Roughing it: Life without room service

2010, Land Rover, LR4

Manchester Village, VT - The Equinox hotel is located on 1,300 acres between the Green and Taconic mountains in Manchester Village, Vermont. You can go to Vermont for the fall foliage tour, but if you're taking your Land Rover to the Equinox you're going for the off-roading that is offered through the Equinox, courtesy of Land Rover.

The off-road course is an 80-acre site full of fallen logs, mud, ruts, sand, hill descents, side tilts and rocky terrain. The closer to getting stuck, to needing to be wenched out, the more fun you are having. It is Land Rover's heritage.

There are other 4X4 vehicles that could say they can rough it more than Land Rover. But Land Rover doesn't claim to rough it. They claim to play hard, but Land Rover's idea of roughing it is staying at a four-star hotel without room service.

The two competitors that come to mind are Hummer and Jeep. Phil Popham managing director for Land Rover said that Jeep is becoming less and less of a competitor, "Globally we compete with luxury sedans. It is only in the United States that we compete with 4X4a, and that is changing."

Then there is Hummer. In the school of consumer consciousness Land Rover is the quarterback, Hummer is the bully of the school. Land Rover has marketed itself so well that in Chelsea, London Land Rovers are known as Chelsea tractors. In the United States Hummers are the icon of conspicuous consumption and gas guzzling machines. A distinction not lost in Manchester Village.

Vermont is known for cheese and maple syrup. I looked on the cheese house website and there are more varieties of maple syrup offered than Land Rover has vehicles. Vermont is also known for its fall foliage. Around every bend, each undulating hill, the trees held swatches of red and yellow leaves waiting for that brisk wind of October.

Each turn also showed off the newly configured center of gravity that helps the 5,800 pound LR4 take the curves smoothly. The vehicle seemed nimble in spite of its weight. If you've seen the Saturday Night Live skit with Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley trying out for the Chippendales, the LR4 may look as heavy as Chris Farley, but it dances like Patrick Swayze.

In the last fifteen months, since TATA took possession of Land Rover they have spent $600 million to redesign the line-up. The LR4 is the fourth generation of the seven passenger SUV, and there have been plenty of changes since the LR3.

Some of the changes are subtle, some are dramatic. The Land Rover LR4 got a boost with a 5.0-liter V-8 engine, naturally aspirated direct injection engine that increased the horsepower 25% to 375 and increased the torque 19% to 375 lb.-ft of torque, with a full rev line. The 0-60 time has decreased to 7.5 seconds. The direct injection helped the LR4 keep the same mileage as the outgoing LR3 coming in at 12 city/17 highway mpg.

The exterior changes were few: a honeycomb type grille, new front bumper and fenders, new fender vents, new rear lamps with LED technology and body painted mirrors.

The interior is not just new, but grand. The instrument panel, steering wheel commands and center console are intuitive. The center console fits the size of the LR4. The instrument panel has this really cool technology called thin film transistor (TFT).

TFT a virtual instrument panel that gives you information when you're off-roading about the direction of your front-wheel direction, air suspension height settings,activation of hill descent control and speed settings, settings of cruise control and adaptive cruise control, hi/lo gear ratio selections, compass settings, and live images from the 360 view venturecam.

Fuel efficiency is of huge concern especially to niche markets such as Land Rover. Popham said that over the next four years Jaguar/Land Rover will be spending $800 million pounds (pounds, not dollars) on sustainability and fuel efficiency. Every gram, every bolt, will be weighed and looked at for reduction in weight of a future vehicle on a new platform.

We came out of the mud and ruts and all I could hear was squeaking. Squeak, squeak, squeak. Finally I asked the Landrover sherpa, Young Will, if he had any WD40. "That's not us", he said. "That's the car in front of us. They have a rock stuck in their brake." Land Rover can waterproof the alternator, air conditioning, power steering pump and starter motor. They can increase their ground clearance to 9.5 inches and the wading depth to 27.6 inches. But you can't cover the brakes, there would be too much heat buildup.

A few seconds later we get call over the walkie talkie, "Stay back, we've got a rock stuck in our brake and want to dislodge it.: We held back and the LR4 in front of us came barreling back, then sped up forward. They did this a couple of times. The rock was successfully dislodged, the squeaking had stopped.

The LR4 was redesigned by Gerry McGovern. The best compliment a designer can give is the one McGovern gave Mr. TATA, "he (TATA) is a true gentleman. He goes over everything with you, but in the end says I am the expert. It's quite refreshing."

The LR4 is my favorite Land Rover/Range Rover. Pricing starts at $48.100 and goes up to $63,000. If you really want to treat yourself buy the LR4 and go to one of the Land Rover off-roading schools.

Go ahead, rough it.

By Lou Ann Hammond

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Images of the 2010, Land Rover LR4

2010 Land Rover LR4
2010 Land Rover LR4
in nature's mud and ruts
in nature's mud and ruts
Young Will giving us directions
Young Will giving us directions
clearing the way over the rocks
clearing the way over the rocks