Back in 2005, when a sharp, new Land Rover LR3 replaced a weary Discovery model, there was bar set for midsize SUVs that melded the best off-road capability with genuine luxury.
Soon several manufacturers figured out they could compete (and charge less) and the LR3 soon lost its big advantage.
The new LR4 that replaces the LR3 has been impressively revised on the inside and the outside. Enhanced attention to quality materials sets a tone for sophistication and luxury while increased power and the long-standing off-road prowess that made Land Rover famous is available on demand.
The LR4 is an all-around better-handling SUV than the previous LR3. Land Rover revised the suspension architecture, gave it larger brakes and made the steering much more responsive. Maybe the most impressive thing is the new terrain response program that adjusts for the ground surface changes.
On the outside, the LR4 looks every bit the part of the iconic Land Rover brand. While the LR4 cannot be mistaken for anything but a Land Rover, it does deliver some more contemporary style elements - in particular the new LED lights make a bold statement.
New 19-inch aluminum alloy rims and tires are designed to offer low-rolling resistance and improved tire wear. The new design of the big front bumper integrates a larger cooling port to improve vehicle aerodynamics by deflecting airflow around the front wheels.
The LR4 is a standard five-passenger model that can seat up to seven people with the available third-row option. The LR4 cabin is ultra quiet with high-tech equipment at your fingertips and great sightlines all around.
I found front and rear seating to be spacious with generous headroom and legroom.
First- and second-row seating has been redesigned with an extended front seat cushion profile to improve support and comfort. The electric-seat memory controls have thankfully been relocated to the door from the center console where they were terribly unintuitive (read quirky).
In fact, all of the LR4's controls are more intuitive, which was easily achieved by a reduction in the number of knobs, switches and controls. Land Rover uses "handcrafted" to describe the interior and I have to agree it is a warm and inviting place in which to be driving - or in which to be a passenger. The refinement that was present in the previous model has been enhanced.
Buyers have a choice of natural wood finishes, and there are two new interior contrast colors to complement the light Almond color: They are a midtone Nutmeg and a dark Arabica.
I mentioned earlier that the new terrain response system is a big highlight of the LR4, and the control dial, relocated to the center console, makes moving the land-use dials easier than the previous model.
A new 5-inch LCD screen sits within the instrument cluster and displays key information in a clean manner. Designed to look like traditional analog, the gauges on the dash are actually digital representations of analog gauges. This is in many ways the new, contemporary LR4 embracing technology while staying true to some traditional cues. It works for the LR4.
New features include a portable audio interface, available HD radio, surround camera system for easier parking and towing, and a new key system with keyless entry and push button start.
The new power plant is definitely the most important of the refinements made to the LR4. The new 5.0-liter V-8 is now built with a direct injection fuel delivery system.
The LR's V-8 gains a performance increase over the previous 4.4-liter V-8 engine.
The LR4's 5.0-liter V-8 generates 375 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque.
The engine is mated to a revised six-speed adaptive automatic transmission. The LR4's automatic transmission features an intelligent sport mode to adapt to sporty driving styles. It did a fine job adapting to me during my weeklong test drive.
The LR4 has full-time four-wheel drive.
Add that to the thirsty V-8 and monstrous curb weight and it equates to less-than-impressive fuel economy: 12 mpg in city driving and 17 mpg on the highway.
The LR4 will tow up to 7,716 pounds and it has a total payload capacity of 1,325 pounds, a roof rack load of 165 pounds and it will ford water 27.6 inches high. That should cover the needs of most Chicago area drivers.
The LR4 showcases sand launch control for the sand setting. Sand is a power-hungry and difficult surface and the new enhancement makes driving out of sand easier. For the rock crawl setting, Land Rover offers a more composed drive through rocky surfaces with a revised low-level braking application to reduce the vehicle's roll tendency. This is all about being able to go wherever you need or want to go.
Land Rover's starting price for the 2010 LR4 is $47,250. If that price is acceptable for outstanding refinement and go-anywhere prowess, then the LR4 - even with the uneasy fuel mileage - delivers in other areas while falling short in just a couple.2010 LANDROVER LR4ENGINE:
375-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8TRANSMISSION:
four-wheel driveFUEL ECONOMY:
12 city/17 highwayBASE PRICE: