightly better.

    I like Landrovers, especially the Defender, but I'm always concerned about being stranded one day on the side of the road.... But, I do think the LR3 looks the best of all the SUVs (except for the FJ, just kidding) and it would still be a great, smart buy for the family vehicle.

    By the way, I did a one week old shot of Abigail next to the PSP on my blog....

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  2. I was out at the Toyota dealership earlier this week and they had an FJ on display with some black TRD wheels on BFG All-Terrains and that thing looked awesome. The biggest issue with us finding a new vehicle is that with the 5th child coming in December, we really need a 3rd row.

    BTW, that's a great shot of Abigail next to the PSP. She's a cutie!

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  3. Wow! 5 kids !! I'm stressing on having two.. That's great though... I like big families, since I'm an only child.. My wife has a big family which is awesome.

    I would love to have some black TRD wheels on my FJ... Mine came with BBS wheels, but my FJ was the only one on the lot when I bought it 2 years ago.

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  4. I have an 06 LR3 HSE with the 7 seats. Love it to death. It always gets looks, and never leaves me stranded. I think the bad rep LR got was for the Discovery Series 1's, but they're mostly a thing of the past. I won't say it's been perfect, (no car is - even Toyotas!) but the dealer is great and is part of what you are paying for when you buy a LR - premium service. I also have a Defender and while it gets even more looks, it's more of a hands-on vehicle - always something to top up, something to tighten, something to work on... very fun, but very labour intensive.

    I considered the Toyota FJ, but it has terrible visibility and blind spots, and I really disliked the dash layout... I was constantly banging my knees on the dash whenever I got in or out on the test drive.

    The LR3 has got a great drivetrain, great suspension, and has suited us and out kids perfectly for the last 3 years with no issues. I will probably be getting the new LR4 when it comes out in a month or so when our lease is up on the LR3.

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  5. Don,

    Thanks for the feedback on your experience with the LR3. I still think it a great looking vehicle and always admire it when I see one on the road.

    Unfortunately for us, I had to face the realities of having a large family and even though the LR3 has 7 seats, it is more realistically a 5-person car with 2 emergency seats. When my kids get older and leave the house, Land Rover will always be an option. I love the virtual gauges on the 2010 Range Rovers!

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