– Cabin layout and features
– Off-road capabilities
– Fairly comfortable ride
– Pricey with options
– Safe but floaty handling
– Third-row legroom
Some say the Land Rover LR3 was so bad in terms of reliability, the Indo-British carmaker chose to rename that entire model line to LR4 in 2010, even though it was a just a facelift. While we can’t comment on the reliability bit, we found the LR3 to be a pretty nice 4×4 back in 2005. Is the LR4 really all that different?
Externally, no. The LR4 looks exactly the same as the preceding LR3, but with a new grille, reshaped LED-encrusted headlights, different bumpers and redesigned tail-lamps. The front-fender vent is now on both sides instead of just one before. With larger 19-inch alloys and less unpainted-plastic cladding, the LR4 is more handsome, giving off a Range Rover vibe.
Inside, the Range Rover effect continues, at least to a certain extent. There’s lots of soft-touch padding, with a stitched-leatherette dash top and padded armrests as well. The hard plastics below knee-level and the uncovered front cup-holders are about the only hints that this is not a Range Rover, and yet it is still cushier inside than similarly-priced cars from Cadillac and Audi.
The LR4 carries on the positive traits of the LR3 in terms of cabin space. The voluminous interior has more legroom than, say, a Cadillac Escalade, and more headroom than, say, a bus. Space is abundant inside, helped by the tall roof and upright windshield. The feeling of space is also enhanced by large glass windows, three glass panels in the roof and relatively thin pillars, all of which also help visibility. However, third-row passengers in this seven-seater are still going to complain about knee-room. Seat side-bolstering up front is minimal, so fast cornering requires holding on to something. A notable omission is a missing rear-seat centre armrest, making way for a proper middle seat.
There are tons of cup-holders, two gloveboxes and other storage areas in the doors, along with a few more in the centre console for front passengers, who also enjoy “captain’s chair” armrests. Slap down the third-row seating and the rear luggage area expands to fit a bedroom’s worth of furnishings. Fold down the second row and the bed itself will fit too.
The gadgets in our test car were more than enough, featuring a touchscreen for navigation, strong stereo, Bluetooth phone, trip computer and other functions; with convenient short-cut buttons and common stereo controls just below that. Further down the console are controls for the strong auto a/c, with rear vents and roof-mounted controls for rear passengers even. Other features include smart keyless start, cruise control, front-side-curtain airbags, HID headlights, fog lamps and power-adjustable memory seats.
Powered by a 5.0-litre V8, the LR4 is good for 375 hp at 6500 rpm and 508 Nm of torque at 3500 rpm. Mated to a 6-speed automatic, it also has all-wheel-drive with low-range gearing, so it isn’t a poseur like the LR2. In our late-summer test, it did the 0-100 kph run in 8 seconds flat. That’s not very quick, but not bad for a 2646-kg box-on-wheels. It burned petrol at a rate of 15.6 litres/100 km, which again isn’t bad at all.
Once up to speed on the highway, the LR4 is a comfortable cruiser. It is very quiet at city speeds, but on the highway, the very-noticeable wind noise starts singing from 100 kph and beyond. The ride is slightly floaty over uneven surfaces, but stability at speed is not compromised. Our tester was equipped with air suspension just like a Range Rover, which probably works to keep the ride quality decent, although be prepared for failing air springs every few years, something that remains an expensive Range Rover trademark.
All-round visibility can be a problem with a full load of passengers. Parking isn’t too complicated though, as parking sensors detect objects around the bumpers, and the light steering aids in one-handed parking manoeuvres. The LR4 can be lowered with a knob on the centre console to ease climbing in and out, but when we tried to keep the suspension setting permanently low, to improve handling, it just automatically pops back up to the standard medium-height setting at speed again.
Hitting the curves hard with the jiggly LR4 is not an option anyway. Our air-suspended 4×4 attempts to kill body roll as much as possible, but it is obviously tuned for comfort, so there is still a fair bit of lean. However, body roll is much less than a typical SUV with standard suspension, so it’s more agile than most large 4x4s. There is a fair amount of grip from the 19-inch wheels shod in 255/55 tyres, and the four-wheel disc brakes are fairly decent, helped by ABS, electronic stability control and other such electronic doodads. In fact, we got a taste of them when we swerved to avoid a hard-braking idiot in a van, and the LR4 leaned like the Titanic, but never lost grip as we straightened out in the next lane.
The suspension height can be raised, for better ground clearance off the road. With a full set of selectable settings to fine-tune for different types of terrain, along with available low-range gearing at the flick of a little lever, the LR3 is ready for anything. It can manage reasonably-sized dunes just as well as any Toyota Land Cruiser, with ample power available from the V8. There’s even Hill Descent Control, as if any real dune-basher here uses it. Just pray that the electronics don’t quit their job just as you’re attempting to slide down Fossil Rock.
High pricing and reliability concerns aside, the LR4 is an excellent modern 4×4 that is a great cut-rate alternative to a Range Rover, with additional third-row seating as well. Our misgivings about the brand aside, it is hard to argue against the LR4 as being one of the best of its size. Just buy the extended warranty if you do go for one.
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