A favorite of celebrities and status climbers, British automaker Land Rover attracts adventure seekers from around the globe. Land Rover boasts a go-anywhere, off-road attitude wrapped within a refined, luxury-appointed cocoon. Don't expect coupes, sedans or convertibles in Land Rover dealer lots as the SUV body style takes center stage during all showings.
Our roomy, five-door mid-size LR4 tester accommodated up to seven riders, enough towing capacity (7,716 pounds) to carry a cadre of motorized toys and excellent off-road capabilities. Built with rugged body-on-frame construction, this weighty vehicle includes a four-wheel independent, height-adjustable air suspension, beneficial on any surface.
In global markets outside the U.S., LR4 is sold as the 'Discovery.' Other 2014 models offered by Land Rover include the Range Rover ($84,195), Range Rover Evoque ($41,995), Range Rover Sport ($63,495) and LR2 ($37,495). The most recent, LR4 next-generation makeover took place in the 2010 model year.
The 2014 model year brings forth many updates most notably under the hood where a 3.0-liter, 340 horsepower, 'supercharged' engine is now standard, replacing a 5.0-liter, naturally aspirated 375 horsepower V-8. Superchargers increase power output by compressing higher-pressured air into the engine. No gas-electric hybrid or pure electric plug-in variants are currently available in any Land Rover product.
Those prioritizing fuel economy need not apply, but for luxury-minded audiences, LR4 delivers impressively on a variety levels including competitive pricing within this classification. In fact, LR4's attractiveness could cannibalize sales from its larger but pricier Range Rover flagship.
Fuel economy with the outgoing V-8 was subpar (12 mpg city, 17 mpg highway) and the new incoming six-cylinder delivers better, but comparably underwhelming numbers (14 mpg city, 19 mpg highway). However, newly standard "Intelligent Start-Stop" technology shuts and restarts engine activity at prolonged stops, reducing emissions while tweaking fuel economy.
Pricing for a 2014 five-passenger LR4 starts at $50,595, a whopping $30,000 less than a full-size Range Rover. An optional HSE package (power folding side mirrors, front parking sensors, in-dash navigation) bumps the bottom line to $55,495 while the HSE LUX package (add 17-speaker sound system, center console cooler box) starts at $60,795.
Our well bedecked HSE LUX added options including a $1,600 Vision Assist Package (Blind spot monitoring, Surround Camera System) and "Heavy Duty package" ($1,350) for a bottom line of $64,845 with $895 destination charge. By comparison, the seven-passenger Lexus GX 460 off-road-intended SUV lists at $49,085 for base models and $60,715 for the Luxury edition. Both HSE and HSE LUX come with three row seating.
Sidewise, LR4 incorporates the relative length of a larger-spectrumed mid-size vehicle (190.1 inches). Once inside, spacious upper reaches allows for just about any topper on one's noggin thanks to its imposing vertical stance (74.1 inches) in line with my six-foot two-inch frame.
The all-new eight-speed automatic transmission replaces an outgoing six speed from 2013. This electronic gear shift is controlled via a large circular dial between front bucket seats. Side-by-side beverage holders situate nearby, adjacent to an electronic parking brake lift lever. To the front of the transmission dial is a rocker-switch style terrain response selector along with five icons illuminating the program selected (general; grass-gravel-sand; mud; sand; rock crawl).
Hill decent control is also activated though this area. Information about each selection is also available through the center stalk's seven-inch touch screen via an 'information' icon. A two-speed (high, low) transfer case four-wheel-drive system is part of the optional 'Heavy Duty Package.' Otherwise, a new single-speed transfer case comes standard.
A prominent analog clock resides in the center column's middle. Manually-controlled dual-zone climate controls include dials for temperature and fan speed selection and buttons for direction.
White stitching adorns the black, supportive yet comfy leather seats, dash and doors. Both front seats include folding, narrow arm rests. The high-quality, ebony dash includes four circular air vents. The instrument panel sports two circular analog gauges with a tall, rectangular digital window including fuel levels and engine temperatures. Other tutorial options are accessible via a steering face toggle button wheel button.
Push-button start comes standard. On the far right ahead of shot-gun passengers reside two large, independent glove boxes. The upper birth includes ports for iPods, USB sticks and MP3 players, all controllable via the four-color multi-function seven-inch touch-screen (backup camera feed is now standard in all 2014 editions). Satellite radio is optional.
Land Rover offerings stand tall and proud, especially the LR4 with its sharp 90-degree angles along the cargo corridor. The profile stands out in a crowed parking lot.
This generous girth creates a third row open to adults; an act very few mid-sizers follow. Because of the flat, tall roof and recessed floor made possible from well-engineered third-row contorts, leg and headroom are adult friendly. Each prone third row seating position has access to its own ceiling handle, cup holder, C-pillar vent and storage bin; along with ceiling glass panel with retracting mesh shading (also standard in the second row; the first row's glass panel retracts open when desired).
The LR4's two-position third row seats rates as the most comfortable and functional in the business. Two average-sized adults could survive long treks with minimal discomfort. Manually raising and lowering third-row cushions is best accomplished via the side door openings, not the hatch area. Second-row seatbacks split with a 35/30/35 split. The middle seatback folds down onto the seat to form a flat table-like option if needed. When maneuvering into the third row, both outboard '35' seatbacks fold flat onto the cushion, than the entire unit manually flips forward for 'adequate leg entry into the two seat third row.
Other mid-size crossovers offering third-row seating (Acura MDX, Toyota Highlander) work best with the pre-teen set, lacking LR4's generous headroom. While full-size crossovers/SUVs still remain the pick-to-click when opting for third-row travel, the LR4 remains a top mid-size option.
If it's cargo that needs hauling instead of people, LR4 is just as accommodating with 90.3 cubic feet behind row one (back two rows tilted/folded) and 42.1 cubic feet behind row two (row three down).
The LR4's front face receives visual updates in 2014 including a narrow, two-row chrome-like machine grille and new bumper, headlight and fog light housing designs. The rear hatch opens in two sections: the top window portion with standard wiper flips up, after which the remaining bottom gate lowers down after the push of an electronic latch. Bold, circular wheel wells and strap-like side door handle both incorporate body colors.
On pavement experience tilts toward a civil, truck-based ride, which on-and off-roaders should find acceptable. The LR4 handles and holds curves with confidence, despite a high center of gravity. The large 22.8-gallon tank requires premium fuel.
Three assembly plants throughout the United Kingdom currently assemble Land Rover and Jaguar products. Land Rover recently announced a new South American assembly plant in Brazil will open in 2016.
In the U.S. market, Land Rover remains a niche player with sales increasing 15 percent from 2012 (43,664 units) to 2013 (50,010 units). By comparison, Chevrolet's total 2013 U.S. sales topped 1.9 million units. Tata Motors of India (India's largest automobile company) purchased British automakers Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford Motor Co. during the spring of 2008 for $2 billion. Ford took controlling interest in Jaguar/Land Rover in the late 1980s.2014 Land Rover LR4
At A Glance
Price as Tested: $64,845
Engine: 3.0-liter V-6
Length: 190.1 inches
Wheelbase: 113.6 inches
Fuel Economy: 14 City/19 Highway
Curb Weight: 5,655 pounds
Built: Solihull, United Kingdom