Land Rover LR4 Review and Road Test – Off-Road Winter Driving in Vermont

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The LR4 comes with the all-new 5.0-liter aluminum V-8 engine and it was designed to provide low-end torque to support both on-road and off-road activities.   Unlike most other engines, its belt drives, alternator, air conditioning compressor, power steering pump, and starter motor have all been waterproofed to support activities such as fording streams.  The Jaguar version of this engine was launched in the XF sports sedan LINK.

The Terrain Response system, which already had settings for general driving, grass/gravel/snow, and mud and ruts, has been further refined.  Each setting has different suspension adjustments and throttle response. Two new control modes were added.  The “sand” mode prevents the loss of traction when driving in soft sand and “rock crawl” applies brake pressure at low speeds to improve the car’s stability on slick rocks.  Sand, which is particularly difficult to drive on, will be easier to navigate thanks to Sand Launch Control, which permits a very  limited wheel slip to ensure that wheels don’t dig down into the sand.

Hill Descent Control has also been enhanced.  A new feature, Gradient Release Control inhibits initial acceleration when descending very steep inclines first by temporarily keeping the brake engaged after the driver releases it and then slowly releasing braking pressure to keep the vehicle under control.

The interior has been completely redesigned and is far more upscale than prior versions.   A mixture of elegant wood veneers, nicely-executed soft plastic surfaces, and (at night) LED ambient lighting, greets the driver along with extraordinarily easy-to-read gauges.  A single TFT screen displays a variety of information in the center stack.  Bluetooth and iPod connectivity are standard as are rear parking distance control, dual-zone climate control, and an excellent nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.  The HSE LUX models get bi-xenon headlamps, power heated mirrors, a heated steering wheel, heated washers, navigation with off-road specific features, front parking distance control, and a Harman Kardon 550-watt Logic 7 sound system

All dials and buttons are easy to reach with the exception of the unnecessarily complex menuing on the touchscreen display.  Captain’s chairs with individual armrests (in addition to the armrest on the center console) are standard and, thanks to their high position, mounted to provide an extraordinary view of the road.

The second row of seats folds down easily and a third row is decidedly for the not-quite-adult set.

In the United Kingdom, a 3.0-liter diesel V-6, with twice the torque as the V-8, also consumes half the fuel but Land Rover hasn’t (yet) seen fit to offer this in the States.

The LR4 drives remarkably like a traditional SUV despite its off-road bent.  Steering is precise and nicely weighted and the ride (with off-road settings off) is downright comfortable.  While the fully independent suspension has been optimized for off-road driving, the adjustable air springs lift the suspension in Off Road mode while Access Mode actually lowers the vehicle to make entry and exit easier.

The LR4 is one of the few SUVs that I have driven that is truly comparable to a well-handling sedan but, thanks to its incredible off-road capabilities, it will never be able to shake the nickname I began to give it during day one, namely the British snowmobile.

2011 Land Rover LR4
Base price/price-as-tested $47,650/$60,915
Drivetrain Front engine, all-wheel drive
Engine 5.0-liter/375 hp/375 lb-ft torque/V-8
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (lbs) 5,833
Wheelbase (inches) 113.6
Length x width x height (inches) 190.1 x 75.4 x 74.1
0-60 mph (seconds) 7.5
City/highway fuel economy (mpg) 12/17

–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.




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