Le Chateau Montebello is the largest log cabin in the world. The Chateau is located inside 65,000 acres of unspoiled Laurentian wilderness originally granted by the King of France in 1674. Inside these 65,000 acres is the new Land Rover Experience Driving School.
Deep within those woods are a quasi-convoy of Land Rover LR3s. The Land Rover LR3s are being guided by Bob Burns and group. Burns and his group have been off-roading before off-roading was cool. Many of them were participants in earlier camel trophy runs. This is the upper echelon of off-roading.
Burns and crew have walked the Land Rover course for days. They even built a bridge. I walked the bridge marveling at the work that had gone into this cross-member log bridge. Three logs on each side, the middle log rutted in, so that the tire would rut into the middle and follow the intended line. Smart design, but it still looked precarious.
The 2005 Land Rover LR3 is taking the place of the defunct Discovery. The Discovery was a disaster waiting for destruction. The LR3 is a full-size SUV, fourteen inches longer than the Discovery. The LR3 looks more like a Range Rover, with brutish styling and harder, tailored angles.
In previous off-roading trips I have grasped the hi-low center-rear differential stuff about half way through, but I've never felt comfortable enough to go off-roading by myself. The LR3 takes all this away with the breakthrough technology called Terrain response.
Terrain response is a rotary knob that has pictures to guide you to the one of five modes you need to be in. You have your normal; snow-grass-gravel;mud and ruts;sand;rock crawl.
According to Matthew Taylor, Manager of Land Rover, Land Rover watched the characteristics of the terrain and created algorithms and different modes that correspond to the modes. It takes all the guesswork out of off-roading.
Once you select the mode, terrain response automatically sets the vehicle's height, torque, electronic traction control (ETC), hill descent control (HDC) and transmission settings. In tandem with this is a navigational system that features an animated display that shows whether the wheels are straight, whether the center or rear diff is locked, steering angles, height and suspension.
Forty percent of Land Rover owners go off-roading. Compare that to five percent for all other Sport Utility Owners and you can see why Land Rover continues to make only Sports Utility Vehicles, instead of crossing over to the more popular Crossover vehicle.
The LR3 has a new integrated body frame (IBF) structure and a version of Jaguar's 4.4 liter V-8, delivering 300 horsepower and 313 lb. ft of torque. Combined, they offer high torsional stiffness with optimal on-road driveability and comfort.
When questioned about Land Rover's intent to stay with Sports Utility Vehicles Bob Burns put it best, "We hope all the other companies go to Crossovers. We are staying with SUVs. We know them, we know how to make them so that people want to drive them the way they should be driven."
Expect Land Rover to continue on this off-road course. Next year's Range Rover will include a Jaguar derived engine that is in the XJ and for more kicks they are going to offer the supercharged V-8.
The driving dichotomy is that in off-roading you rarely go more than 10 mph. It is not only in keeping with that need for more horsepower, but in the fact that Land Rover will be free of their contract with BMW. A move they need to make to be able to cut the cost of the vehicle to be more in line with vehicles that offer that horsepower, but less functional amenities off-road. A driving dichotomy that Land Rover faces because it is two vehicles in one.