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Land Rover's boxy, traditional-looking off-road-focused model was given a thorough refresh, a new engine, and other improvements a couple of years ago, gaining the name LR4 (replacing LR3). Now, the 2012 Land Rover LR4 gets a number of improvements inside, with its audio, connectivity, and navigation systems all updated.Visually, the LR4 is the most conservative and classic of Land Rover's models--and perhaps one that's most instantly recognizable as a Land Rover, other than the Range Rover. With its upright, safari-chic look—with a tall, boxy body and short overhangs—it shares plenty with the smaller LR2 and the big Range Rover. Inside, the LR4 gets all the details right, clearing out the plasticky bits of the former LR3 in favor of a better-organized dash, with trims done in rich wood veneers and softer-touch materials.
The LR4 looks tall and tough, maybe tipsy, but it's really more graceful and coordinated than you'd guess. You won't find the LR4 at all lacking in power, either. Its 375-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 engine pushes the heavy LR4 with enthusiasm, making it feel almost nimble. 60 mph comes in less than 7.5 seconds, which is relatively quick for this kind of vehicle. A six-speed automatic transmission teams with four-wheel drive to give this SUV confidence, provided you're not steering or braking too quickly. The LR4's rather numb, long-ratio steering and tall driving position aren't exactly reassuring, but when pushed to the task the LR4 can be hustled through tight curves with better body control than you'd ever think possible for an almost-6,000-pound ute. Fuel economy, too, remains abysmal, at 12 mpg city, 17 highway.
But there's no hiding that off-road is where the LR4 really hits its stride. Last year, Land Rover made Hill Start Assist, Gradient Acceleration Control, and an improved Terrain Response system standard on all LR4 models. With those aids plus stout construction, a four-corner, independent, height-adjustable air suspension, the 2012 LR4 has impressive capability on and off the trail. Land Rover's exclusive Terrain Response system (with separate modes commanding the behavior of an armory of electronics for several different driving conditions, such as "mud and ruts" or "sand and dunes") helps select the right settings for all the components, to fit the terrain.
The is available in five- and seven-passenger versions, and both of them include top-notch comfort for the first two rows, a hushed, refined cabin, and a reasonably plush ride. Even with the front seats scooted back for tall occupants in front, there's enough adult knee room in back and a good view outward for the first two rows.
The 2012 Land Rover LR4 starts at around $50,000, but it feels every bit the part of a luxury vehicle, and the controls and features are fuss-free. In recent years, the LR4's navigation system and screen-based interface has closely mirrored the one offered in Jaguar vehicles, and we like the simple, intuitive layout. The list of standard features is long and includes Bluetooth, rear parking distance control (recommended), dual-zone climate control, and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, while upper-level HSE LUX models get goodies like bi-xenon headlamps, power heated mirrors, a heated steering wheel, heated washer jets, a navigation system with off-road features, and front park-distance control. For 2012, the nav system has been upgraded with traffic-message capability and voice activation; the top harman/kardon audio system now powers to 825 watts, and the rear-seat entertainment system has been updated.
- Tough and off-road-ready
- Great seat comfort and driving position
- Adult-sized second row
- Premium interior
- Strong acceleration
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- SUV handling, all the way
- Thirst for premium fuel
- Tight third row
- Spotty reliability