By on January 7, 2011

Time was Land Rovers evolved at a leisurely pace, with a redesign perhaps once every decade or two, and name changes pretty much never. But, if you want some of those soccer mom dollars, this just won’t do. So the Disco II became the LR3 (on this side of the pond at least; in the more tradition-minded UK it became the Disco 3). And, just five years later, the LR3 was itself superceded by the LR4. Will the smaller LR2 become the LR3 when it is next redesigned? I suppose they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it. Perhaps they’ll toss the alphanumeric rubbish into the dustbin. The topic for today: what’s the LR4 got that the LR3 did not?

The ultra-clean box of an exterior hasn’t changed much. In fact, only the most astute observers will notice that it has changed at all. Inside the renovations were much more thorough. Focus groups must have unearthed that the LR3’s black plastic didn’t fit the Land Rover image, for the LR4’s interior includes a healthy portion of authentic timber, an upholstered instrument panel, and styling much more like that of senior SUVs. Despite the continued presence of some budget switchgear, the redesigned interior seems much more worthy of the $48,500+ price.

The LR3’s brilliant packaging has been retained in the LR4. So you sit very high and upright on firm but comfortable (if not luxurious) seats in all three rows, with more legroom than should be possible given the 113.6” wheelbase and 190.1” overall length. Yes, even in the third row, though the rearmost seats themselves are a bit undersized. This is the packaging the Jeep Commander should have had. Visibility is outstanding in all directions, with large windows and thin (by current standards) pillars filling the expanse between the low beltline and high roof. A set of five cameras for viewing all around the LR4 became available late in the 2010 model year, but this technology is less necessary here than in the average SUV.

There’s not much space for gear behind the third row, but fold the seats and there’s scads of it, given the boxy shape, low floor, and aforementioned high roof. This interior is so functional it’s not hard to imagine why black plastic seemed an appropriate material for the LR3. But now that they’ve luxed it up, is it still fitting to stuff the ute with camping gear and head into the woods?

The second big change: the LR3’s 300-horsepower 4.4-liter V8 has been tossed in favor of a new 375-horsepower 5.0-liter, again shared with sister company Jaguar. At about 5,700 pounds, the LR4 is a hefty beastie, but the new V8 is more than a match for it. Where the LR3 felt sluggish, the LR4 feels effortless in typical driving and downright energetic when called upon to scoot. The new engine can seem loud from outside the vehicle, but sounds much quieter when inside. Which isn’t entirely a good thing—what you hear you enjoy hearing. The transmission remains a six-speed automatic, so the next upgrade isn’t hard to forecast. The EPA ratings are the same as for the LR3, 11/17, but with the new engine straining much less real-world fuel economy might be better.

The new engine is easily capable of writing checks the chassis can’t cash. The LR4’s extreme height makes for a roomy interior, but not for tight handling. Suspension revisions yield more responsive handling and better-controlled body motions than in the LR3, but the quantity of roll in even moderately hard turns remains nautical. A quick lane change on the highway still effects a disturbing amount of rear-end sway, if substantially less than with the LR3. The related Range Rover Sport almost feels worthy of the “Sport” in comparison. While no one buys an LR4 to autocross it, curvy mountain roads could well be on the agenda. If so, take advantage of the strong brakes before entering the turn. Even with softly-tuned air springs that effectively absorb the bigger bumps, the ride can feel jittery over the small stuff. This might not be a conventional body-on-frame live-axled SUV, but even with a quasi-unibody and independent rear suspension it is very much an SUV.

I didn’t test the LR4 off-road. But it’s clearly engineered to perform well there, with generous ground clearance, heavy-duty (and, judging from the curb weight, simply heavy) subframes, and a “terrain response” knob to tailor the electronic bits to specific conditions. While not many people are likely to off-road a vehicle they paid $50,000 for, after they depreciate it the second owner very well might.

And Land Rovers do depreciate, in part because they’ve long occupied the bottom of the reliability charts. Here the LR4 threatens to break with tradition, with a solidly average score thus far in TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey. I have been waiting for Land Rover’s latest to take a turn for the worse, but—between you and me—it looks like this won’t be happening with the next update, which covers through the end of calendar year 2010. The 2005 and 2006 LR3s (we don’t have enough data on more recent years) require about two-and-a-half times as many repairs. Unfortunately, how the LR4 will fare once the warranty ends remains to be seen.

