But despite my fondness for the Discovery 4, as it's known in other markets, even I couldn't deny that it had become woefully outclassed in a market of newer products, with Land Rover seemingly unwilling to give it the attention it deserved. Then, following years of packed product rollout schedules that saw the entire Range Rover line redesigned, Land Rover finally took the wraps off of a freshened LR4 at last year's Frankfurt Motor Show.
Through a lucky coincidence, I recently found this gorgeous Fuji White LR4 HSE Lux sitting outside my home, waiting for a thorough going-over. Has Land Rover done enough to make the LR4 as significant to the CUV/SUV pack as the new, lighter Range Rover is to the top-shelf luxury segment?
- The big news is a new powertrain. Now, strictly speaking, the 3.0-liter, supercharged V6 and ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic aren't new pieces themselves. You can read all about them in our review of the 2013 Jaguar XF. The LR4's setup nets an identical 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, a decrease of 35 horsepower and 43 pound-feet of torque over the discontinued 5.0-liter V8. The SC V6, though, nets torque over a wider range of engine speeds with peak twist available from 3,500 to 5,000 rpm, where the V8 topped out only at 3,500 rpm.
- Still, I wouldn't exactly call the SC V6 swap an improvement over the V8. The LR4 has never been a quick vehicle, and that descriptor isn't likely to change for 2014. Land Rover quotes the model's run to 60 at a relaxed 7.7 seconds, down 0.2 seconds from the V8 model. That's 1.5 seconds slower than a BMW X5 xDrive35i and 0.4 seconds slower than a 302-hp Mercedes-Benz ML350.
- On the road, the results are as expected. With 5,600 pounds of body fat to move about, perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised by the updated LR4's lack of pace. It feels especially slow pulling away from lights, before the engine hits its torque peak. At higher speeds, things do improve - mid-range punch is certainly adequate, and the LR4 feels decidedly better when accelerating on the highway.
- I'd be lying if I said my feelings on the LR4's engine change (and its lack of power) weren't at least partially linked to the lack of the 5.0-liter V8's sonorous engine note. The V6 just doesn't have the same brawny soundtrack at lower engine speeds, although there is some very noticeable supercharger whine at the higher end of the rev range.
- As I said above, the LR4 was fitted with ZF's eight-speed automatic for 2014, which is arguably the best non-dual-clutch modern transmission on the market. It scarcely bears mentioning, but as is the case in every other ZF-equipped vehicle I've driven, upshifts are quick and smooth, with predicable and aptly timed downshifts.
- As you can see from the photos, my LR4 was fitted with the distinctive Black Design Pack. Besides blacking out the grille, hood lettering, side vents, mirror caps and rear badges, it added a set of twin five-spoke, 20-inch wheels. Paired with the Fuji White paint of this tester, the overall look was rather intimidating. A friend remarked it looked like a Stormtrooper.
- I'd wholly recommend going for the Black Design Pack if you're in the market, but do yourself a favor and avoid the 20-inch wheel option. Besides trimming $1,900 from the price, the 19-inch option should be a bit kinder to the LR4's ride.
- There's a fair amount of vertical movement, but it's the way such imperfections feel that really dooms the 20s. The LR4 is crashy, with impacts having a way of reverberating throughout the cabin.
- Perhaps my biggest problem with the LR4 I tested was its price. A standard Disco starts at $49,700. My tester, meanwhile, topped out at $68,345. That price includes every option for the HSE Lux trim except for the $2,500 rear seat entertainment system. For reference, my tester was just $150 less than the volume HSE trim of the Range Rover Sport. Yes, you'd miss out on a two-speed transfer case and Terrain Response 2 Auto, along with a few other options if you went that route, but the interior, ride and overall driving experience are just better in the Sport. Of course, it's also possible to bloat the Sport's price tag with options on up to the level of the top-shelf Range Rover, so the lesson here is really to be mindful when checking option boxes.
- The LR4 is what I'd consider an irrational purchase. Considering how most of these vehicles are driven, there are better options out there for the money – some of which are within the Land Rover family. The LR4 remains slow, and if you get the 20-inch wheels, the ride isn't the greatest. It's also not particularly fuel efficient at 16 miles per gallon combined (I hit just below that). But it's a vehicle that doesn't feel like anything else, and it offers genuine off-road capability in a class where almost nothing else does. It's an unabashed SUV, and if you can live with that, it will happily work for you.