Building a good 4x4 isn’t easy. Carmakers either make them too soft so that they flounder in the rough or so tough that they rattle your teeth out on a smooth black top.
Finding the right balance has proven tricky for some manufacturers including Land Rover. It’s had its critics over the years and gained a bit of a bad rep for reliability, but that was then.
With over six decades in the biz, it’s been able to iron out the creases and niggles hindering its line-up to the extent that the vehicles leaving the production line in Solihull are some of the most sought-after all over the world. They don’t get any more rugged than the Defender while the classy Range Rover combines luxury with terrific performance, but it’s the middle child, the LR4, that strikes the best balance. It’s robust enough to handle the roughest of terrains and following a quick rinse, it’s the perfect vehicle to shepherd the family in total comfort to dinner in a swanky part of town. And now for 2013, it’s been made available with a snazzy Black Design Pack. The big question is, will you want to get it dirty?
As SUVs go, this one is rather good looking and thanks to the new aesthetic details, it really stands out in a crowd. Those iconic boxy looks have been enhanced with new 19in all-black painted Seven-Split Spoke alloys, a gloss-black grille, fender vents, door handles, mirror caps and ‘Land Rover’ and ‘LR4’ badging with satin black extended roof rails. It’s a striking package and has given it a new lease of life.
It’s still a powerhouse performer when you venture off the beaten track thanks to its 375bhp 5.0-litre V8, mated to a six-speed automatic, not to mention superb traction courtesy of the full-time four-wheel drive system. With 510Nm of torque, you can be sure this isn’t going to get bogged down in the sand, not with all the whizbangery on board that includes Land Rover’s Terrain Response System and Hill Descent Control. They’ll make the most novice of off-roaders appear like world beaters. It has five settings (general; grass/gravel/snow; sand; mud/ruts; and rock crawl), which optimises the motor and ZF slush ’box and calibrates the shocks and springs according to the terrain you’re on.
Just as impressive as its off-road capability is its Extended Leather Pack cabin, inspired by the HSE Luxury Limited Edition, impeccably crafted and luxurious to boot. You get everything you could want in here; leather-upholstered eight-way-power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition (and entry), a power tilt-and-slide front sunroof and a fixed rear sunroof, Bluetooth phone connectivity, an 11-speaker 380-Watt Harman/Kardon System with touchscreen control, a CD player, not one but two USB ports, an iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack. Yep, Land Rover hasn’t skimped on the standard features.
Seven adults will be happily seated in here and though this vehicle is designed for the great outdoors, it’s just as adept around town. Sure, it isn’t a full-on luxury SUV but it’s getting pretty close to the finesse of the Rangey. I enjoyed many highway treks and it never once put a foot wrong.
Yes, it suffers body roll and the rack-and-pinion power steering requires a fair bit of effort to manoeuvre the 4,829mm long and 2,176mm wide 4x4, but it gets up to speed quickly enough, hitting the 0-100kph mark in 7.9 seconds and cruises merrily along.
Stopping power comes from twin-piston sliding callipers with 360mm ventilated discs at the front and single piston with 350mm ventilated discs at the rear. It sits 1,887mm high and offers superb visibility all-round.
This is a refined all-purpose bruiser that looks even better thanks to the gloss-black treatment. In fact, it may have become a little too attractive and if you have any qualms about getting it dirty, it’s understandable.