Slide behind the wheel of a sports car and you'll experience an overwhelming urge to break speed limits, slide around corners and accelerate away from traffic lights like there's an angry mob in the rearview mirror. Land Rovers produce a similar overwhelming urge, except this one involves spontaneous detours onto dirt lots, ski hills, the neighbor's lawn or perhaps the entire state of Wyoming. You may never quite make it to the outskirts of Cheyenne in the new 2010 Land Rover LR4, but the knowledge that you could creates a distinctive "what if" sense of excitement nonetheless.
Land Rovers have always done that. Outside of the upper-crust Range Rover, though, most of the company's vehicles have suffered from a shortage of performance and luxury for a brand considered to be among the world's elite. That includes the LR4's predecessor, the LR3, which was saddled with an overtaxed 4.4-liter V8 and a strictly utilitarian cabin ambience — acceptable when exploring the Sahara, but not so hot when compared to boulevard-cruising SUVs from Mercedes and Audi. With the redesigned LR4, however, Land Rover has refined and polished almost every aspect of the LR3, creating a well-rounded and thoroughly competitive vehicle.
A new 5.0-liter, 375-horsepower V8 helps the weighty LR4 overcome the laws of physics, while its overhauled cabin closes the formerly considerable luxury gap with the Range Rover. Not much has changed outside, but additional painted surfaces (rather than black plastic) and details inspired by the Range Rover Sport (the grille and side gills) result in a more sophisticated appearance. The brakes, on-road handling and off-road Terrain Response system have also been improved.
But perhaps the most appealing aspect of the 2010 Land Rover LR4 is that it's a relative bargain. Comparably equipped, the LR4 costs $8,000 less than an Audi Q7 4.2, $15,000 less than a Toyota Land Cruiser and a whopping $18,000 less than a Mercedes-Benz GL450. The LR4 gives nothing away in terms of luxury to those models, offers more usable passenger space than all of them, matches all but the Mercedes in performance and aces all but the Land Cruiser off the beaten path.
Only Land Rover's shaky reputation for reliability should give you pause. Otherwise, the LR4 is a champion for many more reasons than just its sense of adventure.
Every 2010 Land Rover LR4 is powered by a 5.0-liter V8 that produces 375 hp and 375 pound-feet of torque, which is a 75-hp and 50-lb-ft improvement, respectively, over the LR3. Attached to a six-speed automatic, it's enough to bring the LR4 up to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds — certainly competitive and not bad at all for a truck that crushes the scales at 5,751 pounds. Despite its greater horsepower, the new direct-injected V8 matches the old engine's fuel economy at 12 mpg city/17 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined. That's still pretty terrible, but not much worse than its competition.
On the road, the LR4's driving dynamics are about what you'd expect from such a tall, heavy, outback-ready vehicle — somewhat tippy around corners, but confident and composed in a straight line. All of its controls are well tuned, and there's commendable feedback through the steering wheel and brake pedal. In regard to the latter, our standard emergency stop from 60 mph measured a short 126 feet.
Off-road, the LR4 is second to none. Its air suspension allows for everything from maximal ground clearance to a pavement-hugging, garage-friendly "Approach" mode, while the Terrain Response system is easy to comprehend and supremely capable. Offering five modes represented by pictographs in the center-console-mounted control knob — General Driving, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Sand, Mud and Ruts, and Rock Crawl — this system allows the driver to select the setting best suited to the driving conditions at hand.
In treacherous low-speed downhill passes, Hill Descent Control takes over the braking duties (even in Reverse), doing a better job than the driver could by being able to brake individual wheels as required. The LR4 makes off-roading so easy that even if you buy one primarily for in-town driving, you still might want to indulge that sense of adventure once or twice.
Despite its boxy profile and off-roading pedigree, the 2010 Land Rover LR4 is supremely quiet and comfortable at speed. Wind and road noise are surprisingly hushed, and the air suspension adapts to pavement imperfections very well. Other than its thirst for 91 octane, the LR4 is an excellent road-trip car.
An ample range of seat adjustments and a power telescoping steering wheel assure a good driving position for all. We especially like the wide, low window sill, which doubles as a perfectly placed second armrest. All seats are notably firm but provide excellent support over long distances. With its cavernous greenhouse, you'd have to be a hat-wearing Abe Lincoln not to fit in any of the LR4's three rows. Standard glass panels over each further increase the sense of airiness. Legroom is also very good, even in the third row, which benefits from a deep footwell under the second row. Indeed, no luxury SUV short of a Cadillac Escalade ESV or Lincoln Navigator L provides more spacious seven-passenger seating.
Despite its surprising amount of space, the LR4's third row is a chore to raise and lower — the seatback and bottom are separate pieces and must be maneuvered individually, which requires A) walking from the tailgate to the back doors and back several times and climbing deep inside the cargo bay, or B) finding a 6-foot-10 guy to do it all from one entrance. There's also not much trunk space when the seat is up, as a pair of lateral support bars prevent anything bigger than a pair of overnight bags from fitting.
The 35/30/35-split second row likewise folds in a two-step process to assure a tall seat cushion and a perfectly flat cargo floor. The trick here is to fold each individual seat back, then pull a strap at the base of the seat and push down to make it flush with the trunk. Again, not the most elegant and easy solution, but it does result in an enormous cargo hold that tallies 90.3 cubic feet — notably more than the Benz GL-Class or Audi Q7. The LR4's tall, squared-off shape not only helps in this regard, but also provides superior visibility in all directions. Our tester's multi-angle parking camera system was also appreciated.
One of the most welcome upgrades from LR3 to LR4 is the cabin control layout. Gone is the convoluted sea of little black buttons; in its place is a simpler, more conventional layout for the stereo and climate systems. The all-new touchscreen interface isn't the best system in the world — especially for satellite radio and the iPod interface — but at least the graphics are modern and it doesn't take too long to figure out.
Design/Fit and Finish
The old LR3 had a Spartan look and feel to it, with black plastic bumpers and cabin materials that weren't befitting its price. The new LR4, on the other hand, provides almost the same upscale image and quality as the Range Rover. Materials have been greatly improved, and the switchgear feels more substantial and in general looks much richer. The exterior styling continues to evoke the LR4's boxy forefather, the Land Rover Discovery, but in a thoroughly modern way.
Who should consider this vehicle
The 2010 Land Rover LR4 should be considered by anyone looking for a luxury SUV with usable seating for seven. If you frequently venture off the beaten path, the LR4 should be a no-brainer. However, Land Rover's hit-or-miss reliability reputation may cause headaches — especially off warranty.
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