So, Land Rover took the LR3, added a more powerful engine and upgraded the interior, and called the result the LR4. Better? Sure. And the interior remains as surprisingly functional as ever. But the ponderous on-road handling and abysmal fuel economy continue, and continue to call the entire proposition into question. Want to take the entire family off-roading in Old World (near) luxury? Then go for it. If it’s either this or a Lexus GX 460 (which I’ve yet to get my head around) then by all means get the real thing. But for slogging about the burbs just about any crossover is much more suitable.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive reliability and pricing data

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50 Comments on “Review: 2010 Land Rover LR4...”

  • avatar

    It’s too bad Land Rover can’t figure out how to make a reliable vehicle.  Their designs are beautiful and timeless.  My wife wanted an SUV, and although she loved the look and functionality of these, ultimately what swayed her and I  into a Lexus GX was the concerns over reliability.  We just didn’t want a vehicle we had to dump as soon as the warranty expired.
    Land Rover should farm out as much as they can and focus on what they’re good at.

    • 0 avatar

      As noted in the review, the LR4 has been reliable so far. Unfortunately I cannot peer into the future and report how it will fare after the warranty runs out.
      LR4 reliability

    • 0 avatar

      Well, that was exactly the point. WAY too many things to go wrong. Vehicles like all post-Defender/RR Classic LRs, BMW X5, Audi Q7 – even if they are reliable initially – and other similar expensive toys are simply not meant to be used past 100-120 kmiles, it seems. All the endless microprocessors, busses, air suspension, non-replaceable radios and whatnot will cost 4-digit money to fix. And if in good ol’ days one could still operate the vehicle with several systems out of order, nowadays it is a towtruck ride for too many reasons for my comfort.  

    • 0 avatar

      Granted it is just one data-point and not a trend, but in 2007 my business partner bought a Land Rover for his wifey, and it has been in his experience the most unreliable POS that he has ever owned.  This is remarkable since he owned a Fiat and an Alfa Spyder in the eighties, so high praise indeed.

      And all this started at 120 miles, not 120,000 miles.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not setting the bar that high, if the Land Rover even had “average” reliability, it would be enough.  No ones expecting it to be a Camry, but from all the data I’ve seen (Consumer Reports gives every model their worst ranking) to personal anecdotes (my former boss had one, my weekly routine was picking him up at the shop) they’re all border-line lemons.
      it’s just most wealthier customers get a new car every 2-3 years, so they don’t care.  Not my kind of car, but it’s getting to be that many European cars are just meant to be leased and then disposed of.

  • avatar

    Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland instead.

  • avatar

    Put a clutch pedal in it and I’ll consider one. Well, a 4 year-old one at 30% of MSRP.

  • avatar

    So it’s capable off-road, but with its reliability record all that does is let you break down where a tow truck can’t reach you.
    Jeep or Toyota is your better bet.

    • 0 avatar


      Not all Jeeps are unreliable contrary to popular opinion. Older Wranglers (2006 and prior with the AMC derived 4.0L) and Cherokees are almost indestructable and simple as a stone ax. I’d sooner trust either of my Wranglers with my life in an off-road situation than any Land Rover this side of a old Defender 90 or Defender 110.

    • 0 avatar

      True story – when I was working in the eastern Congo for MSF, on two occasions, I had to send out motorcycle rescue convoys for other NGOs that had broken down on ‘roads.’  Vehicle of choice for these cowboy wannabes – Land Rovers.
      In the world of actual off road working SUVs, there is Toyota and then there is everything else.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    What’s it rated to tow?

    Only thing new I’d trade my ’07 Chevy Tahoe for is a another Chevy Tahoe w/6 speed.

  • avatar

    I really like the LR4. I’ve had Land Rovers in the family before and would not hesitate to buy another one. The one thing that is a non starter for me are the stupid dime store looking LEDs that encircle the headlamps. They need to either add more to create a complete circle, or don’t do it at all. This is by far the worst example of this me-too design that I’ve seen yet. They remind me of the neighbor who still has christmas lights up in June.

  • avatar

    Great review, I like the honesty.

  • avatar

    I can’t get past 5700 Lbs.

  • avatar

    Current owner of a 2006 LR3 HSE and I have mixed feelings on the new one. While the new suspension changes have made the vehicle more “tossable” I prefer the ponderous feel of the LR3. The old suspension setup was better matched to the weight and purpose of the vehicle.
    For the record I love the Lr3, it is the ultimate swiss army knife of SUVs and the passenger space for the overall exterior footprint is amazing. I bought mine used 3 1/2 years old for 30% of the original MSRP. That type of depreciation helps to cushion the fuel useage of this vehicle. In my experience the LR# feels quite buttoned down during high speed highway cruising, just don’t enter the corner too fast.

