First Drive: 2010 Land Rover LR4

Speaking of water fording, it's important to remember off-road ability is a cornerstone of the Land Rover brand. All Land Rovers are basically very luxurious British Jeeps, not pretentious luxury trucks. That might be more apparent if the Defender models were sold in the U.S.A., but we wouldn't expect that to happen in the foreseeable future.

Land Rover has added a special sand launch control program and improved the rock crawl mode of the Terrain Response System for all 2010 models. A slight revision to the hill descent control program is called gradient release control and slowly accelerates the vehicle to a driver-selected maximum descent speed. This diminishes the momentary panic that comes from releasing the brake pedal on a steep downhill trail. Purists may cringe at the thought of these electronic aids replacing mechanical solutions like low gearing and manually locking differentials, but they allow virtually anyone to go from driving 125 mph on the paved roads to inching along a difficult trail without doing much more than turning a dial. The electronic solution is also unobtrusive during regular driving on paved roads, which is not something that can be said of low gearing and old-fashioned locking differentials.

Despite the importance of off-road ability, it's on road where the vast majority of LR4 owners will spend the vast majority of their time. For 2010, the LR4 underwent extensive revisions to the braking, steering, and suspension systems. To counter the increased engine power, the LR4 now uses 14.2-inch ventilated front rotors with cast-iron twin-piston sliding calipers and 13.8-inch ventilated rear rotors with aluminum single-piston sliding calipers in the rear. We found the revised brakes to be adequate for the LR4's 5833 lb curb weight.

Land Rover wanted the LR4 to corner much better than the LR3 and changed the suspension knuckles to reduce the difference between the suspension's roll center and the vehicle's center of gravity; the engineers also enlarged and stiffened the anti-roll bar. Although the LR4 corners flatter than an LR3, there is still a considerable amount of body roll present in a turn. Other minor revisions to the suspension include new bushings and dampers all around.

The LR4 has a variable ratio steering rack that gives quite different steering feel than other Land Rover models. We actually prefer the feel and weight of the LR4's steering to that of the hyper-sensitive Range Rover Sport or ultra-insulated Range Rover.

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