In our remix-obsessed culture, it’s reassuring to come across something that’s managed to endure the ebb and flow of fashion, and stay true to the qualities that have made it such an appealing part of the cultural landscape for so many years. I’m talking, of course, about the 2016 Land Rover LR4, the luxury box that defies convention by remaining wholly dedicated to the brand’s original SUV formula.
Don’t take that the wrong way. Although the term ‘old-school’ has increasingly become one of endearment, the Land Rover LR4 is no mere anachronism left to wither on the showroom floor. This full-size, three-row premium hauler still packs a serious dose of off-road technology combined with daily do-everything capability that explains why it’s been such a popular member of the Land Rover line-up for so many years.
It’s the bones of the beast that reveal its age. While other Land Rovers have benefited from recent forays into aluminum construction and unibody weight-savings, the LR4 trundles forward on a chassis that features a familiar ladder frame linking it back to the venerable Discovery nameplate under which it debuted in the mid-90s. Still, the march of time has brought many advancements to the SUV’s platform, including an adjustable air suspension, a monocoque passenger compartment, and a host of electronic driving aides linked to its permanent four-wheel drive system.
In combination, this unique mix of something old and something new flavors the Land Rover LR4’s driving experience to the point where it has few real parallels amongst the competition. Avoiding the sedan-like feel prized by premium rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the LR4’s handling instead feels sturdy, smooth, and deliberate while commuting.
The SUV’s poise may falter somewhat when asked to take a corner a little quicker than it’s truly comfortable with – a fault associated with its onerous, near-6,000 pound bulk – but that’s largely beside the point for family shoppers seeking a capacious people mover.
The Land Rover’s sole drivetrain option, a 3.0-liter supercharged V6, also avoids the histrionics associated with the turbocharged eight-cylinder mills found thrumming under the hoods of its Teutonic peer group. With 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque on tap, the LR4’s throttle response brings to mind the tagline of another brand hailing from the British Isles: ‘sufficient.’
The eight-speed automatic transmission that comes standard with the vehicle works well when managing the not-inconsiderable load placed on the V6’s modest torque output, translating it into respectable forward thrust that won’t flatten you in your seat but will lug a 7,700 pound trailer if put to the task.
Trade the comforts and confines of modern civilization for open-air adventure and you’ll quickly come to appreciate a side of the Land Rover LR4 that’s entirely missing from any other SUV in its class. Decades of off-road experience have been distilled into a package that effortlessly crushes whatever obstacles might lie in its path, leveraging features such as low-range four-wheel drive (optional on the LR4), the Terrain Response system (electronically dial-in what type of ground you’re about to cover by way of a console-mounted dial), and hill descent control.
Montreal winters being what they are, I enjoyed the Land Rover’s surefooted nature when dealing with the inevitable snow squalls and ice on the roads, and have in the past witnessed the full glory of the manufacturer’s seemingly unstoppable character when turned loose in whatever far-flung mud pit, hill climb, or rock-strewn hellscape that dares to challenge its elemental superiority.
There are few shapes more space-efficient than a box, which means that the interior of the 2016 Land Rover LR4 is particularly adept at swallowing whatever load – human or otherwise – you might see fit to transport across the wild frontier. Even if the route from A to B is paved, the LR4 stands out as one of the few seven-passenger premium ‘utes to provide legitimate adult-friendly accommodations in the third row, an attribute that’s complement by a vaulted seating position up front and generous middle digs. There’s 90 cubic feet of total storage space to take advantage of, too, if you fold everything flat behind the first two positions – a number that stands tall even when compared with seemingly larger (and more expensive) vehicles like the Cadillac Escalade and the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class.
Land Rover’s design and engineering teams have done a solid job of ensuring that any time spent inside the LR4 will see occupants wrapped in a cocoon of both leather and silence. Barely a peep of the outside world is allowed into the cabin of the SUV, and almost every surface you conceivably touch has been wrapped in upscale hides. In terms of interior eye-candy, however, you’ll admire the seats and door panels more than the dash itself, which features gauges and displays that aren’t quite in keeping with the technological trends embraced by other luxury manufacturers.
This is especially true when dealing with the LR4’s aged infotainment system, which includes a touchscreen interface that’s slow to respond to inputs and which isn’t quite as streamlined or intuitive as it really should be. On the plus side, winter warriors will appreciate features such as a heated windshield, two rows of heated seats, and a warm-up steering wheel – small touches that can make such a difference when battling colder weather.
Trends might flit in and out of style, but sometimes, keeping an ear out for the classics can pay dividends. Ultimately, what the 2016 Land Rover LR4 has to offer is the choice to step outside the standard luxury template and simultaneously satisfy their desire to drive something practical.
There are sacrifices to be made in selecting the LR4 – chiefly, fuel efficiency (15-mpg city / 19-mpg highway), handling chops (no slaloms allowed), and connectivity (previous-generation infotainment holds you back) – but Land Rover’s family-first contender doesn’t ask you to leave comfort, capability, or utility behind in the process. Throw in the fact that the vehicle’s starting MSRP of $50,400 undercuts many of its full-size brethren, and its easy to understand how the LR4 has remained a perennial favorite amongst the brand’s loyal customers.