2014 Land Rover LR4 HSE. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Brendan McAleer
When I was a child, this road was mostly gravel, a rough-skinned beige serpent with its head in the ocean and its tail in the desert. If it wasn’t choking you with billowing clouds of dust, it was trying to drop rocks on your head from the looming cliffs, or jack-hammering your spleen with rippling washboard.
From time to time, the family would saddle up our old 1970s Land Rover, and we’d chatter down the hillsides, three abreast up front and me in a battered rear seat built of angle iron and foam cushions my mother made from scratch. Safe? Good grief: it’d probably have been quicker, quieter, and easier to surf down to Vancouver at the head of an enormous rockslide while juggling chainsaws.
However, it was an adventure, and just the sort of thing you expect when you see the words “Land” and “Rover” next to each other on the page. A Land Rover means exploration. A Land Rover means jungles and backroads and pith helmets and a high probability of contracting malaria. A Land Rover means that you’re off to do something that normal people will later read about in the newspaper and go, “Gosh. Some people have absolutely no sense of self-preservation.”
But the road that runs up past Pemberton, BC is now smoothly paved and properly banked, and while there’s still wildness to be found in the scenery, it’s all gotten a great deal more civilized. The same has happened with the Land Rover brand as well, and more often than not, most of them won’t venture past the world-class ski resort of Whistler. Luxury condos set amongst the pines and shiny black SUVs go together like name-brand outdoor apparel and a well-trammelled trail.
As such, this new Land Rover LR4 – known in other markets as the Discovery, a far more evocative name – now doesn’t bother with a low-range gearbox unless you really want one. Low range is now an option, as Land Rover feels many of its customers will face nothing more rugged than the gravel in Whistler’s free number-five parking lot. You have to admit that they have a point.
2014 Land Rover LR4 HSE taillights & engine bay. Click image to enlarge
Also new this year is an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox and a supercharged V6 shared with the Jaguar range. Producing 340 hp @ 6,500rpm and 332 lb-ft @ 3,500-5,000rpm, this new engine replaces the faithful old 5.0L V8 which was really very thirsty. And, come to think of it, not all that faithful either.
Re-trimmed with a new front bumper, grille, and headlights (now sparkling with LEDs), the updated LR4 is about as sexy as a wellie. It looks so much like a boot that you half expect the lower quarter to be terracotta-coloured, rubberized, and corrugated.
2014 Land Rover LR4 HSE dashboard. Click image to enlarge
I absolutely love it. In a world where crossovers sneer away in efforts to outdo each other in aggression and dynamic futurism, this boxy Landie oozes utilitarian charm. It’s a boot, but it’s Kate Middleton’s boot – a snooty-boot if you will. If only they could find it in their hearts to bolt a knobbly tire to that bonnet, then my cup would runneth over. This one’s fitted with 19-inch multi-spoke alloys, but you can option up to 20-inch alloys if you must.
Inside, the LR4 reaps the rewards of its cubist design with a cathedral’s-worth of spacious interior. It’s as though the thing has been made to carry around a troop of the Coldstream Guards, with plenty of room for their silly conical hats. The front seats are firm but comfortable, the heated rears have plenty of legroom, and even the fold-out third row is pretty good too. Based on personal experience, I’m happy to tell you that it’s significantly better than a home-built chair with a too-tight lap-belt in the leafspring-equipped back of a 1976 Series III Land Rover. Important consumer comparison, that.