But the real joy of owning a Land Rover is the ability to head off in practically any direction a horseback rider could, and the go-anywhere improvements include a new sand-mode launch control that helps accelerate from a stop without digging in, and more responsive traction and anti-lock control in "rock-crawl" mode to prevent a wheel rolling the wrong direction while maneuvering on boulders. Gradient Release Control releases the brakes more gradually to bring the vehicle from a stop up to the programmed Hill Descent Control speed on a steep grade.
Interior and exterior revisions are aimed at making the LR4 look and feel more expensive (prices are expected to rise about 3.5 percent), hence the black plastic exterior cladding goes body color and the front and rear lighting includes jewellike LEDs. Inside it's all ambient lighting, soft-touch surfaces, and available premium leather with stitching of Range-Rover quality. Wood accents the console and doors, and there are fewer buttons controlling more features. Things like 360-degree camera views that aid in parking and off-road maneuvering plus hitch guidance and trailer-maneuvering assistance, high-beam assist, keyless entry and starting, and available Harmon-Kardon audio with HD radio and iPod/USB stick/aux-jack inputs.
Our drive from Edinburgh to the Duke's crib included a mix of freeway, twisty, and hilly roads, on which the LR4 exhibited a carriage-to-chariot level improvement in acceleration feel, with way more midrange punch and a more pleasing engine note. We know better than to expect much steering feel from a dedicated off-roader (that extremely geared-to-the-road feel can tend to result in kickback that could take a thumb off when you're rock-climbing), but the effort and weighting feels about right. Anyone who values on-road dynamics and never plans to venture off pavement should shop BMW, Audi, or Mercedes.
Rubicon-running Camp Jeep regulars ready to do some social climbing to the Land Rover Experience will appreciate the upgrade in the ride comfort and cornering departments. They're likely to be impressed with what the Terrain Response electronics allow this long, heavy truck to do on street-biased tires, and they'll surely enjoy being able to use cameras to monitor the precise placement of the front tires, to see how close the bodywork is to encroaching rocks and obstacles, and to search for fish in the River Tweed. Crawling around on the Floors Castle grounds we were again struck by degree of precision with which Land Rover products can be placed. The throttle mapping in the off-road modes is very gradual, the brake modulation permits rolling a tire off a boulder and tiptoeing it down onto the ground, all of which makes "treading lightly" easier in a Rover than in most factory original rock-hoppers.
Our most serious misgivings are on the reliability front, especially as concerns the new electrical architecture. We were admittedly driving early vehicles, but the LR4 on hand to demonstrate the new trailer-tow functions experienced a fault in that very system and the driver seat of one test vehicle refused to power all the way forward. Another model had the nav system suddenly stop navigating at a critical intersection (simply reentering the destination got it back up and running). Fixes are underway for the above issues, but might other teething problems await? Probably. But there's a comprehensive four-year/50,000-mile safety net in place, and if your dealer gives you any flack, just tell him you're a friend of a friend of the Duke's.