2010 Land Rover LR4

The change from LR3 to LR4 isn’t much from the outside, but there is substance to this mid-cycle update.

Frankly, this Land Rover didn’t need restyling. The crisp, modern design still looks good. Its squared-off features are practical but there’s enough sleek modernism to avoid dowdy boxiness. The subtle appearance tweaks—a fussier grille texture, more complicated headlamps, and the now-ubiquitous side vents—all could have been cribbed from the Range Rovers, which, as it turns out, is an accurate reflection of the other changes to this big ‘ute as well.

The LR3 already had much in common with its high-status siblings, from the obvious—its go-anywhere off-road ability, with myriad mechanical systems adjustable via the single knob of the Terrain Response System—to the more subtle—the regal driving position, the result not just of a high seating position but also great outward visibility thanks to huge windows, relatively narrow pillars, and a low beltline (all of which have been abandoned by other SUV makers in a misbegotten quest for more stylized exteriors).

The change to LR4 really magnifies the Range Rover connection. The new V-8 isn’t just smooth but imbues this big machine with real muscle (though fuel economy, at 12/17 mpg is still not a subject for polite company). There are additional luxury features, such as a multi-view camera, swiveling headlamps, and a heated steering wheel. But it’s the interior upgrade that is perhaps most notable. As before, the cabin architecture is closely related to the Range Rovers’ but in the past the materials and execution gave the indication that the Land Rover was held back, to preserve a perceived-luxury advantage for its more expensive siblings. That’s no longer the case. The old, industrial-grade leather has given way to hides that are as soft and rich as you’ll find anywhere; hard surfaces are now nicely padded; the setas are more comfortable; and the entire execution is top-notch.

Just when I was beginning to wonder why one would pay more for a Range Rover (and lose the ability to carry a sixth and seventh passenger in the process), I spent the better part of an afternoon pushing the LR4 along on the tight, lumpy, and sharply curving back roads of northern Westchester County. In that context, a justification for the Range Rover presented itself. The LR4 is a tall, heavy beast, and through quick corners one is reminded of that fact, much more so than in the relatively more agile Range Rover Sport or even the big Range Rover.

Otherwise, though, the LR4 has dramatically closed the gap with its more prestigious siblings, thanks to an upgrade that goes far beyond what you see at first glance.

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