2011 Land Rover LR4 Expert Review:Autoblog
Wanting to sample the latest iteration of Land Rover's middle-management cruiser, we set off in search of the 2010 LR4's natural environment. Minutes later, the Rover's new 5.0-liter, 375-horsepower V8 led us to Nordstrom. What? You expected Monument Valley?
With the wallet-denting expedition complete, we took solace in the luxuriously updated interior during the homeward jaunt. Sybaritic pleasures and tried-and-true off-roading abilities are the extremes of its range, so how does the LR4 fare in the middle?
Photos by Dan Roth / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
Unmistakably a Land Rover, the LR4 comes in for an exceedingly subtle outward metamorphosis. Look (very) hard and you'll notice the reworked grille and fascia. There's also a larger intake in the restyled front bumper, which itself has been reshaped to enhance aerodynamics – not that the LR4's squared-off look screams "wind tunnel-tested." New headlamps, LED taillamps, a trio of new paint colors and new 19- and 20-inch wheel designs round out the exterior tweaks. No one's complaining about the conservative approach to the visual facelift; iconic styling is an asset changed at your own peril.
Inside, Solihull has lavished substantial attention on the LR4 accommodations. The dashboard and center stack have been cleanly restyled and simplified, exorcising many of the buttons that used to clutter up the space. Much like the exterior, changes to the dashboard and controls are refinements rather than revolutionary alterations. Things are generally where they were in the LR3, but the materials and design are vastly improved. Some elements, like the new piano black accent that extends from the lower center stack and extends back to surround the shifter, may be in vogue, but it's dastardly to keep free of smudged fingerprints.
The relocation plan moves the controls for the updated Terrain Response into a more logical location by the shifter. Thanks to the upgraded materials, Range Rover drivers will feel right at home when they get an LR4 loaner at the service department. Front and second-row seating is revised, and HSE buyers can choose the Premium Leather Pack and its electrically-adjustable seat bolstering. The third row is still coach-class, largely the domain of priveleged brats, but grown-ups do fit more easily than in some other three-row vehicles with a similar footprint.
The interior refit pays off by improving the LR4's driving experience. Were it not for the obscene amount of fuel required to shove a tall, blocky, heavy thing through the air, this would be a nearly ideal vehicle for long-legged journeys. The seating position is high, and visibility is fantastic. The front and middle-row seats are fantastically comfortable, and a heated steering wheel feels decadent on subzero mornings. Equally sublime is an electrically heated windshield, though the squiggly grid can be initially distracting.
The LCD that serves as command center and navigation display is the lone quibble in the interior, and our gripe centers around the software. The user interface is tedious and non-intuitive, though at least the speed of the system is improved over past implementations. A flattening of menu structures would be more welcome, though. Beyond usability complaints, the audio system sounds great and chats nicely with iPods or thumb drives, as well as offering satellite radio. Premium automakers, with their longer development cycles and niche sales numbers, seem to be more afflicted by obtuse electronics than bread-and-butter brands. Land Rover's entire lineup would benefit from a wholesale electronics update.
All in good time, perhaps, as the engine and chassis have just received that kind of fine-tuning, turning the sow-like LR3 into the responsive, nimble LR4. Anti-roll bars have been enlarged, dampers stiffened and a new steering rack is also part of the remix, which perks up the LR4's tiller and makes it respond attentively to driver inputs.
One quick boot of the accelerator pedal delivers results of the most significant upgrade to the LR4. The new 5.0-liter V8 speaks with authority and pushes the LR4 with the assertion to match. With 375 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque, the new NA mill puts out nearly as much as the old supercharged V8. Despite the robust gain in power, direct injection allows a ULEV2 emissions rating, and there's more bandwidth to the power curve. Efficiency is improved too, though the weight of your right foot will be the main determinant in achieving good fuel economy. Variable camshaft timing and a squeezy 11.5:1 compression ratio are directly responsible for the attentive throttle response and refined manners. This new 5.0 is an engine that's Johnny-on-the-spot, has a musclecar-worthy exhaust note and offers a significant power increase over its predecessor without any economy penalty, even with more than a half-liter of extra displacement.
