The Land Rover LR4 offers amazing off-road capability yet on the road it is quiet and comfortable. Inside is a leather-appointed cabin that coddles passengers in luxury.
The LR4 is fresh from a complete redesign for 2010. For 2011, Land Rover LR4 has been further upgraded with additional technology.
New for 2011 are enhancements to the Terrain Response system designed to further boost off-road capability. Among them are the addition of Hill Start Assist, and Gradient Acceleration Control, which helps maintain downhill speeds on rough or slippery terrain when Hill Descent Control isn't set. Also, Bluetooth phone connectivity is now standard on 2011 LR4 models. A new Vision Assist Package for is available for 2011 LR4 HSE models that includes: HID headlamps, Adaptive Front Lighting System (swiveling headlights), Automatic High Beam Assist, a Surround Camera System, power-folding mirrors, Trailer Assist, and Trailer Hitch Assist. The 2011 Land Rover LR4 HSE now comes standard with a rearview camera. A new 7-Seat Comfort Package is available for 2011 models, and significant changes have been made to several options packages.
Known as the Discovery 4 in the rest of the world, the LR4 is a midsize luxury sport utility, a class that includes the Lexus RX 350, Mercedes-Benz GLK, Audi Q5, Acura MDX, and BMW X5. The LR4 seats five but can seat seven when equipped with a third row.
The Land Rover LR4 and Range Rover Sport share platforms, powertrains, drive systems and sophisticated suspensions. The LR4 comes standard with slightly less luxury equipment, though most of the differences can be handled with options. The LR4's wheelbase is more than five inches longer than the Sport's yet the LR4 is only two inches longer overall. The LR4 has short front and rear overhangs to avoid damage in rugged terrain.
The LR4's looks are distinctively Land Rover. It's a happy, familiar shape that manages to pull off both boxy and, thanks to rounded edges at every opportunity, svelte if not sleek.
Inside the cabin, the LR4 is a complete success in terms of comfort, luxury and utility. Everything is lush to the eye and hand, and the quality of the interior materials is a high as it gets, beautifully fit and finished. Quality is much better now than it was in the early days of the Discovery.
Underway, the LR4 is very comfortable and quiet. We were impressed during our test drives of the 2010 model in Scotland and, most recently, off-road in the 2011 LR4 in Colorado. We expected no less, of course, as the LR4's capability off road is nothing short of phenomenal. Its suspension articulation coupled with the latest in traction control technology allow the LR4 to creep over extremely rugged terrain, the worst off-road trails, the most primitive of roads, and in all kinds of weather.
The Land Rover LR4 comes with a 5.0-liter 32-valve V8 (new for 2010) with direct injection and variable camshaft timing, making 375 horsepower and 375 foot-pounds of torque. The 6-speed automatic transmission shifts sharply, and has Normal, Sport and Manual modes. The LR4 can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in only 7.5 seconds, a sprightly pace given the LR4's weight of about 5850 pounds (and given the Discovery's reputation as offering decidedly unsprightly acceleration).
All LR4 models come with full-time all-wheel drive with a selectable low range, although it's an understatement to describe the Land Rover's state-of-the-art traction-control system so simply. For off-highway travel, the electronic two-speed transfer case can be shifted on the fly. But the magic is in the Terrain Response System, with its five settings: Highway, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, and Rock Crawl. All you have to do is look out the windshield, select the correct setting for the terrain, and the LR4 will coordinate all of its off-road technology accordingly, including setting the suspension height. If you want to drive to Tierra del Fuego, one of these would be a great choice.
The LR4 meets the government's ULEV2 emissions requirements, meaning it's greener than required by law. It's no economy vehicle, however, with an EPA rating of 12 City and 17 Highway miles per gallon.
The LR4 is the latest in an evolution of Discovery models that benefitted from the upmarket Range Rover chassis. Launched in the UK in 1989, the Land Rover Discovery was introduced in the U.S. in 1994. The Discovery Series II replaced it for 1999 and was a significant improvement. When the Discovery 3 was launched in April 2004 it was dubbed LR3 in North America to emphasize the Land Rover brand. The LR4, launched as a 2010 model, is a heavily updated version of the LR3, and is marketed as Discovery 4 in other parts of the world.
Land Rover LR4 ($47,650); HSE ($51,900)
The Land Rover LR4 exterior was all-new for 2010, but it's an excellent familiar shape that manages to pull off both boxy and, thanks to rounded edges at every opportunity, svelte if not sleek.
The LR4 grille features two horizontal bars with perforations that suggest eggcrate but don't really say Land Rover, despite the badge that literally says so. The big headlamps at each end of the grille might do more to establish the identity, as they reflect the all-business nature of the Land Rover: They're out there and ready to work, with twin round beams inside, LED parking lights at their edges, above round projector-beam foglamps on the fascia below the grille.
The sheetmetal is softened by rounding from the hood down to the grille, and, more distinctively, behind the headlamps to the fenders. All in all, it's a good-looking front end for a big SUV, including the nice touch of alloy-colored vents on each front fender behind the wheel, in recognizable eggcrate mesh.
The fender flares are smoothly full, consistent with the LR4's other rounded edges, and Land Rover says the front flares reduce aerodynamic lift by 50 percent compared to the LR3 that was replaced. The standard 18-inch wheels work better for off-road because the tires have more sidewall, but the optional 19-inch alloy wheels are more striking, with 14 spokes.
Maybe the best view of the Land Rover is one people won't see unless they're 10 feet tall, the view looking down on the roof. The privacy glass on the third side window wraps up to the big dark Alpine roof that exposes the sky to the passengers inside, and forward of that is the power sunroof that's not quite so wide. From above, it sets the Land Rover apart and makes one realize what a special vehicle this is.
