The secret to a successful vehicle launch event, in addition to offering all-day access to food and nightly binge drinking, is scheduling events that help put the hack journo in the mindset of the vehicle's target customer. For the launch of Land Rover's heavily freshened LR3, rechristened LR4, the itinerary included an opulent dinner with his Grace, the 10th Duke of Roxburghe (say ROX-bruh), at his residence, Floors Castle in southeast Scotland. Owing to the go-anywhere nature of the brand, we dressed up in carry-on-wrinkled Yank interpretations of appropriate attire, boarded our dapper Landies, and set out along the historic carriage approach to the castle, which fords the River Tweed. Water that would have been just above knee high on a horse and well below the floor of a proper carriage lapped midway up the doors and submerged the new proximity-view cameras mounted in the front bumper, affording us a salmon's-eye view. It was also moving swiftly enough to push the 5850-pound Rovers just a bit downstream.
It's probably not for lack of imagination that no such dramatic dinner commutes have been attempted on launches of similarly upper-crusty German or Japanese SUVs.
Land Rover arguably holds the high ground among serious off-roading luxury 'utes, and the Discovery-now dubbed LR4 in America and the Mideast-is its most versatile model. For 2010, its performance envelope is increased with the addition of a vastly higher-performing new 5.0-liter V-8, myriad driveline revisions, improvements to the renowned Terrain Response System, and a vastly upgraded interior. A brand new electrical architecture shared with Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models (and future Jags as well), lays the groundwork for current and future comfort, convenience and safety technologies. So while the exterior revisions appear modest, this is indeed a very new vehicle.
The 11-percent-larger naturally aspirated V-8 bumps power by 25 percent and torque by 19 (to 375 hp and lb-ft) by utilizing direct fuel injection and a sophisticated new variable valve timing system that leverages natural variations in camshaft torque that occur as each lobe approaches and passes the point of maximum valve lift. These tiny fluctuations are captured hydraulically and used to rotate the cams, instead of drawing pressure from the engine oil pump. These technologies boost performance and economy, and other efficiencies like earlier torque-converter lockup, lower rolling-resistance 19-inch tires, and aerodynamic improvements are expected to result in unchanged EPA city/highway fuel economy of 12/17 mpg.
Of course, adding this much power without a commensurate chassis upgrade would have been like hitching Seabiscuit and Citation to that 19th century carriage. Changes to the suspension knuckles revise the geometry in such a way as to bring the vehicle's center of roll to within a couple inches of passing through the center of gravity. The closer these are to each other the less tippy a vehicle feels. A larger front anti-roll bar curbs body roll even further. Front brake discs are almost an inch larger than before and the rear calipers are now aluminum.