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Fri, Nov 21, 2014

AUTO CONNECT: Land Rover has been with infused changes and improvements

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The 2014 Land Rover LR4. Photo courtesy of Land Rover
The 2014 Land Rover LR4. Photo courtesy of Land Rover
The 2014 Land Rover LR4. Photo courtesy of Land Rover
The 2014 Land Rover LR4. Photo courtesy of Land Rover
The 2014 Land Rover LR4. Photo courtesy of Land Rover
The 2014 Land Rover LR4. Photo courtesy of Land Rover
The 2014 Land Rover LR4. Photo courtesy of Land Rover
The 2014 Land Rover LR4. Photo courtesy of Land Rover
The 2014 Land Rover LR4. Photo courtesy of Land Rover

It’s difficult to be from a family of perfectionists. The 2014 Land Rover LR4 seems to always be compared with its over-achieving siblings, the Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport. Both of the bigger Rovers have gone through ground up makeovers the last couple of years, so they are state of the art in performance, features, elegant designs and luxury.
For 2014, the Land Rover LR4 has been with infused some important changes and improvements that make the top level Land Rover much closer to the attributes of the family royalty.

The most significant change is the LR4 V-8 engine being dropped in favor of a new 340 hp 3.0-liter supercharged V-6. The new engine was derived from the 5.0-liter V-8 used by Land Rover and Jaguar. It has a direct fuel injection system and dual independent variable cam timing boosted by a twin vortex supercharger mounted in the engine’s “V” and a liquid-cooled intercooler.  The resulting performance is more like a V-8, but with better fuel economy – it’s rated at 14 mpg city, 19 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined.

We actually averaged 17.2 mpg according to the trip computer during our week behind the wheel. Land Rover claims a 0 to 60 mph time of 7.7 seconds, but it feels faster than that. Top speed is listed at a controlled 121 mph.

The engine is coupled with the same eight-speed ZF transmission that’s being used in many of the other Land Rover and Jaguar models, and it’s a nice one. The shifts are positive and smooth and can easily be controlled manually with the steering wheel mounted shift paddles. The electronically controlled CommandShift® allows the driver to select Normal, Sport or Manual shift modes based on driving conditions. 

The engine is also outfitted with an Intelligent Start-Stop system using a twin-solenoid start. The vehicle stops promptly when you, for example, pull up to a traffic signal. When the driver’s foot comes off the brake it starts before the right foot can be moved to the accelerator. It’s quick, and more importantly, it’s smooth and nearly undetectable.

The LR4 has a permanent four-wheel drive system with four-wheel Electronic Traction Control. The base four-wheel drive transfer case has been changed to a new lighter single-speed Torsen® system with mechanical locking center differential.

Owners who plan to spend time in real off-road conditions, however, can order the optional Heavy Duty Package with two-speed electronic transfer gear box with shift-on-the-move capabilities, infinitely variable locking center differential and active rear differential. The HD package also includes a full-size spare tire.

We didn’t spend any time off-road during our recent drive, but we’ve both driven the LR4 in some extreme off-road conditions at Land Rover programs and think it’s one of the best off-road vehicles we’ve driven.

We often find the off-road driving set-up process intimidating and confusing. Land Rover has simplified the process with their Terrain Response® system. All you have to do is identify the terrain – General, Grass/Gravel or Snow, Sand, Mud and Ruts (models with the Heavy Duty Package also have a Rock Crawl mode). The computer does the rest setting the optimum engine, transmission, differential and Dynamic Control Systems settings. All you have to do is drive.

All the LR4s are equipped with a sophisticated Hill Descent Control that automatically restricts downhill speeds and improves control on slippery surfaces using the antilock brakes system. It is automatically engaged by the Terrain Response system when conditions warrant the use. There is also a Gradient Release Control that temporarily maintains brake pressure after the driver releases the brake pedal preventing the vehicle from rolling back when the driver moves his/her foot from the brake to the accelerator on a hill. 

The refreshed LR4 is no lightweight, tipping the scales at 5,655 pounds. It has a towing capacity of 7,716 pounds which is enough for a horse trailer and two horses or some big adult toys.

Cosmetically, the 2014 Land Rover LR4 has a refreshed front end with a two-bar grille and redesigned bumper, headlamps and fog lights. The LR4 is available in three trim levels, LR4, LR4 HSE and LR4 HSE LUX. Prices are $50,625, $55,525 and $60,825 respectively, including the $925 destination charge. Each of the trims has identifying features on the grille and side vents.

For owners needing the extra passenger capacity, the 2014 Land Rover LR4 has available third row seating. Cargo space behind the third row is 9.9 cubic feet. With the third row seat backs folded it expands to 42.1 cubic feet and up to 90.3 cubic feet when the second and third row seat backs are folded.

The Land Rover navigation system has been greatly improved with more user-friendly controls and new features such as traffic assistance, voice controls, a more extensive Point of Interest including a new “Avoid Points” function. We like that the system shows overhead highway signs on the split screen to better identify upcoming turns.

Land Rover has changed the audio system from harman-kardon to a high-end Meridian™ Audio system. The standard system in the LR4 is now a 380-Watt Meridian sound system with 11 speakers. The optional system is an 825-Watt Meridian™ system with 17 speakers. There’s also an optional rear seat entertainment system with DVD player and cordless headphones.

The Portable Audio Interface has been relocated from the center console to the upper glove box for 2014. It includes connections for iPod® devices, USB sticks and MP3 players controlled through the touch screen.

We like that Blind Spot Monitoring, Closing Vehicle Sensing and Reverse Traffic Detection system, Vision Assist Package Surround Camera Systems are available. The surround camera is especially helpful when negotiating tight areas and seeing the area when you don’t have a spotter during off-road maneuvers like rock climbing.

The 2014 Land Rover LR4 is elegant and luxurious providing the kind of look and comfort we’d expect for a vehicle from Land Rover.

The driving experience is enjoyable with smooth response from the drivetrain, and good maneuverability including a nice tight 37.5-foot turning radius. The list of competitors at this price point is extensive and multifaceted, but the LR4 gets high marks especially for ability and comfort. It’s a must drive for shoppers in this category.

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2014, auto connect, auto digest, Land Rover LR4, schaffer
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