Land Rover LR4 — Serious off-road luxury

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The Land Rover LR4 is the best buy in the company's stable of very desirable luxury sport utility vehicles. Few if any SUVs provide the LR4's blend of high-dollar features, a spacious interior that will accommodate up to seven passengers and serious off-road capability for just north of $50,000. The LR4's desirability is enhanced even more by its traditional upright Land Rover styling that draws admiring glances.

LR4 now comes with a slightly more fuel-efficient supercharged V-6 making 340 horsepower mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission replacing the original 5.0-liter V-8 and its six-speed automatic. Considering its nearly three-ton weight and vast array of off-road goodies, EPA still has the LR4 rated at 15 mpg city, 19 highway and 16 overall on premium gas.

One new standard feature is an auto stop-start function that shuts the engine down when stopped at a red light to help save gas. Compared to some other luxury vehicles the Land Rover's stop-start is unobtrusive.

We figure most LR4 owners have no desire to take their high-dollar vehicle off road even if they know that it can reliably slog through mud, rock climb, or ford rivers. The hard truth is that the LR4 doesn't make much sense on road as SUVs from several competitors such as Acura, BMW and Mercedes have better gas mileage and a lower purchase price.

Perhaps the LR4 should be left to those hard-core trail blazers who will, indeed, purchase it for its off-road capability, knowing full well its considerable prowess in leaving hard, dry land. For these people the LR4 offers a sense of excitement, knowing that there's not a dirt road in America — no matter how muddy and rut-filled — that can stop the Land Rover.

The LR4 is comfortably mid-sized stretching out 190 inches and with an available three-row seating configuration. It is considerably larger than the LR2, about the same size as the sporty and more expensive Range Rover Sport and about 10 inches shorter than the higher-priced and larger Range Rover.

We discovered that the new 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 makes 332 pound-feet of torque and is up to the challenge of moving the LR4 in exemplary fashion. For comparison purposes, the 5,655-pound SUV can accomplish a 0-to-60 run in 6.7 seconds and finish off a quarter mile in 15.2 seconds at 92 mph. Translation: plenty of go.

The LR4 comes in three trim levels — base, HSE and HSE Lux — starting at $51,395 including destination charge for the base model. That price brings an extensive amount of standard features including 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive air suspension, side steps, power front sunroof, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, eight-way power seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, rearview camera, seven-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and an 11-speaker Meridian audio system with CD player and USB/iPod interface.

Full-time four-wheel drive is standard for all LR4s. It now comes with a single-speed transfer case that's more efficient in everyday driving. The LR4's traditional two-speed transfer case, which offers low-range gearing and a locking rear differential, is still available as part of the Heavy Duty option package for $1,350 for those who plan to partake in particularly challenging off-road driving.

Either way, all-wheel drive comes with Land Rover's Terrain Response system that allows the driver to toggle among four standard settings — general, grass/gravel/snow, sand, and mud/ruts. Models equipped with the two-speed transfer case also get a "rock crawl" setting.

The LR4 has a very pleasing and comfortable interior including seats that sit the occupants up high imparting a commanding view of the surroundings. Passengers in the first two rows are accorded scads of headroom and very acceptable leg room. Unlike many sport utilities this size, the third row can actually accommodate two adults, at least for short trips. The problem is the dexterity needed to crawl in and then crawl out.

There's a very useable 42 cubic feet of space behind the second row, and 90 cubic feet with all seats folded. The downside is that with all three rows in place, storage is just 10 cubic feet, barely enough room for a weekly grocery run.

Beyond the base model, the mid-trim HSE starts at $56,295 including destination charge, and the top trim HSE Lux begins at $61,595. Note that despite the generous amount of standard equipment, there are numerous options to tempt the buyer. Our top-line HSE Lux came with a handful of options including the Heavy Duty package, a tow package, special 20-inch wheels and a Vision Assist Package including Blind Spot Monitoring bringing the bottom line to $68,270.

Base price: $51,395; as driven, $68,270
Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V-6
Horsepower: 340 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 332 foot-pounds @ 3,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: four-wheel
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 113.6 inches
Length: 190.1 inches
Curb weight: 5,655 pounds
Turning circle: 37.6 feet
Towing capacity: 7,716 pounds
Luggage capacity: 9.9 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 90.3 cubic feet
Fuel Capacity: 22.8 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 19 highway, 15 city, 16 combined
0-60: 6.7 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Lexus GX 460, Mercedes GL-Class, Acura MDX

The Good
• Exceptional off-road capability
• Luxury-infused interior
• Seating for seven people
• Large cargo area with seats folded

The Bad
• Only one engine option

The Ugly
• Anemic fuel economy