Strengths and weaknesses:
- off-road ability
- smooth ride
- comfortable and roomy interior
- wind buffeting
- drivetrain noise.
Off-road civility in Land Rover LR4
"Provides consistently smooth manners during highway runs as it does during river-crossings and 45-degree side inclines."
Land Rovers are world renowned as off-road juggernauts but in North America, they are more lusted after for their luxury trappings.
When off roaders on this continent think ruggedness, they think Jeep (specifically Wrangler). They have that raw quality that dares obstacles to get in their way. Their everyday ride is also raw, but enthusiasts are willing to put up with it for those extreme weekend adventures.
Elsewhere in the world, when buyers think off-road, they think Land Rover. They have that pristine quality that lets owners know that you can be comfortable wherever you go. They provide consistently smooth manners during highway runs as they do during river-crossings and 45-degree side inclines.
The LR4 is the latest iteration of what started off as the Discovery back in 1989. After a nine year run, it was replaced by Discovery II, and the nomenclature changed in North America five years later with the LR3 (Discovery 3, elsewhere). The latest is now known as Discovery 4, but the model designation continues in North America.
The LR4 has a lot of good traits. It’s fairly tall and boxy, but has high windows to bring lots of light into the cabin. If that weren’t enough, it has a glass roof over all seats. The roof itself is raised behind the front seats so that rear occupants have plenty of head room and can still see forward.
And because it has a relatively small wheelbase for a seven seater, the seating is upright. That results in extraordinary knee room, the likes of which aren’t usually experienced outside of the minivan segment. Unlike other seven seat SUVs, adults can ride in the third seat completely uncramped.
The ride is smooth as a luxury sedan even over pock-marked city streets, with the air suspension doing a marvellous job of absorbing what might otherwise become annoying.
With all the seats in use, there is little room for anything else – maybe a fold-out sign asking for cargo transportation from any vehicle with room to spare. Once you start flipping seats down (50/50 split bench in the third row; 35/30/35 in the middle), the carpeted cargo floor sits completely flat from the tailgate (which opens in two pieces for easy dropping in of shopping bags or sliding in bulky things). A roll out cargo cover can be installed right behind the middle seats.
The soft leather seats are well bolstered to keep occupants snuggled up right when the trail sets the LR4 apitchin’. The rear ones are rather flat and flimsy, but they are still comfortable enough to not elicit complaints even on longer trips.
The dash presentation is akin to a tank – lots of knobs to turn, buttons to push and gauges to watch – which seems rather intimidating at first but becomes intuitive in fairly short order. An automatic transmission with the standard lever set-up (unlike some other vehicles in the Jaguar/Land Rover stable that have adopted a rotary gear selector), and a driving mode knob to let you choose the type of terrain the LR4 is being asked to navigate. Ride height, hill descent and a Hi/Lo electronic transfer switch are part of the control panel within hand’s reach just in front of the transmission shift lever.
The driving position is bus-like, with the steering wheel falling farther away than I like, but it doesn’t detract from the driving experience much. The engine is a 5.0-litre direct injected V8 that supplies 375 lb.-ft. of torque and 375 horsepower, though the torque’s mid-rev peak (3500 rpm) means a fairly noisy acceleration run and highway cruising. Although that’s bound to appeal to the rugged outdoorsy types, I prefer my luxury vehicles be a bit less noisy. Acceleration is not quick, but that’s kind of expected from this type of vehicle.
What is expected, though, is the ability to go anywhere and the desire to stay civilized doing it, and the LR4 delivers on both counts.