Driven_ 2016 land rover lr4 _ the chronicle herald

The Land Rover LR4 is a big box on wheels and it offers exceptional space for people and packages.

The LR4 is the latest iteration of an SUV introduced in 1989 as the Discovery.

It was updated a decade later and once again in 2004 when it was renamed Discovery 3 (LR3 in this neck of the woods). The latest generation arrived in 2009 as the Land Rover LR4.

While nearing the end of its current life cycle, the LR4 continues to offer legendary Land Rover capabilities, combined — at the trim level of the test vehicle — with most of the modern amenities expected at this price point.

There is no mistaking the look — this is a Land Rover, big, blocky and seemingly with no concern for aerodynamics. Granted it has been toned down in recent years with most of the corners rounded off, but the shadow it cast is pretty much rectangular. The height is the first thing you notice. At 1,880 mm it has no peer. You look very closely at underground parking situations.

The upside is tremendous visibility and headroom. A lot of glass is required to fill all that space between the tall roof and low belt line. This gives the occupants an excellent view in all directions. The driver gets an additional benefit in a low cowl allowing him or her to see very close to the front of the vehicle. This is important when scaling steep cliffs or descending into a stream bed — if you are so inclined.

But it is also very useful in tight parking spaces at the mall, where most $80,000 Land Rovers are more likely to be found.

The headroom in all three rows is exceptional. Even the third-row occupants get more than in competitive vehicles. They also have their own map lights and airbags.

Needless to say, getting in and out is a breeze, if you have the running boards allowing a step up.

But the LR4 has another trick up its sleeve — the standard air suspension allows the driver to lower the whole kit and caboodle several inches to ease entry or loading luggage.

That same control can be used to raise the LR4 about five cm for the aforementioned off-road excursions, or to crawl over a curb when blocked into a parking spot at the mall.

In addition to lots of space for front and middle row occupants, the third row is more useful than most, albeit not in the same range as those in front. With all three rows in place, cargo space is tight at 280 litres.

But when you start folding down seats, the boxy shape pays off. There is 1,192 litres behind the second row and a whopping 2,558 with only the front seats in use. In the top trim level that second row is split 35/30/35 allowing two people and long items to be accommodated.

While on the topic of cargo, the tailgate is a two-piece unit split horizontally. You can open it in more confined quarters than a one-piece unit, open only the top or use the bottom as a seat. The LR4 can tow up to 7,700 pounds.

The current version of the LR4 comes with a supercharged and intercooled V6 engine producing 340-horsepower, and 332 lb.-ft. of torque. This is a drop of 35 and 43 respectively over the V8 used previously. The six-speed automatic has been replaced by an eight-speed.

The combination does not offer as much performance as the older one. This big box weighs more than 5,700 pounds with no liquids or occupants. That is a tall order for the V6 engine.

Throttle response is instant and the LR4 gets off the line with aplomb and has no trouble keeping up with traffic, but not leading it. The non-aero shape and weight also prevent this vehicle from impressing when it comes time to visit the gas pumps.

A stop/start system shuts the engine off when you come to a rest to save fuel, restarting instantly when you release the brake and Natural Resource Canada says 16.2 litres/100 km in the city and 12.1 on the highway. I averaged 15.9 over several hundred kilometres of mostly highway travel.

The LR4 has few peers when it comes to off-road capability. The company has a wide range of vehicles and all have a global reputation for being able to tackle rugged conditions with ease.

It earned that reputation with mechanical components that combined an incredibly stout chassis, impressive suspension articulation and the ability to get power to the right wheel(s).

Modern electronics have enhanced those traits. A terrain response control, on the console beside the company’s trade-mark pop-up rotary shift knob, configures throttle, transmission, and traction control settings for optimal grip on pavement, grass, gravel/snow, mud and ruts or sand and rocks. If you can’t get there in the LR4, you should not be going there.

The Land Rover LR4 may be dated in design, but that matters little when you encounter tough conditions. In fact, to many, this older design may have a certain attraction, ensuring they stand out in a crowd of SUVs.

They will also be able to look over them.

The specs

2016 Land Rover LR4 HSE LUX

Price: $72,990 base, $82,290 as tested including freight

Engine: supercharged 3.0-litre V6, 340 horsepower, 332 lb.-ft. of torque

Transmission: eight-speed auto

NRC rating, litres/100-km city/highway: 16.2/12.1

Length: 4,829 mm

Width: 2,200 mm

Wheelbase: 2,885 mm

Weight: 2,565 kg

Competition: Audi Q7, Infiniti Q70, Lexus GX, Mercedes GLE, Porsche Cayenne

Options on test vehicle: 20-in alloy wheels, $3,000; seven-seat premium leather, $1,100; wood and leather steering wheel, $425; vision assist package, $2,100; extended roof rack, $350; grand black lacquer wood trim, $500; retractable cargo cover, $150

Standard equipment on HSE LUX: electronic air suspension, heated front and rear seats, heated leather steering wheel, electric panoramic sunroof, wireless connectivity, leather seats, keyless entry, navigation system, 17-speaker, 825-watt Meridian audio system, satellite radio, front and rear park sensors, rear view camera, power-folding mirrors, xenon headlights