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Joy Ride: 2014 Land Rover LR4

Look past the Land Rover LR4’s flaws, of which there are plenty, and you’ll find a boxy British 4×4 with as much personality border collie.

Let me be blunt from the start: The Land Rover LR4 is not very good. It’s not very efficient, it’s kind of slow, and it’s not very agile.

Well, OK, that’s not fair. It is good – just not in the real ways that matter to a modern American family. Despite its flaws, though, or perhaps because of them, the LR4 is my favorite SUV on the market, and in the running for my all-time favorite vehicle. Let me tell you why – but first, the nitty-gritty.

V6

For 2014, Land Rover has finally removed the naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 from the frame rails of the LR4 and replaced it with a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that makes 340-horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, this new powerplant will propel the boxy Brit to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds.

In terms of ownership essentials, the LR4 falls flat.

Owners pay for that oomph at the pump, though, as even the 3.0-liter is rated to achieve an EPA-estimated 14 mpg city, 19 highway, with a combined score of 16. For reference, the V8-powered 2013 model achieved 12 city and 17 highway.

As with any good Land Rover, power is sent to all four wheels through a permanent four-wheel drive system. New for 2014, though, customers can specify if they want a single-speed transfer case, which weighs 40 pounds less than the optional two-speed transfer case.

Opt for the Heavy Duty Package, and, along with the two-speed transfer case, customers will get an active locking center and rear differentials and a full-size spare tire.

Not yet sold on the two-speed? Let Land Rover entice you further: “The two-speed case offers high and low range, with an electronically controlled infinitely variable locking center differential for the most demanding off-road conditions (vehicles not fitted with the Heavy Duty Package will feature a new four- mode Terrain Response system that does not include the Rock Crawl function).”

Seven-seater

Unlike, like, say, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Land Rover LR4 can seat seven in style. All seating surfaces are leather and every passenger enjoys ample headroom.

In the tall, square dash, and nestled amongst the natural wood trim, is a seven-inch color touchscreen. Yes, the Land Rover infotainment system might not be the newest or flashiest. Unlike so many others, though, it’s gentlemanly and intuitive. It might not be able to do everything, but it’ll do what you need it to, including Bluetooth USB, and iPod connectivity. And, delightfully, when using the Land Rover system, you’ll never be confused.

Daily

I want to circle back to my opener for a moment, I want to explain what I meant by “not very good.”

In terms of ownership essentials, as we saw above, the LR4 falls flat. The ways in which it excels aren’t applicable to daily living. How often do Americans, or anyone in the western world, ford a river? I dare say never.

The Land Rover LR4 yanks at my heartstrings.

With the LR4, though, that’s exactly what you’re paying for. You’re paying at the dealer for a world-class 4×4 system that you must then lug around everywhere with you, for which you’ll pay dearly – and often – at the pump.

Heck, even the brake discs Land Rover installs on its vehicles are made from softer metal than that of other automakers, because the brakes need to be able to grab just as well on the highway as they do in three feet of water. This means the soft brakes materials wear out more often, which will put you in the repair shop more frequently.

Then the suspension needs to flex more, to keep all four wheels planted on the ground when on the off-road trail. On the street in a suburban neighborhood, though, this translates into excessive body roll. Granted, the LR4’s suspension system is so good that even jagged speed bumps are all but nullified.

Feeling

Now that I’ve sufficiently ragged on the LR4, let me tell you how I really feel about the formidable 4×4: I love it.

I absolutely don’t care how factually impractical it is, the thing yanks at my heartstrings.

The LR4 is like nothing else on the road today. It has an indescribable something that no other luxury truck, be it an Escalade or a Mercedes GL, can impart. In the Land Rover, you I like not only a well-heeled gentleman but also a go-anywhere, do-anything vagabond. Driving a Land Rover is like wearing a water-resistant, bulletproof, perfectly tailored tweed suit; sure, you’ll never really utilize it, but you’ll feel brilliant every day you put it on.

So, in summary, if you simply want to get somewhere, buy a Toyota. If you want to go anywhere, though, get a Land Rover.

Highs

  • Distinctive, boxy exterior styling
  • Simple, yet elegant, and well-crafted interior
  • Off-road capability
  • Seating for seven
  • Intuitive and reliable infotainment system

Lows

  • Fuel economy
  • Excessive body roll during cornering
  • Not very quick