With a straight-from-the-parts-bin interior and engine, the LR3, Ford-owned Land Rover's luxury off-road-ready-and-willing SUV failed miserably at the "luxury" part. After spending the day driving its successor, the 2010 Land Rover LR4, it looks like India got it right.
Stepping up to the LR4, you immediately see an SUV very similar to the LR3 — but with a few minor updates. The LR4 gets exterior enhancements such as new tail lights, a two-bar mesh grille (with matching fender vents — ooh!) and new front bumper and fenders. But the exterior was never the problem for us.
The two biggest problems we had with the 5,800 lb. LR3 were the clumsy and — thanks to the 300 HP, 315 lb-ft o' torque 4.4-liter V8 under its hood that helped it to chug to 60 mph in an anemic 8.6 seconds — sluggish on-road experience and an interior that seemed to borrow more from the Ford parts bin than a luxury vehicle ought to.
Land Rover's fixed the first problem with a brand new engine for the LR4 — 375 HP, 375 lb-ft of torque 5.0-liter direct-inject V8 — mated to a new, upgraded 6-speed ZF auto tranny with a select-a-gear manumatic system called "Commandshift." The powertrain upgrade's propel the 5,800 lb-plus SUV from 0-to-60 in a manufacturer-claimed 7.5 seconds while simultaneously getting the same 12 / 17 City / Highway fuel economy numbers as the LR3 and helps the once-only-capable-off-road SUV feel like it's got the power necessary to get back home from a to-late-for prep school night date faster than your over-Xanaxed parents can ground you.
But the engine wasn't the LR3's only problem. It was combined with a teeth-rattling suspension. Luckily, Land Rover redesigned the LR4's front suspension, increasing the stiffness of the anti-roll bars, and provided the dampers some much-needed re-tuning. All of those suspension upgrades combine to significantly reduce the LR3's much-maligned tendency for body roll 'round the turns and make the overall on-road driving experience
shockingly significantly better.
The LR3 was always capable off-road. Land Rover added some minor updates and tweaks to their Terrain Response system that, combined with the traction-control system and the automatically locking differentials, makes the LR4 even more-so. Whether slipping through two-foot-deep muddy ruts in the hills of Vermont, or scrambling over foots and tree stumps that managed to fell even a mighty Land Rover Defender, the LR4 took on anything in front of it.
But back to the second problem with the ol' LR3 — the interior. If we look at Land Rover's LR2 as the entry-level into the second oldest off-road brand, then the LR3 was always meant to kick things up a notch. For the mid-level buyers in the $45,000+ luxury SUV segment to go "Yeah, I'll try one of those $95,000 Range Rovers — you know, so I can give this to the kids." However, thanks to an interior with a center console that looked like it was built out of alphabet blocks from Peter Horbury's parts bin and plastics that somehow managed to be simultaneously rock-hard and flimsy.
The seven-seater LR4's interior has been completely redesigned from that craggy mess into something that actually approaches luxury rather than sidestepping it to save money. The center console almost flows into the rest of the dash. The key controls have been repositioned to enhance both the appearance as well as ergonomics. And speaking of ergonomics, the LR4 also receives an optional captain's chair with side bolstering — a must-have for off-roading in order to avoid smacking your left side into the door on sudden, steep sideways descents. And speaking of the seats — thank god for Land Rover's continuing use of infinite-adjusting arm rests. I wish more automakers still had anything approaching that minor, but important, accoutrement.
The LR4 is substantially better than its parts-bin-born predecessor and shows that maybe Land Rover's new Indian owners can teach the Americans — and even the British — a bit about luxury.