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Review: 2016 Land Rover LR4

Kamil Kaluski October 3, 2016 Featured, Land Rover Reviews, Quick Spin 5 Comments

We recently looked at the freshly introduced 2017 Land Rover Discovery. It is the replacement for the venerable LR4, which dates back to 2004 when the Discovery 3, known as the LR3 in the United States, was introduced. Needless to say the LR4 is a little long in the tooth and the competition from vehicles such as Volvo XC90, , Mercedes GL/GLS and countless others has been strong. Despite that, sales have not only  but have actually been on a recent upward trend.

So what is so special about this vehicle that keeps buyers, and many repeat buyers, coming back? Is there a secret Land Rover sauce? Are they sprinkled with Landy potion? Is it the brand name? Is it the promise of unparalleled abilities? Perhaps it’s its brawny appearance?

Let’s take a closer look.

Looking at it, the LR4 is not exactly a pretty vehicle. It is not uniform. It is a mixture of old angles and new curves. From the side, it looks like the rear section was penciled by a different person than the front section. The headlights and grill look like they came directly off last generation Range Rover Sport and the LED light arrangement looks rather tacky. The hatch and the tailgate are unevenly split for no reason other than to retain a styling cue from the first gen Discovery. The clear LED taillights are reminiscent of the 90’s Altezza craze. And yet none of that seems out of place on the LR4 and somehow the whole things looks rather attractive, masculine, and utilitarian.

The dash of the LR4 has been redesigned and changed several times over the years and it shows. Like on the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, a lot of things seem retrofitted in order to keep an older vehicle current. This is why the nav screen is somewhat small, why there is a small and rather useless pull-out tray, why the rotary shifter just doesn’t flow with the rest of the interior, why the seldom used Terrain Response controls are smack in the middle of the center console, and why the ignition button just seems randomly placed. It is evident that none of that stuff was planned for when the vehicle was originally designed.

Like the exterior, all of this combined somehow works well in daily use. The exception being a slow and dated infotainment system. It helps that Land Rover spend a little extra money on the materials used inside and on the great sounding audio system. The seats are superb, too. Like 1980’s GM cars, the LR4 has an air vent aimed directly at your privates! Let’s hope that carries over to the new Discovery.

What has not changed is the commanding sitting position. The dash is low and the windshield is huge. Side windows are big and flat. The belt-line is low which results in the window sill being a great place to rest your arm. Combine that with elevated and very comfortable seats, this is the thing that makes the driver feel really special. LR4 driver’s eyes are above most cars’ roofs, on the level with many truckers and bus drivers. The outside visibility is great and and the interior is very bright.

The rear bench, or middle if equipped with seven passenger seating, is rather convoluted. The bench is split approximately 35:30:35. Each seat back folds down independently. Then each seat can be collapsed to the floor to make a flat loading floor. The outboard seats also tumble to allow access to the third row. The grips and handles required to do all this folding and tumbling are not easily found and take some getting used to.

The whole bench itself is very comfortable. The headroom is almost infinite but the legroom is a bit lacking. Kids love sitting up high and looking out the big windows. There are two sunroofs but the rear one is fixed. Third row seats lack legroom but are otherwise bigger than many competitors’ seats. They look at bit weird when erected (TWSS!), similar to flight attendant seats, and the means of folding and unfolding is equally non-intuitive.

The split hatch and tailgate open up to a long and tall cargo area. There are tie-down hooks, storage compartments on each side, and a 12v receptacle. The tailgate forms the obvious bench when opened and popping just the hatch permits things to be just thrown in without the risk of them falling out – handy if you often park in hilly areas.

The LR4 has four wheel independent air suspension, unlike the Mercedes G-Class which has stick axles and conventional springs and shocks. This makes for a very comfortable ride, increases load capacity and towing. It also helps this tall and heavy vehicle retain a lot more composure on highway curves and ramps than the G or Jeep Wrangler. When venturing off road, the LR4 can be raised for extra ground clearance. It can also be lowered to allow passenger entry and exit. Like those other two 4x4s, however, LR4’s turning radius is not great and that’s a common thing to true off-roaders. It is suppose to reduce the kickback from the wheel while wheelin’.

Unlike most modern SUVs, the LR4 is actually capable off-road. In addition to the air suspension the LR4 has a Terrain Response system which performs magic utilizing the traction control system to send power to the wheels with most grip. The optional Heavy Duty package adds a two-speed transfer case, Rock Crawl mode on the Terrain Response system, an active locking rear differential, and a full-size spare tire.

JLR’s supercharged 3.0-liter propels the LR4 with 340hp at 6,500 rpm and 332 lb.-ft. of twist. It is smooth, adequate for the job, and allows for plenty highway passing power but it does not excel in acceleration or fuel economy (15/19 city/highway). An eight-speed transmission sends that power to all four wheels, all the time. The problem is LR4’s weight, something that there will be much less of in the 2017 Discovery.

The LR4 is far from being a perfect vehicle but despite that and its $50,000-$70,00 price its sales are strong. Perhaps people like the quirky, boxy, styling. Perhaps the mix of old and new that give it a personality. The top-of-the-world sitting position has probably a lot to do with it. Undoubtedly some sales can be attributed to the brand name and the status associated with it. There is also the fact that it is simply a large, spacious, and comfortable vehicle. If you want a brand new LR4 they will be available for sale well into 2017.

Disclaimer: Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review. All images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Redusernab 2016.

  • CraigSu

    “And yet none of that seems out of place on the LR4 and somehow the whole
    things looks rather attractive, masculine, and utilitarian.” Just like the Chief Blooger!

    • Little known fact: His wife doesn’t find him attractive or handy!

  • The LR4, or Discovery 4, or Discovery 3 for that matter, was a genuinely excellent design from day one. It’s as fit-for-purpose as a comfortable SUV as the Defender is as a de-facto tractor for moneyed farmers. A high point in recent JLR history.

  • wunno sev

    i remember three things about the Disco my cousin had when i was ~10:
    – the weather radio
    – the bouncy, hard, but fun way-back seat
    – the abundance of glass and sunlight

    glad to see that that third point is still in place. with every other new car’s passengers squinting through gun slits, it’s nice to see that a company still cares about visibility. it’s too bad the styling is so bland!

  • Pete

    The only downside, you know you will need a second car for the six months a year your Land Rover will be at the dealer to get fixed.

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