DETROIT - Land Rover's new entry in the sport utility segment has claimed the honor of Motor Trend magazine's 2005 SUV of the Year.
The LR3, which goes on sale next month, competed against six other new or significantly re-engineered SUVs: the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape Hybrid and Freestyle, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Infiniti QX56 and Nissan Pathfinder.
Angus MacKenzie, Motor Trend's editor in chief, said the LR3, which will replace the Land Rover Discovery, set new benchmarks in design and functionality. The LR3's sticker price will start at around $45,000.
"I think the key for the LR3 is it resolves the conflict you normally get in a sport utility vehicle between off-road ability and on-road refinement," Mr. MacKenzie said.
Motor Trend considers three questions when evaluating vehicles and selecting the winner: What's the most significant new SUV in terms of engineering, safety, design and projected sales? Is it the best in its class? Is it a good value?
Judging can be tricky because the SUV segment features such a diverse line of vehicles. Pricing can vary $40,000 from one end of the spectrum to the other.
Motor Trend said the LR3's crisp exterior wraps around a roomy interior with third-row seating. Its terrain-response system allows the driver to adjust the height of the suspension to accommodate a variety of road surfaces.
Land Rover is part of Ford Motor Co.'s Premier Automotive Group, which also features Volvo, Jaguar and Aston Martin.
The English brand was one of the most improved nameplates in J.D. Power's annual study of initial quality, which was released earlier this year.
Mr. MacKenzie said it's difficult to assess long-term quality in a new vehicle but that Motor Trend's first impressions of the LR3's build and engineering "were extremely favorable."
Motor Trend also will select a car and truck of the year in the coming months.