Land Rover sets the bar for all-season motoring |

Land Rover sets the bar for all-season motoring

Special to the Daily 2010 Land Rover LR4

Land Rover’s venerable Discovery model took a turn for the future in 2004 with the UK introduction of the LR3, a tall and contemporary re-take on that most iconic of British vehicles.

This year, the machine’s been rebadged as the LR4, and the laundry list of changes and transformations makes it worth a new monicker, indeed.

From a considerably redone grille and a totally reconfigured, more user-friendly interior, to the snarling whomp of 375 horses of V8 power under the hood and an improved six-speed transmission, LR4 looks better, drives better and has the brass to back it all up, under any circumstance.

It’s a motoring experience so different from all other 4×4 SUVs that the LR4 feels like an entirely different class of vehicle. True to Land Rover’s roots, LR4 is equipped with windows so wide and tall (front, sides and back) that you feel a bit like you’re watching high-definition TV, rather than squatted down in a traditional low-roofed, claustrophobic box. The slight distortions of electric heating grid built into the front windscreen just add to the effect.

It’s a machine that, in some wonderful parallel world, would really be used every day of the week to traverse the most primitive of Amazonian trail, cross the Sahara Desert or haul you and up to six passengers over a well-worn, rocky pass.

With a full four-corner air suspension system, improved hill descent control and the knob-operated hill-descent control that’s starting to appear in knock-off variations all across the industry, LR4’s off-road prowess is absolutely unstoppable.

That said, it’s also an incredibly heavy machine (5,833 pounds)that certainly enjoys the 25-percent-extra boost from that new 5.0-liter V8, but can return an absolutely disgraceful 13 mpg (or less) in standard daily driving. That’s Lamborghini territory.

The weight can also prove to be a slight disadvantage when traveling on icy surfaces; LR4 sticks like flypaper on mud, grass, gravel and even sand, but the pure mass has to be used quite carefully when rolling on down the frozen road. I did have a more genuine feeling of adhesion to the road surface than I did with the Range Rover Sport I drove last winter, so I suspect more appropriate tires go a long way in that direction.

The Land Rover’s looks seemed a little austere when the vehicle first appeared a half-decade ago, but the new tweaks bring the same level of brightness you’ll find across the rest of the line, including new, almost hand-forged looking bars in the grill and in vents on the sides of the cabin.

In the very tall rear (LR4’s 74 inches tall and 75 inches wide), new white LED brakelamps have been added for improved visibility.

Inside, LR4 is a classy compromise between the ultra-luxe flash of the Range Rover and a slightly more utilitarian worldview. You probably won’t be hosing the mud out of the leather and walnut-covered interior, though I suppose you could; the almost industrial, rubber-ringed switchwork still speaks more to tough duty than posh pleasure.

Engaging the off-road systems is simple, with a twist of the knob or a flick of the switch raising the LR4’s height, dropping it into low gear range or setting up the brakes, throttle and skid control to best handle the prevailing conditions. You also have a multi-view camera to spot rocks and obstacles (or aid in parking, in more pedestrian terms).

Large, comfortable leather seats stretch all the way to a set of nicely orchestrated, hideaway third-row seats in the far back.

Out on the road, all that tonnage connotes invincibility, which I suppose is part of the appeal, and the LR4 is definitely built like a brick outhouse. The new up-powered engine, also seen in the Jaguar XF, also has the oomph to get you moving in a delightfully unsluggish fashion.

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