G. Chambers Williams

Land Rover’s midsize LR4 for 2016 still a offers a great combination of on- and off-road prowess

The 2016 Land Rover LR4 continues to offer a great package for on- and off-road driving. It comes with a 340-horsepower supercharged V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel drive is standard.
The 2016 Land Rover LR4 continues to offer a great package for on- and off-road driving. It comes with a 340-horsepower supercharged V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel drive is standard.

One of the best premium SUVs capable of handling on- or off-road driving duties, the Land Rover LR4 provides performance, comfort and convenience all in one attractive package.

And even though it’s still a pricey vehicle, it’s not as expensive as some of its Range Rover cousins. For 2016, the LR4 begins at $50,400 (plus $995 freight) for the base model. Adding the midlevel HSE trim package ($4,900) raises the base price to $55,300.

For the model with the top-of-the-line HSE LUX trim package ($10,200), which we drove for this report, the base price is $60,600.

There are other options that can be added, including the Black Design Package ($3,500) on our tester, which brought 20-inch black wheels, along with a black grille, grille surround, side vents, door handles and mirror caps. It also included Land Rover hood lettering, extended roof rails and an LR4 tailgate badge.

Our vehicle also came with the Heavy Duty Package ($1,350), which tacked on an active-locking rear differential, full-size spare tire on an alloy wheel, and a two-speed transfer case for serious off-roading.

The creator of some of my favorite vehicles for off-road driving, Land Rover is the British sport utility brand best known for the ability to negotiate some of the toughest terrain on Earth.

Here in the U.S., Land Rover and its premium sub-brand, Range Rover, are marketed as luxury SUVs, where they’re seen much more often in suburban driveways and at the golf club than out on the trail.

The LR4 is the top of the lineup of vehicles branded in the U.S. as Land Rover. Above it are the Range Rover models, whose prices to well over $100,000, depending on how they’re equipped. The LR4 is the continuation of the Land Rover Discovery line, introduced in 1989.

Land Rover had dropped the Discovery name in the U.S. for a while, but last year re-introduced it on the new Discovery Sport ($37,455), a seven-passenger compact SUV that replaced the LR2. It comes with a 240-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder.

Our LR4 came with a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine with 340 horsepower and 332 foot-pounds of torque, connected to a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission.

This is the same engine used in the Range Rover Sport, which starts at $64,950 for 2016, and the line known simply as Range Rover, which begins at $84,950 with the V-6 engine. A V-6 diesel and a V-8 also are offered in the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models.

As for our LR4, the V-6’s power is way more than adequate for everyday driving, and the vehicle can go from zero-60 mph in 7.7 seconds, impressive for a vehicle weighing over 5,600 pounds.

The 2016 LR4 represents the fourth generation of the Discovery line. The LR4 arrived for 2010, replacing the third generation, which was called the LR3. It got the new V-6 engine for 2014.

The only things new for 2016 are the Waitomo Grey premium metallic exterior color, and a new home screen for the infotainment system. I do expect that when the replacement for the LR4 comes along in a year or so, it will be renamed simply the Discovery.

There have been lots of changes to the LR since it began as the Discovery. But one attribute has remained constant as this vehicle has evolved: It’s one of the best off-road vehicles available at any price.

These are also part of a dying breed: the true sport utility vehicle. As gasoline prices have risen and the SUV craze has subsided, automakers have shifted their focus to the more-gentile crossover utility vehicles, built on car chassis. Those are great family vehicles, but they lack the capabilities that serious off-road driving demands.

But the LR4 makes no compromises off the road, even though Land Rover has introduced styling concessions for consumers who might otherwise buy crossovers: The exterior of the LR4 is less boxy and more rounded than its predecessors. Still, it’s still instantly recognizable as a Discovery/LR.

This vehicle can do double duty as an around-town everyday family hauler or weekend getaway vehicle, and it’s equally as impressive on snow, if you like to go places where that is a factor (ski resorts).

Permanent four-wheel drive is standard. The LR4’s Terrain Response System has four driver-selectable modes for different types of road conditions: General, Snow, Mud and Sand.

Our tester came with seating for seven, with two bucket seats up front, a three-person bench in the middle row, and two single front-facing seats in the third row. The third row, however, is suitable only for kids.

