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2011 Land Rover LR4 HSE Review

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2011 Land Rover LR4 HSE

SEE ALSO: Land Rover Buyers Guide


2011 Land Rover LR4 HSE

A luxury SUV this week, how nostalgic! Feels like 1999 all over again… except that this is a Land Rover LR4, and Land Rover does not follow trends. The British manufacturer essentially invented the luxury SUV with the debut of its Range Rover back in 1970, and has been building exceptionally capable luxury utility vehicles ever since.

Luxurious as it is, in the finest British wood-and-leather manner inside, and with all of the expected comforts and conveniences, the LR4 is the mid-level Land Rover in North America. It's the spiritual and stylistic descendant of the Discovery and an all-weather, all-terrain alternative to a mid-level luxury sedan. The Range Rover and Range Rover Sport hold fort at the premium end, while the LR2 is the company's alternative to the mass of entry-luxury crossovers.

After receiving a major makeover last year, with a new powertrain and chassis and interior upgrades, one would expect few major changes for 2011. One would be not quite correct. While there are no major mechanical differences, there are the usual reconfigurations of option packages, improvements to the Terrain Response™system, and an interesting Vision Assist Package that includes cameras mounted around the lower perimeter of the vehicle, enabling the driver to see what otherwise would be invisible, be it rocks or tree stumps or holes offroad or a high curb in the city.

The 2011 LR4 is offered in base five-seat form, or in seven-seat HSE and HSE LUX trim. Power for all is from a 5.0-liter twincam V8 with a healthy 375 horsepower. It's matched to a six-speed multi-mode electronically-controlled automatic transmission, and of course a sophisticated full-time dual-range, multi-mode four-wheel drive system. The fully-independent suspension was redesigned for 2010, to decrease body roll and improve stability and ride quality on or off pavement. The LR4's Integrated Body-Frame™ construction is best seen as a cross between truck body-on-frame construction and a car's unibody; sturdier than a unibody and more rigid than body-on-frame, and built to allow over 7000 pounds of serious towing.

The HSE package adds two folding third-row seats, a variety of comfort upgrades, a voice-activated touchscreen navigation system, HD and satellite radio, external audio player (including iPod®) connectivity, 19-inch wheels, and a rear-view camera -- all of the goodies and gadgets expected in a contemporary luxury car. Except no mere car can go to some of the places that a Land Rover can… My test example had that, and also the Vision Assist Package, fascinating and useful widgetry even if I didn't get into the bush. The vehicle ( I can't call it a "car") is quick, handles remarkably well, and is as comfortable and coddling as the best equivalent British luxury automobile (which would be from its cousins at Jaguar), with the added bonus of clearance -- up to 13 inches -- and true bad-conditions ability that won't be found in any sort of crossover, luxury or otherwise.

APPEARANCE: Credit the English sense of history and tradition. A Land Rover LR4 looks like a proper utility vehicle. An upscale and luxurious utility vehicle, to be sure, but a utility vehicle nonetheless. It's moderately large, boxy with slightly smoothed edges, a chamfered front to the hood, and prominent fender flares. Despite its upright appearance, attention has been paid to aerodynamics, especially in the front bumper and underneath, helping to reduce wind noise, fuel consumption, and lift at high speeds. The two-step roofline and vertical window between the C and D pillars are hallmarks from the original Discovery, and give the LR4 a distinctive look and instant recognition. As does the asymmetric rear window. The vents in the front fenders are functional, feeding air into the intake. Don't ford a stream deeper than that…

COMFORT: Inside, the leather on the seats and doors and burled wood on the instrument panel, center stack, and doors could only be British, elegant and understated. Instrument and control design and position are also quite functional, with no undecipherable gimmickry. Even the Terrain Response, ride height adjustment, and hill-descent controls are simple and obvious, with informative icons. The upright seating position offers good comfort and a fine view of the road, at least to the front. Judicious use of the mirrors is required as there are large rear-quarter blind spots, not unusual at all with SUVs -- or cars, for that matter. Power front seats and a steering wheel adjustable for both tilt and reach allow drivers of all sizes to find a comfortable seating position; the steering wheel has a comfortably-thick leather rim and driver information, cruise, and audio controls. With the HSE package, it, front, and outboard second-row seats are heated. The second-row bench is split in thirds for maximum versatility. Passengers get both ceiling and console air vents. The two third-row seats stow flat into the cargo floor when not in use, and provide space for medium-sized adults when necessary. Nowhere is headroom a problem, and legroom shouldn't be unless the passenger in front is extremely tall. All three rows get a view of the sky, but only the front moonroof opens, both tilt and slide. The cargo floor is higher than that in a crossover or minivan. Electronic systems of note: The navigation system uses a simple touchscreen interface. All current varieties of audio can be played. The Vision Assist cameras are useful when parking or backing. I never went offroad so can't vouch for that situation, but consider them to be a virtual spotter, not a bad thing at all.

