I was pleasantly surprised to see the LR4 with Jaguar/Land Rover’s corporate, supercharged V-6 in the evaluation fleet. It’s an engine I learned to love in the Jaguar F-Type, and if there was something the LR4 could seriously use, it was a dose of fuel economy. The supercharged V-6’s power is more than adequate. Its fuel economy? Well, read on a bit.
Prior to 2014, if you bought a Land Rover LR4, you got a V-8, at least in this country. In the rest of the world, where the LR4 is still called a Discovery, a range of engines was available, including a couple of Ford-sourced turbo-diesel V-6s. Here in the United States, though, your only option was the 5.0-liter Jaguar AJ-V8, a great engine, but a gas hog, especially in something that had the aerodynamic profile of a shipping container.
For the 2014 model year, though, the LR4 is equipped with an engine that’s in use in a whole range of Jaguar and Land Rover products, from the upcoming XE, the XF, the F-Type, and as Silvio Calabi mentioned earlier this week, even the full-luxury, long-wheelbase XJ.
The secret to all this, of course, is that the Land Rover LR4 never needed a V-8 to begin with. A supercharged V-6 that turns out 340hp and 332-lb.ft. of torque feels completely appropriate in this type of boxy, off-road-oriented vehicle. Yes, you lose a second in zero-to-60 times, but I’ve visited many drag strips around the country and never once saw a Land Rover in the water box.
So the hope was that with the V-6 and the also-nearly-ubiquious ZF 8-Speed automatic transmission, the LR4 would be appropriately powered for the kind of use these vehicles are at least designed for, and pick up a few miles per gallon in the process.
Off-road, the LR4 is in its element. Who knows the percentage of these things that ever do find their way off the pavement, but regardless, Land Rover’s Terrain Response system is still the standard by which four-wheel drive vehicles should be measured.
Off-road driving still requires skill and a clear head. As Fred Monsees — driving instructor for Land Rover North America mentioned to us last month — you can put Michelangelo’s paintbrush in the hand of someone with no artistic ability and still end up with a mess on the canvas, but a novice off-road driver can simply select the pictograms on the LR4’s console. If you trust the vehicle to do its job, it can get you through a lot of off-road challenges, drama-free.
Underneath, the LR4 offers a fully independent suspension at either end, sprung and damped by air bladders that offer long suspension travel, and either automatic or manual height adjustment. Select Low Range, and the suspension automatically adds inches of ground clearance, sacrificing on-road handling for off-road agility. Hill Descent Control allows drivers to descend shockingly steep grades just by steering, and keeping feet clear of the pedals.
Our test LR4 was loaded up with about $15,000 worth of luxury equipment, but the nice part of a Land Rover is you can get every bit of this vehicle’s off-road equipment for the opening ante of $49,700. Add $1,350 if you’d like the Heavy Duty Package this one came with, which includes the high- and low-range transfer case (yes, you want that), Rock Crawl mode (yes, you want that, too) a locking differential (yes) and a full-size spare. The locking differential alone would set you back that much if you decided to buy one independently.
A little more than ten grand provides the HSE Luxury Package with all kinds of fancy stuff that’s anathema to something with this much off-road ability. Premium leather seats, ambient lighting, a chilled console, and 19-inch wheels are all nice, but if it’s true ability you’re looking for, also completely unnecessary.
I loaded four guitars, two amps and a bunch of other gear in the back, and the manually operated split tailgate is a pleasure compared to the automatic tailgates I seem to spend a lot of time arguing with. The seats folded easily and left me with a cargo area I couldn’t have possibly filled up unless I was moving to another house.
Along with the off-road manners, the thing I liked so much about the LR4 was the visibility. I’ve driven so many cars over the last four years with massive C-pillars and box truck-sized blind spots that I really enjoyed driving something I could actually see out of.
The downside of all that upright glass is the effect it has on fuel economy, and that was the one disappointment with the LR4. I never saw the EPA’s 19 MPG highway fuel economy estimate. It hovered around a 15 MPG average. Those $70 fill-ups come early and often if you’re using it for commuter duty. It’s better than the V-8-powered LR4, but that engine’s fuel economy was abysmal. The LR4 features stop-start technology, meaning that if you’re in anything but the off-road modes, the engine shuts off and start again at stop lights. It’s annoyingly abrupt, but it’s no worse than any of the other manufacturers which are using it now. It’s still a technology that’s in its infancy. Ten years from now, we’ll look back at in and laugh.
It makes you wonder as all manufacturers struggle to contend with the U.S. government’s 2025, 54.5 mile per gallon fuel economy target, how a manufacturer like Land Rover can continue to offer vehicles like this. Sergio Marchionne is already telegraphing plans to built an aluminum, unibody Wrangler with a turbocharged four. If that icon can be in the crosshairs, what’s the future plan for Land Rover?
Ah, but that’s years in the future. Today you can enjoy a true off-road vehicle, and if you stay out of the option list, you can get it at a fairly reasonable price. The Jeep Grand Cherokee, for example, with anywhere near the equipment of the base LR4, comes in at more than $45,000.
Enjoy it for what it is, and here’s hoping you’re game enough to put this amazing technology to use once in a while. It’s really a shame more people don’t experience it for themselves.
2014 Land Rover LR4 HSE Luxury SCV6
Base Price: $49,700
Price as Tested: $64,725
LR4 HSE Luxury Package: Includes Extended Premium Leather seating, ambient lighting, cooler box, power steering column, power front seats with driver memory, unique 19-inch alloy wheels, 825-watt Meridian surround sound system ($10,200)
Sirius XM/HD Radio, three month subscription ($750)
Heavy Duty Package ($1,350)
Premium Paint Package ($1,800)
Superb off-road ability
Useful split tailgate and giant full cargo area
Special thanks to the Dowse family at Dowse Orchards in Sherborn, Massachusetts, who allowed us the use of their property for photography.