It seems as if most auto manufacturers are in a rush to downsize engines in an effort to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy. Advances in fuel injection, turbocharging, supercharging and electronic engine management restore much of the power that might otherwise be lost when engine sizes shrink.
The supercharged, 3.0-liter V-6 that replaces the V-8 in Land Rover’s LR4 is an example. Designed in cooperation with Jaguar, this engine shares the architecture of the V-8 minus two cylinders. A twin vortex supercharger nestles in the top V of the engine. Direct fuel injection, high compression and variable camshaft timing deliver 332 pound-feet of torque and 340 horsepower. Even though the smaller engine develops about 10 percent less power and torque, it has excellent drivability and yields a little more than 10 percent better fuel economy.
Superchargers deliver their extra power at low engine speeds, and that suits the off-road and utility needs of the LR4. It feels lively in city driving, thanks in part to the addition of an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Although the start-stop technology shuts off the engine at stops to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions, I often switched it off for a smoother takeoff from rest.
Fuel economy is rated at 14 miles per gallon in the city and 19 on the highway, compared to 12 and 17 for last year’s V-8. While the difference is not huge, it is certainly worthwhile. Maximum tow rating is 7,716 pounds.
Few vehicles can tackle the outback as adeptly as a mule, but the LR4 comes close. The LR4 is not as plush as the Range Rover, and its styling is beginning to look a bit dated. At this week’s New York Auto Show, Land Rover revealed the Discovery Vision Concept SUV, a preview of a new Discovery that will come to market in 2015. Land Rover said the new Discovery would evolve into a range of vehicles.
There are three trim levels: the LR4 starts at $50,625, the HSE begins at $55,525 and the HSE Lux starts at $60,825. That is the model I drove.
The 113.6-inch wheelbase is similar in size to the Ford Explorer’s. The LR4’s interior is well crafted but a bit dated. The center stack has a lot of control knobs. The seats are firm and supportive, and the leather upholstery is fitting for a vehicle in this price class. Analog gauges are simple and easy to read.
The LR4 has a third row that gives room for seven, but getting into that row is not easy, especially for adults. When the third row is upright, there is very little cargo space. Folding it was a bit of a challenge, as well.
Land Rover is synonymous with off-road driving, and the 2014 LR4 offers a choice of two four-wheel-drive systems. New is a single-speed unit that is best suited for urban use, and the test vehicle was so equipped. For the majority of buyers who never do rock crawling or cliff climbing, this unit will more than serve their needs.
Land Rover’s terrain response system coordinates the operation of the engine, transmission, traction control and the locking differential for optimum traction in a variety of conditions. Control is by buttons on the console.
The adaptive suspension monitors each wheel 500 times each second and continually makes adjustments depending on road conditions and speed. The ride is soft for comfort at most speeds, and it gets firm when more control is needed at high speeds. Air suspension allows the vehicle to be raised for rough going and lowered to normal height for highway use.
For folks who really want to learn what Land Rovers can do, the company offers off-road driving schools where experienced driving instructors demonstrate and teach proper off-road techniques. The schools are in Vermont, Quebec, North Carolina and Carmel, Calif. Prices range from $250 for one hour of instruction to $1,200 for a full day, not including transportation and lodging.Price
The base price of the LR4 is $50,625. The HSE Lux package, at $10,200, includes heated front and second-row seats, heated steering wheel, heated windshield, premium leather trim, satellite radio, power adjustable steering column, keyless ignition, 19-inch wheels, navigation system, 10-disc CD player, backup camera, power folding mirrors and rear-seat entertainment system. The sticker price was $64,045.Warranty
Four years or 50,000 miles.