9.06.2011

2011 Land Rover LR 4 Review

Front 3/4 view of bronze 2011 Land Rover LR4 at the beach
The 2011 Land Rover LR 4.

Younger TireKicker readers may be shocked to learn that the Sport Utility Vehicle pre-dates the Starbucks-wielding soccer mom.

Back in the day, they were fairly utilitarian beasts, these Chevrolet and GMC Suburbans, International Travelalls,  Toyota Land Cruisers and Land Rovers. But the first of these to appeal to an upscale clientele struck gold. And that was Land Rover.

Anywhere on this earth where the pavement ended, a Land Rover was the answer to the question "how do we get there?".  And that covers not just Bureau of Land Management cattle trails, but vast uncharted swaths of rugged mountains, thick jungles and deep deserts.

Land Rover was the perfect platform from which to go luxo, because the question of "can it make it?" was never an issue. And it's still not.

One of my favorite David E. Davis, Jr. lines was "It'll climb a tree if you're brave enough". And that applies as much as ever to the Land Rover LR4. Want to go to the ends of the earth? Places your GPS doesn't know about? Your ride is here.

Rear 3/4 view of bronze 2011 Land Rover LR4 on dirt trail above mountains with fog and clouds
Rear view (and then some) of the 2011 Land Rover LR 4.

To prove the point, Land Rover sent along a very-nearly-base version of the LR4 (the vehicle once known as the Land Rover Discovery). Ours came with just three options...black lacquer finish trim ($350), the Climate Comfort Pack (heated seats and steering wheel plus heated front windshield and washer jets for $1,500) and the Rear Seat & Climate Package (including a 3rd row seat with curtain airbags, split-folding second-row and rear climate control, accessory socket and map lamps for $1,150). All worthwhile options, especially given the altitudes at which you might be driving your LR4.

Which means that the rest of what you get for your $47,650 is standard equipment. And that includes the best terrain response system on the market...allowing you, with a simple dial, to tell the LR4 that it needs to deal with snow, mud, sand, rocks or...dry pavement (hey, it'll happen sometime).

There's also a 375 horsepower, 375 pounds per foot of torque 5-liter V8 engine with direct fuel injection mated to a six-speed automatic transmission (which itself has normal, sport and manual shift modes), permanent four-wheel drive with Traction Control, a two-speed electronic transfer gearbox with variable locking center differential, 19 by 8" aluminum alloy wheels, four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with ABS, all-terrain dynamic stability control, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Cornering Brake Control, Hill Descent Control, Emergency Brake Assist, four-corner electronic air suspension and a six-airbag supplemental restraint system all wrapped in a body and frame that feels infinitely more solid than anything else on the road.
Instrument panel of 2011 Land Rover LR4
2011 Land Rover LR4 interior.

So is it all rugged utilitarianism? Well, no...and yes.

No, because this is a luxury vehicle and you will be as comfortable in it as the term "luxury" implies.

Yes, because it's a different kind of luxury. One absent fragility. Everything in the Land Rover LR 4, from the seats to the switchgear, feels and is substantial. The seats are some of the best we've ever been in...conjuring up thoughts of turning a run to the store into a thousand mile journey just to see where the road (or lack of it) goes. And the modern amenities (dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, cruise control, power seats, windows and sunroof, a 240-watt, 9-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with auxilary input, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel iwth audio controls mounted on it, leather and wood throughout) are all there.

The result: A strong, secure SUV that never puts a foot wrong. An environment that not only exudes luxury worth $47,650...but also value, a feeling that you've bought something that will do its job for a long, long time.

Downsides? Just two. The EPA estimate of 12 city/17 highway is sobering...especially on those weeks when you're doing mostly city driving. And the sunshades over the power sunroof and fixed alpine roof let a bit too much light and heat through. But remember...we drove it in Phoenix during the hottest August on record. Your temperature may vary.

Bottom line: The LR 4 is proof that brilliantly engineered, purpose-built (and built to last) machines are still out there. And it's proof that "rugged luxury" isn't an oxymoron.


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