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2010 Land Rover LR4. (Petrina Gentile for The Globe and Mail)
2010 Land Rover LR4. (Petrina Gentile for The Globe and Mail)

2010 Land Rover LR4 HSE LUX

Land Rover's change for the better Add to ...

Outside North America, Land Rover's mid-size SUV is called the Discovery - an iconic, distinct, no-nonsense name. But here it's dubbed the LR4. And even that name is new. Last year, it was the LR3. Because of engineering changes as well as interior and exterior design tweaks, company officials felt it deserved a name change, too. Personally, I wish they had stayed with Discovery.

The most significant improvement in the LR4 is the engine. Developed jointly by Jaguar and Land Rover engineers, the new 5.0-litre direct injection V-8 delivers 375 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque - that's 25 per cent more power and 19 per cent more torque than the previous LR3's 4.4-litre V-8 engine. The V-6 engine is no longer available for 2010. The new V-8 meets strict U.S. emissions regulations; it's certified as an ultra-low emissions vehicle (ULEV2). But it's thirsty - official fuel economy numbers are 17.1 L/100 km in the city and 11.6 on the highway with premium fuel.

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If you love off-roading, the LR4 won't disappoint. While I didn't go off the beaten track this time, I have taken it off-roading in the U.K. and it's a master at crossing rivers and forging rocks. It can conquer anything in its path.


Compared to the outgoing model, the LR4 has new suspension upgrades, revised steering, larger brakes, improved traction control and a more advanced Terrain ResponseTM system, which helps the vehicle adapt to different off-road driving conditions.

The system works easily. Just turn a dial on the centre console to select the terrain. You can choose between general, grass/gravel/snow, sand, mud and ruts, or rock crawl. A 4x4 display in the instrument panel and on the LCD screen shows the wheel position, which is handy when driving in water or mud.

A hill descent control feature also comes with a new gradient release control system that limits speeds when driving down steep inclines. The system automatically holds the brake pressure after you release the brake pedal to restrict the speed to 3.5 km/h in low range and 6 km/h in high range.

A powerful package, yet the ride is extremely quiet and comfortable

Under the hood, its belt drives, alternator, air conditioning compressor, power steering pump and starter motor are also waterproofed for all-terrain driving.

If you skip off-roading and stick to the main roads and highways, you won't be disappointed in the LR4. The ride and handling on-road has improved compared to its predecessor - it's not as rough, especially when driving over potholes and other degradations in the road. There's little noise and vibration in the cabin, too.

I like the new six-speed automatic transmission; it's smooth and responsive. But overall, the LR4 isn't as refined as some competitors like the Porsche Cayenne.

At 2,646 kg, the LR4 is a heavyweight. Behind the wheel, it feels big and heavy to drive. At times, it feels sluggish when attempting to get up to speed and merge onto the highway with faster-moving vehicles. The LR4 hits 0 to 100 km in 7.6 seconds. Its tall, narrow body also results in some body lean when cornering.

With its sharp geometric lines, the LR4 is instantly recognizable as a Land Rover. Exterior design tweaks include new front wheel deflectors, sportier lights including LEDs at the front and rear and a revised front bumper with a larger cooling aperture to accommodate the more powerful engine. High Beam Assist, which automatically switches on or off the high beams as needed, is also available.

My tester's muscular, 20-inch, 10-split spoke alloy wheels are eye-catching, but they cost an extra $2,200. Large, square windows around its entire body provide excellent visibility in all directions.

The interior is also revamped. There's a chunkier steering wheel, a revised dashboard and centre console, new seats and extra innovative technology.

The front seats are supportive with extended seat cushions. They also have height-adjustable head restraints. A new keyless entry system with push-button start makes it easy to enter the cabin and fire up the engine without fiddling for keys. A heated steering wheel is also a nice touch on cold winter mornings.

Unfortunately, the centre console and dashboard layout is overly complicated. You're surrounded by countless controls and buttons everywhere - even the simplest functions such as changing the radio takes time to figure out using the touch screen.

The HSE Lux Plus Package on my tester improves the cabin and the ride - it includes mood lighting, a 480-watt Harman Kardon AM/FM CD changer with 14 speakers, a seven-seat comfort package and a surround camera system with five cameras (one under each side-view mirror, two in the front bumper and one in the rear tailgate) so you get a 360-degree view of the LR4. It's cool and useful, but the whole package adds $12,690 to the price.

A rear-seat entertainment system with dual video screens, a six-disc DVD changer, two headphones, remote control and input jacks for video games and MP3 players will keep the kids entertained for hours. It costs $2,750.

The cabin is super spacious. My tester can seat up to seven passengers. There's ample head-, leg- and shoulder room in all three rows. Even adults can sit comfortably in the third row, although the third-row seats can be tricky and time-consuming to raise or store in the floor when not needed.

A power tilt-and-slide front sunroof and two smaller fixed glass sunroofs brighten the cabin, especially for those riding in the second or third row. An asymmetrical split tailgate makes it handy to access and load groceries into the back.

All in all, the LR4 is a big improvement over the LR3 both on and off-road.

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2010 Land Rover LR4 HSE LUX

Type: Seven-seat premium SUV

Base Price: $59,990; as tested, $78,990

Engine: 5.0-litre V-8, DOHC

Horsepower/Torque: 375 hp/375 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: Permanent four-wheel-drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 17.1 city/11.6 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: Audi Q7, Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX56, Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5, Lexus LX470

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