Land Rover LR4

If you asked me to pick a favorite mid-size SUV, it would probably be the Land Rover LR4, and that says a lot about the way I view SUVs. The LR4 is one of the last of what some call the "true trucks," a sport-utility vehicle that traces its lineage back to the days when such vehicles were intended primarily for expeditions into dark continents.
The LR4 doesn't actually date back that far, of course--it replaces the LR3 (formerly known as the Discovery) for 2010. The new name comes courtesy of a round of upgrades, including a new engine and interior design. But this tough customer's basic purpose in life remains the same, and the underpinnings are a reflection of this fact. Even though it's been heavily civilized for urban duty, the LR4 is a vehicle for conquering inhospitable terrain, at heart.

The slab-sided LR4 is from the Big Box school of SUV design, with a distinct, squared-off hood and a tall greenhouse. Complicated headlamp units and a two-bar grille similar to that of the Range Rover identify this vehicle from the front, and the boxy design has received subtle changes to improve its aerodynamics. The front-fender vents are functional, and large nineteen-inch wheels fill the wells. The rear window is distinctively asymmetrical, and Land Rover's signature two-piece tailgate is angled to match the glass. The result of all this careful styling is a purposeful design; the LR4 looks like a very elegant tool, but a tool nevertheless.

Land Rover has cleaned up the interior considerably. Previous Land Rover cabins tended to be a command center-like riot of buttons and apparently randomly placed controls; the LR4 is more logically laid out. A high and commanding driving position offers good visibility, and from behind the wheel the LR4 feels like a precision machine. That's exactly what it is, of course. Land Rover's signature oval-section steering wheel feels comfortable in the hand, and the many controls are somewhat more logically grouped. On the console, a rotary knob activates the Terrain Response system. A choice of five- or seven-passenger seating is offered. When so equipped, the third-row seats are surprisingly comfortable. I loaded up the LR4 with six passengers and heard nary a complaint. The seats are fussy to erect, but provide enough legroom and headroom for average sized adults; cupholders, vents and even a third sunroof are all in place to make the journey in the way-back more pleasant. New amenities include a parking-assist camera, USB jacks for MP3 players and other devices and keyless start. At night, ambient LED lighting offers elegant illumination. A new hard-drive based navigation system is also available.

One of the most notable upgrades to the LR4 is the addition of a new 5.0 liter V8. The new powerplant is shared with Jaguar, and uses high-pressure direct gasoline injection and double overhead cams with variable cam timing, and the result is 375 horsepower. There's a significant amount of urge on hand, and the LR4 is actually rather entertaining off the line thanks to gobs of low-end torque. A six-speed automatic transmission handles the muscle-car urge with the proper decorum. The LR4's throttle is supremely controllable, the better to navigate tight off-road situations; many of the engine accessories have also been waterproofed, in case of excursions that require fording streams. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility, at least at the fuel pump: the LR4 is a relatively thirsty vehicle, in spite of an ultra-low idle speed and other fuel-saving measures.

A redesigned double-wishbone suspension is on hand to reduce body roll, with stiffer roll bars, a lower center of gravity and new shocks and bushings on hand to cut down on the waddle. Land Rover's engineers have managed to civilize the LR4 somewhat, but the ride is still truckier than that of most sport-utes. It’s comfortable, to be sure, but there's an abruptness to the pothole response and a tendency toward body roll in sudden maneuvers that's been bred out of most crossovers. When the road is straight and narrow, however, the new LR4 offers an impressive level of comfort on pavement, thanks in part to its adjustable air springs. Previously an apparent afterthought, Land Rover has made this into a bona fide luxury vehicle, and cruising all day wouldn't be uncomfortable. Bigger brakes improve stopping power, while Dynamic Stability Control and Hill Descent Control are standard equipment.

Off-road navigation is further improved by the available Surround Camera System, which uses five small digital cameras to project front, side and rear exterior views onto the information screen in the dash.

Civilized or not, the new LR4 isn't for everyone. The ride is comfortable, but you'd better plan to work it hard or take it off-road, as many of the features that make it unique will be largely useless in the suburbs. The LR4 is much like the Jeep Wrangler in that respect, though more comfortable and much more expensive; this vehicle can trace its heritage directly to vehicles that have braved the most remote parts of the world. As such, the LR4's kind of special, and the price tag reflects this. LR4 pricing starts at $48,100, which is reasonable for what it offers. My tester featured Land Rover's LUX package, which adds Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, keyless entry, an upgraded sound system and several other comfort and convenience options, and stickered for a somewhat steeper $60,915.

All specs are for the 2010 Land Rover LR4
Length: 190.1 in.
Width: 75.4 in.
Height: 74.1 in.
Curb weight: 5833 lb.
Cargo space: 42.1 cu.ft. (behind second row); 90.3 cu.ft. (all seats folded)
Towing capacity: 7716 lb.
Base price: $48,100
Price as tested: $60,915
Engine: 5.0 liter direct-injection V8
Drivetrain: six-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
Horsepower: 375 @ 6500
Torque: 375 @ 3500
Est. mileage: 12/17

By Chris Jackson - MyCarData