If you ever get the urge to drive to the top of a mountain with six friends, the Land Rover LR4 in HSE Lux trim might be your conveyance of choice.
This 74-in tall, 2700-kg (6000-lb) SUV will go darn near anywhere you point it. If it would float, you could probably take its back to its birthplace in Solihull, England. And it will do it all with complete aplomb and an upper class attitude.
There are two names synonymous with extreme off-road ability – Land Rover and Jeep. The latter is renowned principally for its stripped-down, topless little Wrangler with roots that date back to the Second World War.
Inspired by that WWII Jeep, Land Rover came into being a few year later, and its popularity spread quickly to various undeveloped areas of the world where a combination of aluminum bodywork and diesel power resulted in incredibly long life.
The parent company has shown similar longevity despite some epic business adventures.
Land Rover started in 1948 as a product of Rover, a British car maker that became part of the British Leyland Motor Company (BL) in 1967. During the ensuing years as BL went through a succession of bankruptcies and failures, the utilitarian Land Rover was joined by the upscale Range Rover model.
Land Rover was established as a separate company in 1988, owned by British Aerospace. In 1994 BMW acquired the company and six years later sold it to Ford Motor Company which in turn sold it to Tata Motors of India in 2008.
Throughout this checkered history, Land Rover products have remained, perhaps because of their global popularity and inherent longevity, sought-after. The Land Rover brand has also grown to include a range of product including the Defender (the original Land Rover), Discovery, Freelander, Range Rover and most recently, the Evoque.
The subject of this test, the LR4 has its roots in the Land Rover Discovery, which was first introduced in 1989. The second generation Discovery came along in 1998 and the third in 1993, by which time it was known as the LR3.
The fourth and current generation was introduced in 2004 as the LR4 with a Jaguar V-8 engine. Jaguar is a sister company under the Tata umbrella.
The result of this evolution and variety of parentage is an interesting blend of old-world (British) charm and character and modern technology. Throughout, this Land Rover has remained a vehicle with unparalled off-road prowess.
It's off-road ability is grounded in things like a rock-solid platform, an incredible amount of suspension travel and plenty of ground clearance. Those attributes have been enhanced through modern electronics which have allowed the engineers to develop systems that can deliver power or apply the brake to each wheel individually.
Normal ground clearance is 185-mm but a console-mounted control allows you to raise that to 240 if you need to climb a curb to get out of the parking lot. Other controls let you play with the Terrain Response system and everything from mud to sand to rock climbing pre-selects.
So, we have a truck-like SUV that can tackle the backwoods with ease. But those able bits underneath are wrapped in some pretty expensive and fancy clothes. Just as a world-class climber would not tackle a mountain wearing a three piece suit, very few LR4s are likely to be found fording streams or rock-crawling kilometres away from a public road, even though they could.
Make no mistake; while it has the highest of off-road credentials, the LR4 is a luxury vehicle.
The seeming incongruity of all that ability cloaked in luxo garb is probably what makes it attractive to a certain set of consumers who will never venture beyond a speed bump or the gravel parking lot at the club. But they know they can – or at least their vehicle can.
So let’s look at the LR4 as a luxury SUV.
First of all are the looks – tall, imposing and with the aerodynamics of a bungalow, it is stylish if not attractive. From the upright grill and slab sides to a rear end with a two level window and split tailgate there is no mistaking this for anything else.
Climb up into the cabin and you encounter a leather-lined and wood-trimmed interior that reeks of class. The driver sits tall and proud facing a thick steering wheel that contains the now-expected array of secondary controls for everything from audio, cruise control and wireless communication systems to the digital display on the instrument panel, flanked by highly legible engine and road speed indicators.
There are four large round face-level vents from one side to the other and another pair exclusive to the side windows.
The centre stack contains seven round controls and a number of lesser buttons – all done in matte black, leather or real wood. Very stylish, functional and classy.
Big and heavy
The throne-like front seats are wide, supportive and well-bolstered and the second-row bench seats three adults comfortably with plenty of headroom.
My HSE tester had a third row as well, with a surprising amount of room. It did, however, infringe on cargo space. There's room for 280 litres of cargo behind that third row, but 1192 litres with the third seat folded and a cavern-like 2558 litres with both second and third row seats down.
This SUV is 186-cm (74-inches) tall and weighs about three tonnes with nobody aboard, so big and heavy are the operative words when it comes to driving dynamics.
That said, the Jag-derived V-8 does a very good job of providing motivation. It is quick off the line and has plenty of poke for passing. The six-speed automatic shifts seamlessly and is always in the appropriate gear.
Laws of physics take their toll
The electronic controls for the LR4's highly sophisticated suspension allow it to counter the laws of physics to the degree that there's less lean than you expect, but there is no getting beyond the fact this is a tall and heavy vehicle.
The LR4 can tow up to 3500 kilos if the trailer has its own brakes. But it is hard to imagine what the fuel mileage would be in that configuration.
The 375-horsepower, 5.0-litre V-8 is a silky-smooth, modern and highly efficient unit. But it has all that weight and brick-like aerodynamics to cope with. Transport Canada says it can get 17.1 L/100 kmin the city and 11.6 on the highway. I averaged 17 for a mixture of the two with two adults aboard!
While you may not see many people roving through the backwoods in their $70,000 LR4, you will see them patrolling upscale neighborhood and looking for the valet parking areas at the shopping mall or restaurant.