  • avatar

    I’m glad to see the word ‘depreciate’ in a Land Rover review, even if this vehicle seems likely to improve things in that regard.
    Actually, a Factiva or Lexis/Nexus search to see how rare (or non-existent) “depreciate” is in all auto reviews would be interesting.

  • avatar

    Maybe they should do a 7 year warranty. Bet that would take sales up a notch in the US, in the UK we don’t care so much we just accept them as flawed Genius cars….
    I don’t get the Jeep thing btw, their build quality is nasty from day one. At least build quality just deteriorates on a Land Rover…

  • avatar
    [email protected]

    “the LR3’s black plastic didn’t fit the Land Rover image”
    Too bloody true, a Land Rover should have scratched aluminum surfaces with exposed rivet heads. Oh sorry, the Land Rover image I was thinking of is the “dropped some supplies off in the jungle, time to climb a mountain” one, not the “dropped the kids off at daycare, time to get a Latte” one.

  • avatar
    Oregon Sage

    I think I will stick with my 120k miles Disco 1 for now, for which I paid the princely sum of $2900 and a new set of tires a few months ago.  I has a few fiddly lights and sensors issues, but all the important stuff works, it starts and runs without hesitation, tows a decent load and just carried us to Idaho and back for a 1000mile round trip over the holidays.
    The size makes it maneuverable around town, it is easy to park and the height is nice to sight-lines.  It doesn’t corner quite as well as my 92 F150, but better than the beloved ’51 Delta 88.
    Damn fine SUV as far as I am concerned.

    • 0 avatar

      Wow, a Land Rover with 120K miles.  Which Ivy League school does you mechanic’s kid attend?

    • 0 avatar

      As an owner of a 2002 Range Rover with 140K miles, I can tell you that I have certainly paid for my mechanics son to become a certified Land Rover and Jaguar mechanic.
      The repair bills past 100K aren’t for the faint of heart.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      “Which Ivy League school does you mechanic’s kid attend?”
      With Land Rover technical forums like this one, probably none. The Series I Discovery is essentially a Classic Range Rover underneath with a less refined suspension.
      My uncle has a ’98 SI Discovery that he’s owned since new with close to 150k miles. Original engine & transmission. I asked him about it recently and he loves it, not planning to get rid of it any time soon.

    • 0 avatar
      Oregon Sage

      SamP has it right. I do my own wrenching and the thing doesnt cost me any more to maintain than my ’92 F150.
      150-200k is more common for a Disco of this vintage in my neck of the woods.

  • avatar

    I miss solid-axle Land Rovers. They could have occupied a unique niche by sticking with solid axles and refining the driving dynamics of them to their maximum potential, all while raising the bar in luxury appointments. Instead, they caved in to all the “delicate genius” whiners who couldn’t handle the ride characteristics and capability of a solid axle vehicle. No matter, I’ll stick with my ’06 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon which would positively embarass this thing off road – luxury be damned. 

    • 0 avatar

      I wouldn’t be too sure about the Wrangler embarassing this thing, the LR3/4 is no slouch off road. With the air suspension able to raise 2 inches ( 4 inches with a simple mod), some Wrangler MTR tires,  an electronic locking rear differential and the ability to “cross-lock” the axles ( to mimic solid axles) the Land Rover is the real deal off road. How many that will go there is another matter. I do know that on the way back the Lr4 would be a much nicer place to be. Of course the comparision is apples to oranges.

      Here is to continued high depreciation reates so I can pick up a used one again in a few years.

    • 0 avatar

      While I’m sure it’s capable, it’s one achilles heel is the dynamic of an IFS/IRS system when a wheel compresses in uptravel – the frame gets closer to the ground, thus compromising ground clearance.

      My solid axles have a fixed relationship to the ground and barring a flat tire can’t get any closer regardless of suspension compression. Only thing I have to be aware of is the relative location of the diff pumpkins and choose a line accordingly. Add in the factory diff-locks and the 4:1 T-case and almost nothing can stop forward progress other than my desire not to bang up my sheetmetal just yet…that’s what my old ’02 Wrangler is for…  

  • avatar

    That is why Land Rover gives the ability of the axles to cross-link. It locks the compressed axle (limits the upwards travel) so that it acts like a solid axle. With the fancy air suspension it has lots of off-road tricks up it’s sleeve. There is enough LR3s being flogged on Youtube to show that these rigs are the real deal in the dirt. They are so cheap used that the second/third owners actually do use them in the rough.

