2014 Land Rover LR4 Driving Impressions

The 2014 Land Rover LR4 is powered by a new supercharged 3.0-liter V6 with direct fuel injection and variable camshaft timing, which makes 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. A deep oil pan maintains engine lubrication at high lean angles, and all the exposed pulleys, belts and motors have been waterproofed, including the starter, alternator, and air conditioning compressor. When in off-road mode, the LR4 was designed to be able to ford 27.6 inches of water.

Coupled to the new eight-speed automatic transmission, the V6 can accelerate the LR4 from 0 to 60 mph in only 7.7 seconds, according to Land Rover, versus 7.5 seconds for the previous V8 version. The transmission has Normal, Sport and Manual modes, and the optional electronic two-speed transfer case can be shifted on the fly. A single-speed transfer case is standard.

Although power and torque from the new supercharged V6 engine aren't far short of the previous V8, performance falters at higher speeds, and evidence of the supercharger isn't always apparent. Acceleration from a standstill is as swift as promised, though obviously, rapid takeoffs are rarely if ever needed in ordinary driving. Response to the gas pedal is reasonably good from lower speeds, but some of that spirit disappears on the highway, where the prospect of prompt acceleration is actually necessary.

Tromp the pedal to the floor at 50 mph or more and the transmission lingers a while, seemingly trying to decide upon the correct gear. Once it does, acceleration to pass or merge isn't quite as stirring as the presence of a supercharger might suggest. Response is often more energetic when pushing more lightly on the accelerator pedal.

Although the engine is quiet when underway, some vibration is noticeable at idle. The rotary gear selector is easy to use, though not necessarily a big improvement over a traditional gearshift lever. Probably because of the cold weather during our drive of the V6 model, the Start/Stop feature did not cause the engine to shut off when the LR4 came to a stop.

The 2014 Land Rover LR4 is rated to tow as much as 7716 pounds, though we don't see towing to be its forte. Trailer Stability Assist is an option that works like electronic stability control: sensors detect oscillation in the trailer, and use throttle intervention and braking to get the trailer to stop weaving. We recommend getting Trailer Stability Assist if you plan to tow.

The suspension uses electronically controlled air springs and shock absorbers. This setup provides excellent handling with little body roll in corners, especially for a hefty truck that rides this high off the ground and has a high center of gravity. The ride is smooth and the steering response is surprisingly good, though a bit more rotation of the steering wheel than expected might be needed when rounding a corner.

All told, the LR4 is a wonderful mix of luxury, silence and serenity. If you come upon a surprise in the road, the chassis and brakes and big tires will handle it. If you find a challenge in the middle of a corner, the LR4 takes it on with a minimum of fuss.

The Terrain Response system has five settings: Highway, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, and Rock Crawl. All you have to do is look out the windshield and select the correct terrain, and the LR4 will drive accordingly, including setting the suspension height. Its capability in rough terrain earned it the crown for 2010 Off-Road SUV of the Year at the 16th annual Mudfest, a competition for SUVs put on by the Northwest Automotive Press Association.

Our test of the V8 LR4 included two days of off-road driving in Colorado's San Juan Mountains, over trails that exceeded 13,000 feet. The rock-crawling challenges we faced far exceeded anything most Land Rover owners will ever face, yet there was nothing that even caused our LR4 to pause, except maybe the dangers, when we climbed out to peer over the cliffs we might drop over if we made a big mistake. With guidance from Land Rover instructors, we saw first-hand the amazing things the LR4 was capable of, and how the sensors found traction in any situation, including climbing up steep bare rock covered with dust. Suffice it to say that you're unlikely to ever get stuck in the mud.

We used Hill Descent Control much of the time, and it worked flawlessly to keep us out of trouble on steep downhill rocky paths. Gradient Acceleration Control kicks in to keep the car from going too fast, when Hill Descent Control isn't set. These sensors are so smart the best way to drive on steep, muddy downhills is with no feet, letting the system control wheelspin as you steer down the correct path. And going up, we used Hill Start Assist, to keep from sliding back when we went from the brake pedal to the gas.

The large and quiet brakes do the job well, even when driving through water that covers them completely. We got out on the highway at high speeds, and they hauled the heavy LR4 down admirably. Brakes on the LR4 HSE are the same as the Range Rover Sport's 14.2-inch ventilated front discs and four-piston calipers, with 13.8-inch ventilated rear discs and twin-piston calipers.

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