The Land Rover Discovery has made a very slow journey from its original incarnation in 1989 to today’s 2012 model; over 23 years, with one major redesign and two minor ones, it feels like not all that much has changed. And that’s for the better. We still have the very cool asymmetrical rear window, the go-anywhere ability, and the seven-seat passenger capability. Sadly, the rearmost seats have yet to change much, and still use an archaic and counter-intuitive operation to raise and lower. Despite the air suspension (added to the third-generation car), the Land Rover still feels very top-heavy and is susceptible to cross winds. What has changed include things like the U.S.-spec nomenclature (now LR4, after LR3 replaced Discovery), the heavily reworked interior that brings the LR4 well upscale with premium hides and soft-touch materials, and a powerful 5.0-liter V-8 engine. That V-8 sounds delicious – but it’s the only engine option; combine the awkward third row and V-8-only powertrain and the Land Rover’s mid-size offering becomes a hard sell against crossovers like the Audi Q7 and BMW X5 which offer multiple engine options.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
I think this big beast looks simply wrong covered in baby blue paint (oh, sorry, it’s called Siberian silver). It’s not as if there are so many LR4s on the road that you need an off color like this to make yours stand out from your neighbors’.
In general, though, I have a hard time finding faults with Land Rover’s LR4, aside from its painful fuel economy and awkward size. You rarely get such an impressive sensation of acceleration — especially once the 5600-pound truck is moving at 20 mph or so — from a vehicle that can fit seven adults in extreme comfort and luxury. It also drives and steers quite well for something this large, although you can really feel the weight transfer, in the form of body roll and dive.
Land Rover’s fantastically usable terraced lower tailgate makes loading lots of stuff easy and quick. The LED exterior lights are a nice touch, too, but you can see the circuit-board parts hiding amongst the taillamps if you look closely.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Driving a big, heavy vehicle that is optimized for off-road use might seem like overkill for a simple workday commute, but somehow with the LR4 it all works. Every time I drive a Land Rover, I feel like I’m in full command of the road. The high seating position combined with the low beltline and large side windows provides a great view of the road and surrounding traffic. The seats are comfortable and the interior design is just quirky enough that you know it’s a British vehicle. For one thing, there’s a rather clunky-looking analog clock in the center of the control stack. For another, the nav system is the same as that found in Jaguar cars – it’s easy to use but it is frustratingly slow to react to inputs.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Amidst the thicket of premium SUVs on the market, Land Rovers still feel the best to me. Part of it is pure image — somehow the idea of a thirsty, leather-appointed Landie seems sophisticated and romantic in a way that a similarly designed BMW X5 never will. The Queen has one, after all. But credit Land Rover’s execution, as well. The interior in the LR4 is an extraordinarily rich experience even for $61,000. The touch screen navigation system is still, well, touchy, but it’s hard to care when sitting in this leather- and wood-lathered palace — no one uses better materials than Jaguar and Land Rover.
It’s also quite fun to drive, at least for an old-school SUV. The steering is tuned for the same light, accurate feel one finds in Jaguars, which makes the LR4 easy to maneuver in parking lots and even enjoyable through some gentle turns. And though the 5.0-liter V-8 won’t win any awards from the Sierra Club, it is certainly refined and responsive.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
2012 Land Rover LR4
MSRP (with destination): $49,750
PRICE AS TESTED: $61,425
5.0-liter DOHC V-8
Horsepower: 375 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 375 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
WHEELS AND TIRES:
19-inch aluminum wheels
255/55VR-19 Continental Contact 4×4 tires
FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway/combined):
Cargo (behind third/behind second/behind first): 13.3/44.3/76.8 cu ft
Legroom (first/second/third): 42.4/37.6/36.3 in
Headroom (first/second/third): 40.4/42.4/40.1 in
Towing: 7716 lb
Terrain Response System
Permanent all-wheel drive
Stability and traction control
Hill descent control
Electronic air suspension w/automatic load leveling
Front and rear fog lights
Halogen headlights w/washers
Rear parking assist
Retractable/removable cargo cover
Automatic dual-zone climate control
Tilt-and-telescopic steering column
Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity
11-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system
Auxiliary audio jack
OPTIONS ON THIS VEHICLE:
7-seat HSE Lux package- $9225
HSE & Climate Comfort packages
Premium leather seating
Power steering column
8-way power front seats w/driver’s memory and adjustable bolsters
19-inch aluminum wheels
17-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system
Siberian Silver paint- $950
SiriusXM satellite radio w/3-month subscription- $750
Heavy Duty package- $750
Locking rear differential
KEY OPTIONS NOT ON THIS VEHICLE:
20-inch gloss black aluminum wheels- $3000
Vision assist package- $1200
Rear seat entertainment- $2500