SAFETY: Side-impact door beams, dual-threshold front, front side, and side curtain airbags for the first and second rows, and strong ventilated disc brakes with antilock, electronic brake-force distribution, emergency brake assist, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Active Roll Mitigation (ARM), Cornering Brake Control (CBC), and Hill-Descent Control (HDC) are standard equipment in the 2011 Land Rover LR4.

RIDE AND HANDLING: It may be truck-sturdy, but the LR4 also offers its occupants luxury car levels of ride comfort and handling. Long gone are the Discovery's solid axles, replaced front and rear by double wishbones and long-travel variable-rate computer-controlled air springs and gas shocks. Ride height is variable, via a control on the console, and can vary from 10 to 13 inches, with a lowered "access" mode. This sophisticated suspension is the LR4's most remarkable feature. Where the Disco was softly-sprung for off-road prowess and so overly-soft for pavement use, the LR4 is perfect anywhere. The computer monitors wheel travel and suspension speed and reduces body roll to almost un-noticeable levels while keeping the bumps and holes of the road (which in my part of the world is often rougher than a good dirt trail) unobtrusive. To best handle varying surfaces, including pavement, snow, dirt and gravel, mud, ruts, and slickrock, the Terrain Response system ties engine, transmission, suspension, and the various dynamic safety systems together for optimum performance. Think Eurofighter Typhoon versus the Disco's Spitfire.

PERFORMANCE: Yes, the LR4's 5.0-liter V8 shares its architecture and many components with Jaguar's newest AJ-V8. Meaning a thoroughly modern aluminum alloy unit with dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, direct fuel injection, variable cam phasing on all cams, activated by the torque of valve operation, cam profile switching, and a variable-length intake manifold. But it's tuned differently, for more low-rpm torque, befitting the LR4's offroad and towing missions, and features a deeper, pressure-cast oil sump to better deal with the tilting angles that may be encountered in serious off-road use, and waterproofed accessory belt drives, alternator, and other accessories. It makes 375 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 375 lb-ft of torque at 3500 rpm, with plenty of torque right off idle - just what's needed to tow a heavy trailer ( up to 7700 lbs.) or climb a steep, loose surface. The six-speed automatic transmission features adaptive shift logic and normal, sport, and manual modes, with sport delaying shifts for quicker acceleration. And the near-6,000 pound beast can accelerate, to the tune of about 7.5 seconds from 0 to 60 mph. The huge, ventilated brakes haul it down from speed as well. Given its weight and near-barn door aerodynamics, don't expect fuel economy. EPA ratings are 12mpg city, 17 highway, and in a week of mixed but mostly city and secondary road driving I managed barely 12.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2011 Land Rover LR4 combines traditional British luxury, Land Rover all-weather and all-terrain ability, and modern technology.

2011 Land Rover LR4 HSE

Base Price			$ 47,650
Price As Tested			$ 57,900
Engine Type			DOHC aluminum alloy 32-valve V8 with
				 direct fuel injection, variable cam
				 phasing, cam profile switching, and
				 variable-length intake manifold
Engine Size			5.0 liters / 305 cu. in.
Horsepower			375 @ 6500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			375 @ 3500 rpm
Transmission			6-speed electronically-controlled
				 multi-mode automatic
Wheelbase / Length		113.6 in. / 190.1 in.
Curb Weight			5883 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		15.7
Fuel Capacity			22.8 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				255/55R19 111V
				 Continental Conti 4x4 Contact
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc all around,
				 ABS, EBD, BA standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent double wishbone all around,
				 long-travel variable-rate computer-
				controlled air springs and gas shocks.
Suspension travel f/r		10.0 in / 13.0 in
Ground Clearance		7.3 to 9.4 in.
Drivetrain			longitudinal front engine,
				  permanent multi-mode dual-range
				  4-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		12 / 17 / 12
Towing Capacity				7716 lbs.
0 to 60 mph				7.5  sec

14-speaker Logic7® 480-watt premium audio		$   900
Climate Comfort Pack - includes:
  heated seats & steering wheel, heated windshield
  and washer jets					$ 1,500
Extended Global Paint Palette Option			$   950
Vision Assist Package for HSE - includes:
  xenon headlights, surround camera system,
  adaptive front lights, high beam assist		$ 1,800
7-seat HSE Package - includes:
  Climate Comfort Package, Seven Seat Comfort
  Package, HSE Badge Navigation System, Hard Disc
  Drive with 7" color touch screen, Voice Commands,
  Halogen Lamps with LED Signature Lights, 
  19" 7-spoke alloy wheels, Satellite Radio and Digital
  Radio (HD), USB/iPod® Connectivity,
  Rear Camera						$ 4,250
Inland Transportation					$   850