From the rear, it's unmistakable Land Rover, with the stepped rear hatch and the massive vertical taillamps, all business like the front headlamps.
The LR4 was completely redesigned and upgraded inside for 2010, and it's a complete success in terms of comfort, luxury and utility. It was all changed, including the dashboard, instrument panel, door panels and seats. Everything in the cockpit is luxurious to the eye and hand, and the quality of the interior materials is high, beautifully fit and finished.
Not surprisingly, it's very comfortable and quiet. During our test drives of the LR4 in Scotland and more recently off-road in Colorado, we were impressed.
The controls are easier to understand and use than in the past. There are fewer switches, with some vehicle functions now on the touch screen at the center of the instrument panel.
The LR4 has an innovative setup with the second row, a 35/30/35 rear seat with each section folding flat, to afford limousine-like rear seat leg room in the third row, or to accommodate combinations of cargo and passengers.
The front-row power seats are beautifully stitched, supportive and comfortable. The thick multi-function steering wheel mounts a complete set of controls for audio, telephone and cruise control. The center stack has been completely redesigned to be easier to read and use.
The optional surround camera system uses five cameras, two facing forward, one on either side of the truck facing down, and one at the rear to give a near-360-degree view of surroundings. Camera views can be selected from the touch screen, and the view can be zoomed if necessary. Remarkably and fantastically, it shows you exactly where your trailer is headed during backup maneuvers, guiding you to the correct spot. This feature was developed for this reason, but also for checking ground clearances and terrain when driving off-road.
The Land Rover LR4 comes with an engine that was new for 2010, a 5.0-liter DOHC V8 with direct fuel injection and variable camshaft timing that makes 375 horsepower and 375 foot-pounds of torque. The design is shared with Jaguar, but the Land Rover version has been changed to be better suited for off road. It uses a deeper oil pan to maintain engine lubrication at high lean angles, and all the exposed pulleys, belts and motors have been waterproofed, including the starter, alternator, and air conditioning compressor. The LR4 was designed to be able to ford 28 inches of water.
Coupled to a 6-speed ZF automatic transmission that shifts quickly, the V8 can accelerate the LR4 from 0 to 60 mph in only 7.5 seconds, a downright sprightly pace given the LR4's weight. The transmission has Normal, Sport and Manual modes, and the electronic two-speed transfer case can be shifted on the fly. The LR4 meets ULEV2 emissions requirements.
The LR4 is rated to tow 7700 pounds, though we don't see towing to be its forte. Trailer Stability Assist is an option that works like electronic stability control: sensors detect oscillation in the trailer, and use throttle intervention and braking to get the trailer to stop weaving. We recommend getting Trailer Stability Assist if you plan to tow.
The suspension uses electronically controlled air springs and shock absorbers, providing excellent handling and little body roll in corners, especially for a hefty truck that rides this high off the ground and has a high center of gravity. The ride is smooth and the steering response is surprisingly good. It's a wonderful mix of luxury, silence and serenity. If you come upon a surprise in the road, the chassis and brakes and big tires will handle it. If you find a challenge in the middle of a corner, the LR4 takes it on with a minimum of fuss.
The Terrain Response system has five settings: Highway, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, and Rock Crawl. All you have to do is look out the windshield and select the correct terrain, and the LR4 will drive accordingly, including setting the suspension height. Its capability in rough terrain earned it the crown for 2010 Off-Road SUV of the Year at the 16th annual Mudfest, a competition for SUVs put on by the Northwest Automotive Press Association.
Our test of the 2011 LR2 included two days of off-road driving in Colorado's San Juan Mountains, over trails that exceeded 13,000 feet. The rock-crawling challenges we faced far exceeded anything most Land Rover owners will ever face, yet there was nothing that even caused our LR4 to pause, except maybe the dangers, when we climbed out to peer over the cliffs we might drop over if we made a big mistake. With guidance from Land Rover instructors riding shotgun, we saw first-hand the amazing things the LR4 was capable of, and how the sensors found traction in any situation, including climbing up steep bare rock covered with dust. Suffice it to say that you're unlikely to ever get stuck in the mud.
We used Hill Descent Control much of the time, and it worked flawlessly to keep us out of trouble on steep downhill rocky paths. Gradient Acceleration Control kicks in to keep the car from going too fast, when Hill Descent Control isn't set. These sensors are so smart the best way to drive on steep, muddy downhills is with no feet, letting the system control wheelspin as you steer down the correct path. And going up, we used Hill Start Assist, to keep from sliding back when we went from the brake pedal to the gas.
The large and quiet brakes do the job well, even when driving through water that covers them completely. We got out on the highway at high speeds, and they hauled the heavy LR4 down admirably. Brakes on the LR4 HSE are the same as the Range Rover Sport's 14.2-inch ventilated front discs and four-piston calipers, with 13.8-inch ventilated rear discs and twin-piston calipers.
The Land Rover LR4 delivers phenomenal off-road capability, luxury, comfort and panache. Its high-tech V8 engine offers an abundance of power and torque, although gas mileage is low because of the LR4's weight and shape. The ride is exceptionally smooth, handling good, considering its size, brakes are big, and safety is at the top of the heap. The interior materials and comfort are first class, and cargo capacity with the fold-flat second and third rows massive. The LR4 is simply untouchable in its off-road and foul-weather capability.
Sam Moses contributed to this report after his test drive of the Land Rover LR4 in Washington's Columbia River Valley; with Jim McCraw reporting from Scotland.