2011 Land Rover LR4 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
December 19, 2010

The 2011 Land Rover LR4 takes on tough terrain with ease, and it's become more adept at imparting a carlike driving feel.

Last year Land Rover's rugged, mainstream LR3 model was given an upgraded interior, a new engine, and other improvements and renamed LR4. For 2011 Land Rover is making this serious off-roader even more capable with the addition of Hill Start Assist, Gradient Acceleration Control, and an improved Terrain Response system—plus several new standard features and options.

Visually, the LR4 is the most conservative and classic of Land Rover's models, other than the Range Rover. The LR4 was officially new last year, but its styling is mostly carried over from the former LR3. The upright, safari-chic look—with a tall, boxy body and short overhangs—shares plenty with the smaller LR2 and the big Range Rover-though it's certainly the most vertically inclined. The interior of the 2011 Land Rover LR4 excels in the details—something that wasn't necessarily true with its predecessor, the LR3. It's completely fresh and swaps out the plasticky bits of the former LR3 for a suave leather-trimmed dash with rich wood trim, softer-touch materials, and far more logical placement of controls.

With 375 horsepower on tap from its 5.0-liter V-8 engine, the heavy LR4 feels almost fleet and nimble, with plenty of power to move it to 60 mph in under 7.5 seconds. A six-speed automatic transmission teams with four-wheel drive in a body that weighs nearly 6,000 pounds. The LR4 isn't as responsive on the road as carlike crossovers; the driving position is very tall, and it feels at first as if the LR4 is going to be tipsy in corners, but it maintains impressive composure in on-road cornering and on rough road surfaces better than most truck-based SUVs.

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Off-road is where it really hits its stride. A four-corner, independent, height-adjustable air suspension and 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") help bring impressive off-road ability to the 2011 Land Rover LR4 without sacrificing on-road handling. And for 2011, Terrain Response has been improved, while new Hill Start Assist and Gradient Acceleration Control modes help tackle steep slopes that are either loose or slippery.

The 2011 Land Rover LR4 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. The optional third-row seat is strictly for children, but the "pedestal" third row has an elevated roof for more headroom and can fit adults in an emergency—they'll find the seating position to be awkwardly high though. It's very difficult to access, but it tucks away nicely when not in use.

While the 2011 Land Rover LR4 starts just under $50,000, it feels every bit a premium luxury vehicle. The list of standard features is long and includes rear parking distance control, 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, front park-distance control, and magnificent 550-watt premium surround sound. All 2011 Land Rover LR4 models now include Bluetooth connectivity, a feature that was previously offered only in the HSE. A colorful, high-contrast LCD touchscreen is included in all models to control audio and climate functions, as well as iPod connectivity.

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2011 Land Rover LR4

Styling

The 2011 Land Rover LR4 looks classically rugged and ready on the outside but has a plush, well-detailed interior.

Visually, the LR4 is the most conservative and classic of Land Rover's models, other than the Range Rover. The LR4 was officially new last year, but its styling is mostly carried over from the former LR3. The upright, safari-chic look—with a tall, boxy body and short overhangs—shares plenty with the smaller LR2 and the big Range Rover-though it's certainly the most vertically inclined.

Other cosmetic updates last year included painted bumpers, a new honeycomb grille, new headlamps, and tail lights.

The interior of the 2011 Land Rover LR4 excels in the details—something that wasn't necessarily true with its predecessor, the LR3. It's completely fresh and swaps out the plasticky bits of the LR3 for a suave leather-trimmed dash with rich wood trim, softer-touch materials, and far more logical placement of controls. High-end trims get perks like walnut trim and premium leather with new stitching.

That said, just as in other Land Rovers the interior is still a little busy, with more individual buttons than other luxury vehicles. There's been less condensing controls into a centralized interface—a trend that's followed the popularity of smartphones and the like—but many will appreciate it.

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7

2011 Land Rover LR4

Performance

Off-road prowess is clearly the emphasis in the 2011 Land Rover LR4, but it isn’t as clumsy as you might think on-road.

The LR4, which was 'new' in name but not completely in other ways last year, was significantly different mechanically, shedding all the old Ford and BMW architecture and replacing it with a new 5.0-liter V-8 engine that's closely related to the one used in Jaguar models. Altogether, performance and responsiveness were modestly improved, even if fuel economy wasn't.

With 375 horsepower on tap, the heavy LR4 feels almost fleet and nimble, with plenty of power to move it to 60 mph in under 7.5 seconds. A six-speed automatic transmission teams with four-wheel drive in a body that weighs nearly 6,000 pounds.

The LR4 isn't as responsive on the road as carlike crossovers; the driving position is very tall, and it feels at first as if the LR4 is going to be tipsy in corners, but it maintains impressive composure in on-road cornering and on rough road surfaces better than most truck-based SUVs. That's thanks to an independent double-wishbone suspension with height-adjustable rear air springs and the LR4's range of electronic aids-and a series of revisions to its suspension and steering. There's still plenty of lean, though, and the LR4 is by no means a vehicle that you'd enjoy taking out on a canyon road.

