Known as Discovery 4 in the rest of the world, the Land Rover LR4 is a midsize luxury sport-utility, a class that includes the Lexus RX 350, Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class, Audi Q5, Acura MDX, and BMW X5. The LR4 seats five, or can carry seven when equipped with a third row.
Until 2014, the Land Rover LR4 held a 5.0-liter, 32-valve V8 with direct injection, making 375 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque. For 2014, a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 has replaced the V8, issuing 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet. Intelligent Stop/Start helps boost fuel economy from the previous 12/17 mpg to 14/19 mpg City/Highway. A new 8-speed ZF automatic transmission with CommandShift and Sport mode replaces the prior 6-speed unit. With its new V6, an LR4 can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in only 7.7 seconds, a sprightly pace given the LR4's weight of 5655 pounds.
A new single-speed all-wheel-drive transfer case is newly standard for 2014, and a 2-speed 4WD transfer case is available. Front-end styling has been revised, including a new bumper, headlamps and foglights. New outside mirrors contain integrated turn signals and accommodate available Blind Spot Monitoring. New Meridian audio systems replace the prior Harman Kardon units. A rear parking camera is now standard.
Three versions are offered: LR4, LR4 HSE, and new LR4 HSE LUX. The Land Rover LR4 and Range Rover Sport continue to share platforms, powertrains, drive systems and sophisticated suspensions. The LR4 comes standard with slightly less luxury equipment than does the Sport, though most of those features are available as options. The LR4's wheelbase is more than five inches longer than that of the Range Rover Sport, yet the LR4 is only two inches longer overall. The LR4 has short front and rear overhangs to avoid damage in rugged terrain.
The 2014 Land Rover LR4 offers amazing off-road capability, yet on the road it's quiet and comfortable. Inside is a leather-appointed cabin that coddles passengers in luxury.
We were impressed during our test drives of the V8 model in Scotland and off-road in Colorado, as well a subsequent on-road evaluation in the wintry Midwest with the new V6 engine. 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.
For off-highway travel, the available two-speed transfer case can be shifted on the fly. But the magic lies 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. The system also includes Hill Start Assist and Gradient Acceleration control, which helps maintain downhill speeds on rough or slippery terrain when Hill Descent Control isn't set. If you want to drive to Tierra del Fuego, an LR4 would be a great choice.
The LR4 is still fresh from a complete redesign for 2010. Since then, Land Rover has focused on upgrading its high-tech functions.
The hard-drive navigation system, standard on the up-level HSE model, features user-friendly graphics. The towards guidance feature supplements the junction map and icon-based information with details of the actual road signage seen by the driver along the route. Say What You See voice activation for onboard and connected devices helps the user learn applicable voice commands, by displaying a step-by-step format on the 7-inch touch-screen.
LR4 meets the government's ULEV2 emissions requirements, meaning it's greener than required by law.
Like its upmarket brethren, the Range Rovers, the Land Rover LR4 presents 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 actually reduce aerodynamic lift. The standard 19-inch wheels and 55-profile tires seem less suited to serious off-roading than, say, a smaller-diameter rim wrapped in a meatier sidewall, but they are what the market demands. At least the 19-inch alloys feature a sturdy, all-business seven-spoke design, while both of the 20-inch options are a bit frillier.
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 unmistakably Land Rover, with the stepped rear hatch and the massive vertical taillamps, all business like the front headlamps.
The LR4 interior is a nearly complete success in terms of comfort, luxury and utility. Everything in the cockpit is luxurious to the eye and hand, and the quality of the interior materials is about as high as it gets, beautifully fit and finished.
Not surprisingly, it's impressively comfortable and quiet. Controls are relatively easy to understand and use, but excessive use of icons and symbols demands study of the owner's manual. Owners who plan to take advantage of the LR4's many off-road capabilities and other features have plenty of buttons to contend with
Placing many accessory functions on the touch screen at the center of the instrument panel means that not as many switches or knobs are needed. A thin film transistor (TFT) driver information screen within the instrument cluster can display audio information, phone book entries and navigational direction symbols (augmenting the main navigation screen). White-on-black lettering on that small screen is tiny, though clear. The phone book function can store several thousand entries. Turn signals make enough of a sound to help prevent leaving them on accidentally.
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 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 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, 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 2014 Land Rover LR4 is powered by a new supercharged 3.0-liter V6 with direct fuel injection and variable camshaft timing, which makes 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. A deep oil pan maintains 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. When in off-road mode, the LR4 was designed to be able to ford 27.6 inches of water.
Coupled to the new eight-speed automatic transmission, the V6 can accelerate the LR4 from 0 to 60 mph in only 7.7 seconds, according to Land Rover, versus 7.5 seconds for the previous V8 version. The transmission has Normal, Sport and Manual modes, and the optional electronic two-speed transfer case can be shifted on the fly. A single-speed transfer case is standard.
Although power and torque from the new supercharged V6 engine aren't far short of the previous V8, performance falters at higher speeds, and evidence of the supercharger isn't always apparent. Acceleration from a standstill is as swift as promised, though obviously, rapid takeoffs are rarely if ever needed in ordinary driving. Response to the gas pedal is reasonably good from lower speeds, but some of that spirit disappears on the highway, where the prospect of prompt acceleration is actually necessary.
Tromp the pedal to the floor at 50 mph or more and the transmission lingers a while, seemingly trying to decide upon the correct gear. Once it does, acceleration to pass or merge isn't quite as stirring as the presence of a supercharger might suggest. Response is often more energetic when pushing more lightly on the accelerator pedal.
Although the engine is quiet when underway, some vibration is noticeable at idle. The rotary gear selector is easy to use, though not necessarily a big improvement over a traditional gearshift lever. Probably because of the cold weather during our drive of the V6 model, the Start/Stop feature did not cause the engine to shut off when the LR4 came to a stop.
The 2014 Land Rover LR4 is rated to tow as much as 7716 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. This setup provides excellent handling with 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, though a bit more rotation of the steering wheel than expected might be needed when rounding a corner.
All told, the LR4 is 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 V8 LR4 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, 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 2014 Land Rover LR4 delivers phenomenal off-road capability, luxury, comfort and panache. Unlike the prior V8, which unleashed abundant power and torque, the new supercharged V6 engine isn't quite as energetic when hitting the gas at highway speeds. However, it's more modern and refined, coupled with a 2-mpg boost in estimated fuel economy. The ride is exceptionally smooth, handling good considering its size, brakes are big, and safety is at the top of the heap. Interior materials and comfort are first class, and cargo capacity with the fold-flat second and third rows ranks as 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, and John F. Katz from south-central Pennsylvania.