Land Rover LR3

24Nov05

Land Rover LR3

Land Rover LR3

There have been three generations of the LR3, which is known as the Discovery in Europe. The Discovery was introduced in the late 1980s and is the most popular model of Land Rover. It is not as utilitarian as the Defender, but it is very competent off road.On 2 April 2004, owners Ford Motor Company introduced the new LR3 for the 2005 model year.A replacement vehicle had been planned for many years, but the project had been delayed many times due to the break up of the Rover Group in 2000 and the need to replace the Range Rover in 2001.The LR3 was an entirely new design, sharing not a single component with the outgoing model. Its styling is still traditional Land Rover, with function dictating the look, rather than fashion, and with lots of horizontal and vertical lines. It retains the key features of the Discovery, such as the stepped roofline and steeply-raked windscreen.

Land Rover replaced the traditional, strong ladder-frame chassis with a ‘Integrated Body Frame’, engine bay and passenger compartment is built as a monocoque mated to a ladder-chassis holding the gearbox and suspension. Monocoque vehicles are more rigid, giving improved high-speed handling, but can be damaged by the stresses involved in heavy off-road use. It claimed to combine the thoughness of a ladder-chassis with the performance carateristics of a monocoque construction. The downside is the LR3 is uncommonly heavy for its size.Another big change was the fitting of Fully independent suspension. Like the Series III Range Rover, this was an air suspension system, which allowed the ride-height of the vehicle to be altered by simply pumping up or deflating the air bags. The LR3 can be raised to provide ground clearance off-road and lowered at high speeds to improve handling. Land Rover developed ‘cross-linked’ air suspension to prevent the vehicule from grounding out off-road. The cross-linked suspension mimics the action of a beam axle, as one wheel drops, the other rises.The engines used in the LR3 were all taken from Land Rover’s sister company, Jaguar. For the US-market and as the high-performance option elsewhere, a 4.4 litre petrol V8 of 280 horsepower was chosen. A 4.0-litre V6 petrol engine taken from the Ford stable was available in the USA and Australia. Before launch, there were rumours that Land Rover may introduce the diesel unit to the American market, but the use of high-sulphur diesel fuel, for which the TdV6 is not designed in that market made this fitment unlikely.The gearboxes on the LR3 were also all-new. The 6-speed automatic transmission comes with a 2-speed transfer box and permanent 4-wheel-drive. A computer controlled progressively locking central differential ensures traction is retained in tough conditions.Land Rover’s full armoury of electronic traction control systems come as standard. Hill Descent Control (HDC) prevented vehicle ‘runaways’ when descending steep hills and 4-wheel Electronic Traction Control (4ETC) prevents wheel spin in low-traction conditions. An on-road system, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) prevented skidding when steering and braking at speed.Arguably the biggest feature of the vehicle is the innovative ‘Terrain Response’ system which won a US Scientist award in 2005. Previously, a wide-ranging knowledge of the vehicle was needed to be able to select the correct gear, transfer ratio, various differential systems and master various techniques required for tackling steep hills, deep water and other tough terrain. Terrain Response attempted to take away as many of the difficulties as possible and then a computer systems selects the correct gearbox settings, adjust the suspension height, adjust the differential lock settings and even alter the throttle response of the engine. The driver still retains some manual control over the off-road systems, being able to select the Transfer Box ratio and the suspension height manually.The original 1989 Discovery’s looks had been determined by limited funds and the consequent use of first-generation Range Rover components. The Discovery 3 has a fresh, minimalist style. The interior was much improved, with a highly flexible 7-seat layout. Passengers in the rearmost row now enter through the rear side doors, instead of the tailgate as in previous versions. The driver benefits from a modern satellite on- and off-road GPS. When in off-road modes, the screen shows a schematic of the vehicle, displaying the amount of suspension movement, the front wheels steering angle, the status of the locking differentials and icons showing which mode the Terrain Response is in, and  the that gear selected on automatic versions.The vehicle was very well received by the press on its launch, with the Terrain Response system, vastly improved on-road dynamics and clever interior design being selected for wide praise. The new look was disliked by some, and the large, blank rear panel, now devoid of the spare wheel, was a controversial point. Others pointed out that the diesel engine still lagged behind the competition in power but overall the vehicle scored highly. A high-point in the new Discovery’s launch season came when Top Gear drove a LR3 to the top of a Scottish mountain, where no vehicle had previously reached.In Australia, the vehicle managed to be awarded ‘4WD of the Year’ by virtually all of the 4WD press, impressing the often conservative journalists of the ‘hard-core’ magazines. It was widely hailed as the first time that electonics actually out-performed trusted mechanical systems, although most sounded a note of caution about long-term reliability and serviceability.Amongst the off-road driving and Land Rover enthusiast community, the all-new Discovery has gradually gained acceptance. Given the improved road-going qualities of the vehicle, many were worried that the vehicle’s off-road abilities would be comprimised, and others expressed doubts about relying on electronic systems in extreme conditions. However, by 2006, 2 years after the vehicle’s launch, the vehicle’s abilities and reliability have been proved both by the press and private owners.In 2006 Land Rover used the LR3 in its G4 Challenge, alongside the Range Rover Sport. The vehicles used are all in standard mechanical form fitted with equipment from the standard Land Rover brochures.The LR3 was nominated for the North American Truck of the Year award and won Motor Trend magazine’s Sport/Utility of the Year for 2005.Land Rover LR3 on Top Gear: Part 1Land Rover LR3 on Top Gear: Part 2

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