There is no substitution for experience. That is why day in and day out the C! team exhaustively tests practically a car a day. With the Land Rover line of vehicles though, I admit that I was guilty of having too many prejudices before I jumped in to drive the full 2011 range. This happens sometimes due to the sheer volume of cars we test across the globe, and more crucially that I felt for years now that the Land Rover SUV’s were overrated fad machines. Their days of being the king of the genre passed as soon as the Germans and the Japanese started building more opulent, more reliable, more featured, and more dynamic alternatives.
The LR4 was actually the first of the three Land Rover (supercharged Range Rover Sport and Range Rover HSE were the other two) leviathans we tested in the US. Therefore, my review of the LR4 was a bit skewed initially after testing the more loaded and more popular models after it. I swiftly judged it as the least desirable of the range. It’s cramped rear and painfully tighter third row seats were the deathblow. That is until I spent more time behind the steering wheel and began to appreciate the LR4’s strengths. It did not help that historically the Discovery line of SUV’s were regarded as the more modest entry-level vehicles for 3 generations. TATA changed all that beginning with dropping the moniker in the US market and simply called it the LR4 signifying the 4th generation of the series. This new LR4 has more than 1,300 new parts without being an all-new platform. The changes made certainly caused the LR4 to be better looking, more capable, more powerful, and slightly more fuel-efficient than the LR3. It practically functions as good as the Range Rover.
The LR4’s appearance can be misleading; it looks like it would not be a handler at all and would tip over in a medium speed maneuver but it does not. In fact the LR4 is ultra-smooth — even graceful and poised. Nimble isn’t a word that you’d likely apply to a tall, big and angular SUV but the LR4 is actually that. The queasy and wallowy secondary motions that were still abundant in the LR3 have been sorted out. In addition, since it shares its basic platform with the Range Rover Sport and is now motivated by the same engine and drivetrain of the flagship Range Rover HSE, the LR4 may actually be the very best compromise. The LR4 feels more athletic than the range Rover HSE because of the slightly shorter wheelbase and lighter weight. However, since it is taller, its aerodynamics suffers at speeds over 120 km/h. The brakes are particularly strong and low speed maneuverability is very good thanks to a tighter steering radius. The interior is not much less luxurious and our test unit did have all the options installed from the HSE package to the Vision Assist and Logic7 14-speaker 480-watt audio system.
It is oddly smaller than the Range Rover HSE yet it has the capacity to cosset two more adults. You may start to ask why even bother with the flagship? What it also shares with the flagship is the downright unacceptable fuel economy. We barely got 16 mpg! So the LR4 has 98% of the capability of the Range Rover, 80% of the luxury, but 20% more load capacity. It has better visibility. And best of all, is significantly cheaper. Moreover, for aggressive off-road duty the more purposeful LR4 is superior to the Range Rover thanks to better attack angles and clearance despite sharing similar hardware.
I always thought the Discovery range was built primarily for Soccer Moms. In the past when I saw a guy driving one, I sadly presumed that he had settled for what his better half wanted. Not anymore, I reckon it is the smarter model to invest in without having to explain to your friends why you did not risk your kid’s education for the more peer-pressured default choice of the Range Rover. I would recommend the more usable and practical 240bhp diesel though to complete it.
Specification – 2011 Land Rover LR4
Engine: V8, 5000 cc, dohc 32V, Direct Injection, CommandShift 6-Speed AT
Max power: 375 bhp @ 6500 rpm
Max torque: 375 lb ft @ 3500 rpm
0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 7.7 sec.
Top Speed: 200 km/h (125 mph) Governed
Fuel Mileage: 12 mpg City & 17 mpg Highway
Price as tested: US$ 57,900.00
+Strong entry-level premium mid-size SUV, character, well equipped
-Yet another thirsty mammoth, cramped second and third rows
C! RATING 9.5/10