  • avatar
    Tommy Boy

    Better reliability and, say, a 3.5 – 4.0 liter diesel (without urea injection) would make this one tempting vehicle.  Diesel torque to help move that weight off the line, plus the improved fuel economy, would make this vehicle “complete.”
    Alas, because of the eco-weenies in California, it seems that manufacturers won’t offer diesels unless they meet “50 state ” requirements, and for whatever reason have been using the crutch of urea injection, which with its hassle factor and added “things to go wrong” pretty well eliminates the appeal of of diesel.

  • avatar

    No review unit pics this time?

  • avatar

    All this talk of reliability misses the simple fact that 75% of all Land Rovers ever built (over the past SIX decades) are still in use. Note the verbiage “in use” as opposed to “on the road” – as some of them in military or forest service have never seen a road in the first place(!!)

    At its core, the Landie is a simple beast with a stout heart. Yes there have been a lot of electrical problems in the older models. But they’ve still been embraced for their ruggedness, utility and relative ease of repair. This story is akin to those Peugeot 504s in Africa, the Morris Oxfords in India, the Chevy Bel Airs in Havana and Jeeps & F-150s in rural America: crude implements all, but in the right hands they literally last forever.

    Of course the times are changing. Landies have gotten more sophisticated, luxurious, and more solidly built according to Michael’s recent data. I’d love to own a Defender, but I also am intrigued at the upcoming 5 door Evoque. The interiors are magnificent (ever wonder why only the Brits seem to GET luxury?!). And that DI Jag V8 – here with lower output, higher torque – is something else. Respect.

    • 0 avatar

      “All this talk of reliability misses the simple fact that 75% of all Land Rovers ever built (over the past SIX decades) are still in use.”
      This is nonsense.
      Land Rover AT ONE TIME used to advertise that 75% of Land Rovers sold IN THE US were still ON THE ROAD.  Land Rover has only been in the US since 1987.
      Really, if you’re going to bring up stats, please cite the source.  EVERY time I have asked for a source on these BS xx% of LRs/Defenders ever produced are still in use/on the road, I get hemming and hawing and NEVER a source with actual data.

    • 0 avatar

      Source?! It’s a manufacturer claim, otherwise unsourced, just like dozens of other facts sprinkled throughout this or any similar article and commentary. And it was a global, since-inception stat, not “US since 1987”. I once saw it in a LR ad in Sri Lanka, for instance – they are certainly popular there and have been for ages.

      Now, come to think of it, even 1987 (the brand’s US launch date you cite) wasn’t yesterday – in fact, it’s 2 years longer than Lexus has been around!! My point holds.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    What does this do again that the Land Cruiser can’t?  Besides earn points at the country club?
    I wish Isuzu had continued making retail vehicles….my Trooper is a mountain goat…..

    • 0 avatar

      Hell I wish Jeep still made XJ’s. Simple, capable and reliable. Inexpensive enough that you didn’t mind taking them on the trails and beating on them.
      Fortunately there were so many of them made and still going strong (despite C4C targeting them heavily).
      Land Rovers (discos, LR’s, etc) are beautiful to look at and ride in but too much of a risk in the “post-warranty ownership experience” for me to drop the coin for one.

    • 0 avatar

      Land Cruiser starting MSRP is $68k. LR4 is a relative bargain…
      Why again are we comparing Jeep Wranglers with a three row Lux Ute? The closest Jeep product is the defunct Jeep Commander.

  • avatar

    The interior doesn’t matter as a Land Rover owner spends most of their time in the passenger seat of the tow truck bringing them back to the dealer.

  • avatar

    As a second owner of an LR3. I didn’t like where the LR4 was going. It seems like their target audience was more towards those who don’t take it off-road, and more yuppie-ute. Compared to the LR3, The LR4 has painted wheel well cowling where brush pinstripes will be more apparent, and 19in. rims. It was where the Evoque was going.

    As far as reliability: I used to live in the mountains where there were no “trained mechanics”. A plastic coolant T-connector cracked and leaked coolant all over the place. So I took it to a local shop where they replaced it with a metal one. But they hadn’t fixed the problem 100%. Once I took it to the an independent Land Rover mechanic, then it was completely fixed.

    I would have to admit, the Terrain Response control is phenomenal. It almost drives it for you. Where most Jeep Wranglers had trouble, the LR3 just rolled up the obstacles, without air lockers.

    It’s also tough. I got into an minor accident with a Benz M-Class which resulted in fender damage. I just received a slight scratch on the wheel well cowling—unpainted on the LR3.

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