During World War II, the plucky chaps at the British Rover company rose to the challenge in an unexpected way, transforming old war time components into a surprise success.
A few years after the war, Rover introduced the “Land Rover”, what they announced as “the most versatile wheeled vehicle ever made”. The Land Rover surprised the world as it was a complete departure from routine car designs and production methods.
The original Land Rover was a success that nobody could’ve predicted. Even Rover themselves were surprised. When it debuted at the Amsterdam motor show on April 30, 1948, everyone thought that the British-made all-terrain vehicle was great. Demand massively outstripped supply.
Company historians say that this is because the original Land Rover debuted at a time where British virtues such as utilitarianism, wholesomeness, and practicality were at an all time high after the war. The demand was so great in fact that Rover had to restrict demand and only important people (such as politicians, doctors, etc) were the only ones who could get them for a period of 4-5 years, further adding to the exclusivity of the model.
The Land Rover ended up having a huge impact on the Rover company. Originally the Land Rover was intended to only be a stop gap in order to keep the company ticking over after the war and before the car market returned to normal. But in fact it became so successful that for most of the 1950’s, Rover was really a company supported by Land Rover.
With such a storied history, my test vehicle in this review, the Land Rover LR4 (aka Discovery in the rest of the world) has as much pedigree and history that you can ever want in a luxury vehicle.
There used to be a argument out there that the only people who bought the Discovery or the LR3 (the LR4’s predecessors) were those who couldn’t afford the full-sized Range Rover. But with the LR4, things may not be quite so simple anymore.
The much loved Safari-inspired off-road look of the original Discovery has carried through to the LR4 and there is no mistaking what vehicle this is or its lineage. The styling chose is largely due to owners’ feedback, which said that owners liked the styling but wanted improvements in build quality, luxury, and road handling.
The LR4’s blocky styling may be a turn-off to buyers who are “allergic” to right angles, but in a world where successive generations of vehicles tend to get more and more curvaceous, the break away from the “melted” look is very handsome to my eyes.
With 7 seats, the LR4 is more practical than its big brothers, the full-sized Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport. The LR4 also has significantly more room than the LR2 and the Range Rover Evoque.
Since the back of the LR4 is essentially a square, full-sized adults will have no problems fitting in the LR4’s 3rd row. Admittedly, getting to the 3rd row takes some work, but once you get back there it’s quite comfortable for two adults.
What’s not quite as impressive is the multi-step process that must be employed to raise or lower the 50/50 split 3rd row seats. There is a lot of reaching from behind that must be done in order to flip the seat base over then to release a second latch to flip up the seatback.
While the seats are a big improvement over the sideways facing jumpseats from the first generation Land Rover Discovery, the mechanism could use some simplification, especially when some competitors are even offering fully motorized deployment for the 3rd row of seats.
Being a big box on the outside means big boxes can also fit inside. When passenger space isn’t needed, there is a copious amount of cargo room in the LR4. The seats fold pretty much flat and there is a lot of space for whatever you need to haul.
Like the full-sized Range Rover, the LR4 has also has two-piece tailgate which is great for you to sit on. But it can be a long reach to load or unload the cargo area if you’re short.
Luxury and gadgets
Thanks to the boxy shape, the LR4 has massive front and side windows. The A pillars are surprisingly narrow and help to remove blindspots.
You sit up high in a very chair-like position, and you have a commanding view of the road ahead. In fact Land Rover even used the leather-bound driver’s perch the “Command View”. It’s not difficult to see why a lot of moms love their Land Rovers.
But you’ll also find that not all of the controls are perfectly placed. For example, to honk the horn, you have to hit the two little vertical silver bars surrounding the airbag hub. They’re a bit tough to find in an emergency.
Another example is the touchscreen, which is a wee bit far away and slow by today’s standards. At least it’s much improved over previous iterations of the system I’ve experienced in Jaguars or other Land Rovers.
It’s not just the nicely finished interior that makes the LR4 an amazing road trip car. The air suspension is firm and soaks up most bumps really well. On the highway it’s a smooth sail. It’s really quiet in the LR4 aside for some wind noise.
The supercharged. 3.0L V6 engine, borrowed from Jaguar, is a delight. With 340 hp and 332 ft-lbs of torque, the mill is really keen to rev and has a lot of get up and go. Overtaking feels effortless, and the engine and 8-speed transmission work really well together.
In addition to being cleaner and quieter, the supercharged 6-cylinder is also significantly more miserly fuel economy-wise when compared to the previous V8 engine.
Still, the LR4 is a heavy vehicle (at 5,655 lbs) due to its Integrated Body Frame design. Despite the excellent engine, Land Rover lists the LR4’s 0-100 km/hr time as 8.1 seconds, average for its class.
The company says that the IBF construction combines the best of both worlds. The engine bay and passenger compartment are built as a monocoque then mated to a traditional ladder-frame where the gearbox and suspension are mounted. Maximum towing capacity is rated at a high for its class 7,716 lbs.
With its tall body and greenhouse, even with its advanced air suspension system, the LR4 leans a fair amount through the corners. The slow steering ratio, great for off-road precision, doesn’t encourage you to go fast either. However, the permanent four-wheel-drive system and stability control both work well to keep the LR4 on course.
Mountain Goat abilities
For the few off-road buyers who actually take their vehicles off-road, nothing does it better than a Landie. After all, Land Rover is the second oldest four-wheel-drive car brand in the world, just behind Jeep.
As expected of a Land Rover, the LR4 does really well off-road with plenty of axle articulation and up to a maximum of 12.2 inches of adjustable ground clearance. There is also low range gearing and hill descent control for when the situation really gets hairy.
Just choose the surface you are on and the system does the rest, altering traction control sensitivity, air suspension height, and even whether low range is selected or the centre and rear differentials will be locked.
As a side note, I love the LR4’s “Access Height” mode, which kneels the vehicle to make entry and egress a lot easier.
Land Rovers have long attracted consumers for their distinctive style, interior luxury, and off-road capability.
Land Rover first introduced the Discovery as a seriously professional all-rounder. Much of that still rings through today with the LR4. It’s smooth and comfortable in town and on highways, but with superb off-road capabilities to compete with anything else around.
But all in all, the LR4 has a lot to offer because it doesn’t make you sacrifice luxury, performance, or comfort. With its unmistakable styling, it is sure to continue to attract buyers who want something different than the ubiquitous BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, or Lexus RX.