The Land Rover LR4 comes to the U.S. market as the all-new successor to the LR3. The old LR3, called Discovery 3 in other markets, won more than 100 awards for its design when new, and the LR4 is better.
The new LR4 and the more expensive Range Rover Sport share platforms, drive systems, long-travel independent suspension, and powertrains, but the Land Rover LR4 carries less standard equipment and is generally a more practical, less costly weapon for all-weather, all-terrain driving. It is also the Land Rover you need if you want to carry up to seven on a trip, because the big Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport are restricted to five seats only, while the LR4 has the option of a seven-seat layout.
The LR4 interior shares much of its technology and some of its design with the pricier Range Rover Sport, which we count as a good thing.
To accommodate the third row of seats, it is more than five inches longer in wheelbase than the Sport, which generally means a smoother ride, but it is similar in overall length, width and height, an inch or two here and there.
The LR4 competes in the crowded midsize luxury sport-utility vehicle segment, one of the largest and fastest-growing segments in the industry. LR4's direct market competitors include the Acura MDX, the Lexus RX 350, the Mercedes-Benz GLK, the Audi Q5, and the BMW X5.
The 2010 Land Rover LR4 exterior design is all new, a crisper, cleaner design compared to the look and shape of the outgoing LR3.
This time out, the grille has two bars instead of one, and they are perforated. The third side window stops at the same level on the bodyside as the first and second windows, instead of wrapping up and over the roof sheetmetal.
Where the LR3 had narrow fender flares front and rear, the LR4 has wider ones that Land Rover says reduce aerodynamic lift at the front by a full 50 percent. Where the front fenders of the LR3 were solid sheetmetal, the LR4 carries front fender vents that do not carry turn signal repeaters, similar to but not the same as the more expensive Range Rover Sport that uses repeaters in the side vents. The LR4 has new LED lamps front and rear, with the headlamps using the same diagonally staggered lamp positions as the LR3.
The 2010 Land Rover LR4 has been completely redesigned inside. Everything in the cockpit has been reconfigured to be more luxurious to see, touch and feel, and to be easier to understand and use. The dashboard, instrument panel, door panels and seats, all have been redesigned and upgraded. There are fewer switches than on the previous-generation LR3, because some vehicle functions have been moved to the touch screen at the center of the instrument panel.
The LR4 has an interesting setup in the second row, with a 35/30/35 three-section split folding rear seat that folds flat, and can be folded down in three-row versions to afford limousine-like rear seat leg room, or accommodate large cargoes and people simultaneously.
During our test drive in Scotland we found the new LR4 interior design much less vertical, dark and plasticky than that of the LR3's, with much better materials, beautifully fitted and finished. Underway, it's very comfortable and very quiet, considering that the LR4 is quite a big box that catches lots of air and rides on enormous tires. 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 interior redesign in the LR4 is a complete success in terms of comfort, luxury and utility.
The new 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 main nav screen, and the view can be zoomed if necessary. This feature was developed to assist drivers in trailer hookups and trailer maneuvering, as well as for checking all-around clearances and terrain when driving off-road. This useful and fun camera feature is only available in off-road mode, in order the keep the driver's eyes from wandering off the highway.
The 2010 LR4 comes with a new engine, a 5.0-liter V8 rated at 375 horsepower and 375 foot-pounds of torque. Coupled to a six-speed ZF automatic transmission, the new V8 will accelerate the LR4 from 0 to 60 mph in only 7.5 seconds. Shared with Jaguar, the new 5.0-liter V8 yields 25-percent more power and 19-percent more torque than the engine used in the previous LR3.
The first purpose-built engine designed specifically for a Land Rover application, the new engine has been substantially improved compared to the Jaguar design to make it ready for serious off-road use. The LR4 engine uses a deeper oil pan to maintain engine lubrication at high lean angles when off-road. Every electric motor, pulley and bearing, the starter, alternator and air conditioning compressor, have been waterproofed.
The improved ZF six-speed transmission shifts very quickly and quietly, up or down.
Although still based on electronically controlled air springs and shock absorbers, the chassis under the LR4 has been given a thorough redesign that gives it much sharper handling and far less body roll in corners, sharper steering response, and even smoother on-road ride quality.
The Terrain Response system menu has a wide range of settings for highway, snow, off-road, and mountainous terrain, a system designed to tune the suspension for almost any use at the click of a knob. There is very little body roll for a hefty truck that rides this high off the ground and has a high center of gravity, and the air suspension system combines with the big tires to yield a quiet, smooth ride even in severe off-road conditions. Hill Descent Control is standard, and there are additional settings in the system for rock crawling and sand driving. Modifications to the front suspension have made the steering response crisper as well.
Brakes on the HSE have been upgraded to the Range Rover Sport's larger 14.2-inch ventilated front discs and four-piston calipers, with 13.8-inch ventilated rear discs and twin-piston calipers. The larger, quieter brakes perform very well, even when driving through water that covers them completely. The brakes are also tied into the standard dynamic stability control system and the Roll Stability Control system to keep the truck on its intended path if and when cornering speeds are too high for conditions.
The LR4 offers its driver a wide choice of driving modes at the flick of the console-mounted Terrain Response wheel, with settings for general driving; grass/gravel/snow; sand; mud and ruts; and rock crawling. The sand setting has been revised for minimal wheelspin, and the rock crawling mode has quicker responses to lost traction in the LR4. Hill Descent Control, pioneered by Land Rover, has been sharpened as well, and is controlled by a separate console button.
The LR4 is possessed of amazing off-road capabilities over every kind of terrain and can slog through almost 28 inches of water. But its new on-road behavior is a surprising and wonderful mix of luxury, quietness, and serenity. If you come upon a surprise, the chassis and brakes and those 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 and very little body roll. The redesigned cockpit, display screen and instrument panel make it a completely different animal than the starker, darker LR3.
The Land Rover LR4 is the newest arrival in a large market segment of luxury SUVs in the $45,000-plus class. Though not at all good at fuel economy because of its weight and complexity, the LR4 offers loads of power and torque, useable and flexible interior space, and plenty of luxury touches inside and underneath.
Jim McCraw filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the LR4 near Charter Hall, Scotland.