There's also a feeling of solidity to the LR4's structure that comes from its unique mix of monocoque and ladder frame that Land Rover calls Integrated Body Frame. It adds to the curb weight, but building the passenger compartment and engine bay like a unibody vehicle while bolting the drivetrain and suspension to a ladder frame pays off. Doubtless, the weight makes for a comfortable ride, especially since the air suspension is so adaptive and the T-Square bodywork doesn't jiggle or flex noticeably.
As we've described it so far, you might be thinking of the LR4 as a British interpretation of the '88 Caprice Classic wagon. Obviously, that would be patently wrong. Even without attempting the Rubicon, the LR4 lets you smugly comfort yourself with the thought you could go rock crawling if you wanted to. Both on- and off-road, the ride is impressively cloud-like. Off the blacktopped path, the structure doesn't turn into an oscillating chamber of horror, either. Everything stayed put, with just the Jaguar-sourced V8 providing the main soundtrack as we sipped our coffee and tried to avoid high-centering.
In most cases, selecting 4WD while on the fly will suffice, though Land Rover hasn't rested on its serious off-roading laurels. Terrain Response has a new "Sand" mode, as well as tweaked calibrations to account for the new engine and improve its prowess on different surfaces. A lap of the deep snow around the backyard swingset showed off the capability of the system in low-range with the differentials locked. The neighbors were not amused.
A $57,000 family truckster that sucks fuel at the rate of less than 20 miles per gallon isn't always the right choice. There are those that need three rows of seats along with four-wheel drive that's capable of conquering the Himalayas, but all three of those people already have cars. The luxury and style of the LR4, along with the new powertrain and sharpened reflexes are what's going to close sales. It's not the most logical family vehicle, but it's one of the most capable.
Photos by Dan Roth / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
Newly redesigned, with excellent off-road capability.
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.
The 2011 Land Rover LR4 ($47,650) comes standard with leather seating and trim, dual-zone climate control, eight-way power seats, a multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, keyless entry, power windows, mirrors, locks and tailgate, HomeLink, collapsible steering column, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with an auxiliary jack and iPod compatibility, electronic parking brake, front and rear foglamps, privacy glass, power sunroof with Alpine roof, Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist, Gradient Acceleration Control, 4-wheel electronic traction control, and Bluetooth. LR4 comes standard with seating for five.
The 7-Seat Comfort Package ($1,150) adds a third row of flat-folding seats, head curtain airbags, climate controls, map lights and accessory power outlet. (All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
LR4 HSE ($51,900) upgrades with navigation, voice-activated HDD with 7-inch touch screen, rearview camera, front and rear park distance control, heated front and rear seats, driver information center for off-roading, Sirius satellite radio, halogen projection headlamps with LED lighting, 19-inch alloy wheels, and the 7-seat package. The Vision Assist Package ($1800) includes bi-xenon HID headlamps, Adaptive Front Lighting System, Automatic High Beam Assist, Surround Camera System, Tow Assist and Tow Hitch Assist, which use the cameras to guide your backing-up with a trailer.
Options include Harman Kardon Logic7 audio ($900); Cold Climate package ($1500) with heated front and rear seats, steering wheel, windshield and washer jets; Heavy Duty package ($750) with active locking rear differential and full-size spare wheel and tire; rear-seat entertainment system ($2500) with dual screens, six-disc DVD changer, headphones and remote. There are also special paints and a black lacquer interior wood trim ($350), and 20-inch tires and wheels ($2500).
Safety equipment standard on all models includes six airbags (eight airbags with third-row seats), collision-activated inertia switch (unlocks doors, turns off fuel pump and activates hazard flashers), Dynamic Stability Control, ABS with Electronic Brake force Distribution and Emergency Brake Assist, and tire pressure monitor.
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.
Land Rover LR4 ($47,650); HSE ($51,900).
Options As Tested
Land Rover LR4 HSE ($51,900).
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