Premium Windsor leather seats are standard, along with 19-inch alloy wheels, but the LUX package included upgraded leather, and the Black Design Package replaced the wheels with the special 20-inch ones.

Among other standard features are a hard-disc navigation system (with off-road capability, too), Bluetooth, front and rear parking aids, cruise control, power tilt/slide front sunroof and fixed Alpine roof.

We also had the 825-watt Harmon/Kardon Logic 7 audio system with 17 speakers – an awesome entertainment option.

Other extras on our vehicle included satellite/HD radio ($750); InControl Apps ($425); and the Tow Package ($625), which allows the vehicle to tow trailers weighing up to 7,716 pounds.

Total sticker price was $68,270, including freight and options.

But it’s really not necessary to add all of those extras to have a luxurious and comfortable LR4 that can go wherever you want. One that you would need, though, is the Heavy Duty Package, as it’s now the only way to get the two-speed transfer case for the four-wheel drive system. This used to be included in the base price.

For off-road use, drive belts are waterproofed, along with the alternator, air-conditioning compressor, power-steering pump and starter motor, allowing the engine to become nearly submerged during water crossings. The LR4 can run in up to 27.6 inches of water.

My only serious complaint with the LR4 is the fuel economy, or lack thereof. EPA ratings are 15 mpg city/19 highway/16 combined. Still, that’s better than the 12/17/14 of the previous V-8 engine used in the LR4.

The LR4 remains on the same body-on-frame chassis architecture of the previous generation, which was developed under the guidance of Ford Motor Co., which owned the brand for eight years before selling it in 2008 to India’s Tata Motors. Land Rovers are still built in England, however, where they have been assembled since the brand began in 1948.

The interior has a more-upscale look, rather than the functional theme that prevailed throughout previous generations. The front seats are much more comfortable than those of previous Discovery models, with just enough side bolstering to keep occupants in place on the trail.

Other features include rain-sensing wipers, a rearview camera, a solar-reflective windshield with side and rear privacy glass, a perimeter alarm with engine immobilizer, and passive entry system.

The standard Hill Descent Control system has Gradient Release Control. This helps control start-up when going down steep inclines, and increases control when the brakes are released at extreme angles.

Steering-wheel controls include driver-information system, audio and cruise-control buttons.

The seven-seat arrangement includes second- and third-row fold-flat seats to increase cargo capacity; accessory power outlet; rear luggage net; an additional front cup holder; and second-row heating/air-conditioning controls.

There is limited cargo space – just 9.9 cubic feet – with the third-row seats in place. But when they’re folded down, that expands to a decent 42.1 cubic feet.

Standard safety features include four-wheel antilock disc brakes, all-terrain electronic stability control, Xenon headlights with washers (great for mud on the trail), front seat-mounted side air bags, roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for all outboard passengers, front and rear fog lights, and child-seat anchors and tethers.

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at chambers@star-telegram.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.

2016 Land Rover LR4

The package: Midsize, five-door, seven-passenger, V-6 powered, fulltime four-wheel-drive, luxury sport utility.

Highlights: This is the fourth generation of the Discovery line that was introduced in 1989. This one is more refined than its predecessors, but still as capable as ever off the beaten track when equipped with the optional two-speed transfer case.

Negatives: Poor fuel economy.

Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V-6.

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.

Power/torque: 340 HP./332 foot-pounds.

Length: 190.1 inches.

Curb weight: 5,655 pounds.

Towing capacity: 7,716 pounds.

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.

Cargo volume: 9.9 cubic feet (behind third seat); 42.1 cubic feet (third row folded).

Fuel capacity/type: 22.8 gallons/unleaded premium recommended.

EPA fuel economy: 12 miles per gallon city/17 highway/14 combined.

Major competitors: Porsche Cayenne, Mercedes-Benz M-class, BMW X5, Audi Q7, Lexus GX 460, Toyota Land Cruiser.

Base price range: $50,400-$60,600, plus $995 freight.

Price as tested: $68,270 (HSE LUX model with freight and options, including Heavy Duty and Black Design packages).

On the Road rating: 8.7 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer's suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.