Unlike most ABS systems, Land Rover's ABS works off-road. This comes into play on graded dirt or gravel roads, where braking control is all the more crucial. Traction is another asset. All newer Land Rovers have a full-time 4WD system, which Land Rover calls Permanent Four-Wheel-Drive. Unlike most full-time systems, the normal operating mode is to split traction 50/50, front to rear, for continuous balance as the vehicle moves across surfaces that have differing friction levels. The advantage is that the system is always ready in case you hit patches of ice, or have to hang two wheels off onto dirt to avoid something in the road. A center differential lock and electronic traction control eliminate wheel spin. If that's not enough for where you're going, however, a locking rear differential is a factory option. We had the locker in our test units, but the traction control in rockcrawl mode was so effective, we never had a chance to use it.
We had some reservations about the tire choices. The standard tires will be of a mud-and-snow tread design, in a wide 255/60R18 radial size. They appear to be biased toward on-road performance and do supply a fair amount of grip on dry pavement. While we wish Land Rover offered a taller, thinner tire on a smaller wheel - if only as an option - we have to admit that these tires performed surprisingly well on the trail. They didn't slip on the dust at about 18 psi and worked surprisingly well in greasy mud, so long as there was a firm bottom to the rut. We did not experience any tire failures during our testing. In our opinion, there's room in the wheelwell for an alternate wheel/tire combination should a more specialized tread be required, but the brakes are large, so wheel choice may be limited.
The basic architecture of the LR3 is another revealing study. Most manufactures are moving toward larger bodies and longer overhangs. Wrestling with the need to offer more carrying capacity than the current Discovery, the LR3 wheelbase was extended 14 inches, but the body length was increased by just 4 inches, resulting in short overhangs. With the air suspension set at the off-road mode, we had maximum approach and departure angles of 37.2 and 29.6 degrees, respectively. Because of these generous angles, we found that there was always a way to pick a line up a given pile of rocks or set of stair-steps, without scuffing the front air dam or dragging the hitch. Although we didn't encounter really deep water during our trail testing, Land Rover has always been known for its ability to roll through standing water without ill effects. The fording depth for the LR3 is 27 inches - practically hood-high.
Steering is remarkably quick for a vehicle with a 114-inch wheelbase. The turning circle is 37.6 feet, requiring just 3.32 turns lock-to-lock. As with the Range Rover, the steering wheel itself is relatively thick, unusually solid, and vibration-free.
Further indications about engineering intentions are equally clear-cut:
The key fob charges itself upon insertion into the lock, resists impact, and is waterproof to a depth of 75 feet.