NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) - The Disco is dead. Land Rover has sent its creaky Discovery to that great junkyard in the sky. Weep not. In its place comes a temptingly priced cousin to the brilliant, BMW-designed Range Rover.
It's called the LR3, and it separates the men from the toys among luxury sport utilities.
The all-new Rover delivers an unmatched blend of spaciousness, luxury, prestige, on-road handling and off-road prowess. And with a base price of $44,995 -- vs. $73,750 for the Range Rover -- it's destined to become the luxury SUV for buyers conscious of both status and value.
It has just-right power, with 300 horses from a 4.4-liter version of Jaguar's purring V-8, hooked through a silky six-speed automatic.
Interior packaging is outstanding: The LR3 trumps the slightly larger Range Rover with an optional pair of third-row seats, which almost magically fit adults. All five leather-clad rear chairs fold flat individually, offering endless options for divvying people and space. The four-wheel independent air suspension lets you select three ride heights: from low down for easy loading, to 9.5 inches above ground for serious off-road adventure.
Touch a button and Hill Descent Control walks the truck down the most intimidating slopes without your touching gas or brakes. The robust four-wheel drive adds the clever Terrain Response System: It manages engine, throttle, gearing, ABS, stability control and suspension settings to optimize traction in any conditions.
A rotary knob offers settings for highway, grass/gravel/snow, sand, rock crawl and deep mud. In rock-crawl mode, the Rover softened the throttle to smoothly scale massive boulders on our favorite off-road track.
Even if you have no plans to explore the Kalahari, the Rover shines in its other habitats -- old-money suburbs and the urban wilds. Flat cornering and perfectly weighted steering recall smaller performance utes like the BMW X5.
The likely caveat is Rover's often suspect quality. Rover and its Ford parent hope the LR3's $1.3 billion investment in design, engineering and modern manufacturing, along with 4 million miles of around-the-world testing in extreme climates, makes this SUV worthy of long-term trust.
Buying one may still strike some as a leap of faith, yet the quantum leap over its predecessor is inarguable. The LR3's all-around talent is wildly impressive. It's the rare luxury SUV that nails both sport and true utility, then adds Rover's industrial styling and British flair. Its strong bid for the luxury throne makes the LR3 easily the year's best new truck.