The 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.
The Land Rover LR4 is in many ways the classic modern Land Rover, a midsize luxury sport-utility known in the rest of the world (and previously known here) as the Discovery. The LR4 seats five, or can carry seven when equipped with a third row.
For 2014, a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine replaced the previous V8. The V6 is rated at 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet with EPA-estimated fuel economy of 15/19 mpg City/Highway. It’s paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission with CommandShift and Sport modes. An LR4 can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in only 7.7 seconds, according to Land Rover, a sprightly pace given the LR4’s hefty weight of 5655 pounds.
For 2015, side steps are standard, and the LR4 gains connectivity with Land Rover InControl Apps and smartphone integration. A new option for 2015 blends dual-tone Windsor leather seats with a wood/leather steering wheel.
Three versions are offered: LR4, LR4 HSE, and LR4 HSE LUX. 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 than does the Range Rover Sport, though most of those features are available as options. A single-speed all-wheel-drive transfer case is standard, and a 2-speed 4WD transfer case is available.
We’ve found the LR4 impressive on- and off-road. 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.
The hard-drive navigation system, standard on the up-level HSE model, features user-friendly graphics. A guidance feature supplements the junction map and icon-based information with details of the actual road signage seen 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.
The Land Rover LR4 is to some extent in its own class but is most comparable to the Lexus RX 350, Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class, Audi Q5, Acura MDX, and BMW X5.
The Land Rover LR4 has a classic shape that manages to pull off both boxy and, thanks to rounded edges at every opportunity, svelte if not sleek. It’s reminiscent of the old Discovery but looks more modern (and, of course, what lies beneath is much more modern). The LR4 shares its basic structure with the Range Rover Sport.
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. Short front and rear overhangs help avoid damage in rugged terrain and in general are considered superior to long overhangs.
The LR4 grille features two horizontal bars with perforations that suggest egg crate, 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.
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 it’s a special vehicle.
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 Land Rover 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 with which to contend.
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 various 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 Land Rover LR4 is powered by a 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 8-speed automatic transmission, the V6 can accelerate the LR4 from 0 to 60 mph in a brisk 7.7 seconds, according to Land Rover. 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 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. One reason the throttle is on the slower side is that that is exactly what is needed in rugged terrain; an overly sensitive throttle is a bad thing when picking your way through a boulder field or crawling through muck.
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 Stop/Start feature did not cause the engine to shut off when the LR4 came to a stop. If you hate the Stop/Start feature as much as we do, this is a good thing.
The 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.
The LR4 really comes into its own in rugged terrain. With guidance from Land Rover instructors, we have seen first-hand the amazing capability it offers. The four-wheel-drive system cleverly apportions power to the tire or tires with the best grip and finds traction in any situation, including climbing up steep bare rock covered with dust.
The Hill Descent Control works flawlessly 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 that 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. Going uphill, 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. They are a far cry from the old Discovery.
Land Rover LR4 delivers phenomenal off-road capability, luxury, comfort and panache. The supercharged V6 engine is modern and refined and delivers decent fuel economy. The ride is exceptionally smooth, handling is good considering the LR4’s mass, brakes are large and effective, 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. A new Discovery model is expected for 2016.
Sam Moses contributed to this report after his test drive of the Land Rover LR4 in Washington’s Columbia River Valley; Jim Flammang reported on the V6.