Off-road is where it really hits its stride. A four-corner, independent, height-adjustable air suspension and 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") help bring impressive off-road ability to the 2011 Land Rover LR4 without sacrificing on-road handling. A central-locking differential engages when conditions warrant maximum grip. And for 2011, Terrain Response has been improved, while new Hill Start Assist and Gradient Acceleration Control modes help tackle steep slopes that are either loose or slippery.

To keep the LR4 at an even pace, Land Rover improved the brakes last year as well, with stopping distance as well as pedal feel improved versus its predecessor. That said, there's still a lot of nosedive and excess body motion when you stomp on the brakes firmly.

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8

2011 Land Rover LR4

Comfort & Quality

The 2011 Land Rover LR4 has enough space to get five adults around comfortably, but the third row is only for kids.

The 2011 Land Rover LR4 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.

In front, passengers get nicely shaped leather bucket seats with Land Rover's infinitely adjustable armrests-but they don't get much room for their knees, between the door panels and the wide center console. But the second-row passengers actually have it best; the LR4 requires a little taller step-in than crossover drivers will like, but the middle row has a good view of the world, and the bench seat is firm enough for long-distance comfort.

The optional third-row seat is strictly for children, but the "pedestal" third row has an elevated roof for more headroom and can fit adults in an emergency—they'll find the seating position to be awkwardly high though. It's very difficult to access, but it tucks away nicely when not in use.

Five-passenger versions have a large cargo hold instead, and all LR4s have decent console and cubby storage, as well as a shallow top glove box teamed with a larger, lower compartment. The LR3 had a reputation for unreliable operation, and the LR4 swaps in new electronic controls for the entire vehicle and a new engine-so buyers should understand both before signing on.

Second- and third-row seats can be folded completely flat to open up a vast cargo space of up to 90 cubic feet. Factor in two gloveboxes, huge cupholders, and plenty of cubbies for smaller items throughout, and the LR4 has the goods for a cluttered, frenetic family environment.

While build quality could vary wildly for its LR3 predecessor, it seemed, impressions of the LR4 so far haven't seen this to be the case with the LR4.

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8

2011 Land Rover LR4

Safety

The 2011 Land Rover LR4 has the goods for safe off-roading and trailering, but it's lacking in crash-test results.

The Land Rover LR4 has not been crash-tested by either NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) or the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety).

Front side airbags are standard, along with side curtain bags covering first- and second-row occupants. Anti-lock brakes are also standard and include an all-terrain mode. With third-row seating comes separate side curtain bags to protect those rearmost occupants.

Active (swiveling) headlamps are available in the LR4, while parking sensors and a rear camera system help with visibility; but overall outward visibility is surprisingly good, thanks to the elevated seating position.

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8

2011 Land Rover LR4

Features

The 2011 Land Rover LR4 might be tough and off-road-ready, but its standard-feature set rivals that of luxury sedans in the same price range.

While the 2011 Land Rover LR4 starts just under $50,000, it feels every bit a premium luxury vehicle. The list of standard features is long and includes rear parking distance control, dual-zone climate control, and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. An upper-line HSE adds goodies like bi-xenon headlamps, power heated mirrors, a heated steering wheel, heated washer jets, a navigation system with off-road features, front park-distance control, and magnificent 550-watt premium surround sound.

All 2011 Land Rover LR4 models now include Bluetooth connectivity, a feature that was previously offered only in the HSE. A colorful, high-contrast LCD touchscreen is included in all models to control audio and climate functions, as well as iPod connectivity.

Options include Sirius Satellite Radio, adaptive front lighting, and a cooler box. The front passenger seat has eight-way power adjustments, and the power-adjustable steering column has a memory function.

Also for 2011, a new Vision Assist Package brings to HSE and HSE LUX models HID headlamps, adaptive front lighting, automatic high-beam assist, an upgraded surround camera system, power-folding mirrors, and Trailer Assist and Trailer Hitch Assist.

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4

2011 Land Rover LR4

Fuel Economy

With fuel economy numbers that are near the bottom of its class, the 2011 Land Rover LR4 isn’t at all green.

The 2011 Land Rover LR4 comes in a single powertrain combination, which gets EPA fuel economy ratings of 12 mpg city, 17 highway. From the experience of our editors as well as others, real-world driving will run toward the lower end of that scale.

Sadly, that's only slightly below par for this class of V-8-powered, large off-road-ready SUVs. But it's near the bottom among all new vehicles and not at all green, considering some versions are only good for five passengers.

The LR4 also requires premium gasoline, which will drive your fuel budget even higher—though if you're a buyer of this model that probably isn't of much concern.

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