The newest Land Rover, the LR3, goes on sale as you're reading this. We can assume it will be comfy and highly utilitarian for everyday use. We can also assume it will have great seats, plenty of cupholders, and a great audio system. The question is, is it any good on the trail?
We joined Land Rover product engineers on a dusty, rocky trail in California's San Gabriel Mountains and again two weeks later to drive a greasy, partially flooded logging trail through the hilly forests of eastern Canada, near Montreal. Combining both venues, we did about 10 hours operating in Low range. We had the opportunity to jump in and out of the current Discovery and LR3.
We immediately noticed how the LR3 differs from the Discovery. It's bigger. Just by driving to the trailhead, we could see that it exceeds the Discovery when it comes to on-road attributes. The LR3 handles better, is quieter, and is far more responsive to throttle. The interior is more versatile. The Discovery gathers speed slowly and deliberately, while the LR3 is actually fast. Both can seat seven passengers with optional rear seats, but the LR3's rear seats are more comfortable.
While the LR3 is clearly a better soccer-mom SUV than the Disco', that didn't answer our question. To understand a Land Rover, one has to operate in Low range all day and be there when the trail takes a turn for the worse. We did the hours, we were in the hairy situations, and, in the end, we were happy.
The more time we spent in the LR3, the clearer it became that Land Rover project designers understand the needs of four-wheelers. These guys - whoever they are -should be our heroes because they clearly insisted that the details support actual use of the LR3 as a 4x4. The proof is everywhere you look.
Let's start with the engine. As with any good truck engine, the LR3 V-8 delivers more torque (330 lb-ft) than horsepower (300). It's derived from a Jaguar 4.2L V-8 engine, but has been specially modified for the LR3. The Land Rover version is stroked to 4.4L. To cope with extremes of hot and cold, the 4.4L has also been fit with unique water and oil pumps. With the expanded oil sump, the LR3 4.4L can handle continuous side hills and descents as steep as 35 degrees and drive through tilts as high as 45 degrees without any threat to the oil pressure.
The ignition, a modern electronic coil-on-plug type, supports a varying throttle output. So when the LR3 is in rockcrawl mode, the throttle becomes less sensitive, making it very easy to tip in small amounts of throttle. We found that we never unintentionally lurched forward as we moved uphill tire by tire, rock to rock. In our findings, the LR3 V-8 is not just a truck engine. It's an off-road truck engine. The LR3, as the most advanced Land Rover made to date, is the only vehicle to offer the 4.4L V-8.