2012 Land Rover LR4 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Seats up to seven, goes anywhere.
The Land Rover LR4 offers amazing off-road capability yet on the road it is quiet and comfortable. Inside is a leather-appointed cabin that coddles passengers in luxury.
LR4 is still fresh from a complete redesign for 2010. Since then, Land Rover has focused on upgrading its high-tech functions. For 2012, the electrical architecture was redesigned to employ the latest infotainment functions and other technology.
The 2012 Land Rover LR4 comes standard with a harman/kardon audio system that has been upgraded to 380 watts and 14 speakers. The top optional system for the 2012 LR4 now blasts 825 watts through 17 speakers. Steering wheel stalks have been revised for 2012 for easier use and higher quality appearance.
The 2012 Land Rover LR4 HSE comes standard with a hard-drive navigation system with updated graphics for more user-friendly operation. Also redesigned for 2012 is the driver information screen within the instrument cluster, which can displays audio information, phone book entries and navigational direction symbols (augmenting the main navigation screen).
The LR4 seats five but can seat seven when equipped with an available third row. The LR4 is a midsize luxury sport utility, a class that includes the Lexus RX 350, Mercedes-Benz GLK, Audi Q5, Acura MDX, and BMW X5.
The Land Rover LR4 and Range Rover Sport share platforms, powertrains, drive systems and sophisticated suspensions. The LR4 comes standard with slightly less luxury equipment than does the Sport, though most of those features are available as options. The LR4's wheelbase is more than five inches longer than that of the Range Rover Sport yet the LR4 is only two inches longer overall. The LR4 has short front and rear overhangs to avoid damage in rugged terrain.
The LR4's looks are distinctively Land Rover. It's a happy, familiar shape that manages to pull off both boxy and, thanks to rounded edges at every opportunity, svelte if not sleek.
The cabin is a complete success in terms of comfort, luxury and utility. Everything is lush to the eye and hand, and the quality of the interior materials is a high as it gets, beautifully fit and finished.
Underway, the Land Rover LR4 is very comfortable and quiet. The LR4's capability off road is nothing short of phenomenal. Its suspension articulation coupled with the latest in traction control technology allow the LR4 to creep over extremely rugged terrain, the worst off-road trails, the most primitive of roads, and in all kinds of weather.
The Land Rover LR4 comes with a 5.0-liter 32-valve V8 with direct injection and variable camshaft timing, making 375 horsepower and 375 foot-pounds of torque. The 6-speed automatic transmission shifts sharply, and has Normal, Sport and Manual modes. The LR4 can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in only 7.5 seconds, a sprightly pace given the LR4's weight of about 5850 pounds.
All LR4 models come with full-time all-wheel drive with a selectable low range, although it's an understatement to describe the Land Rover's state-of-the-art traction-control system so simply. For off-highway travel, the electronic two-speed transfer case can be shifted on the fly. But the magic is in the Terrain Response System, with its five settings: Highway, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, and Rock Crawl. All you have to do is look out the windshield, select the correct setting for the terrain, and the LR4 will coordinate all of its off-road technology accordingly, including setting the suspension height. The system also includes Hill Start Assist and Gradient Acceleration control, which helps maintain downhill speeds on rough or slippery terrain when Hill Descent Control isn't set. If you want to drive to Tierra del Fuego, an LR4 would be a great choice.
The LR4 meets the government's ULEV2 emissions requirements, meaning it's greener than required by law. It's no economy vehicle, however, with an EPA rating of 12/17 mpg City/Highway.
The 2012 Land Rover LR4 ($47,650) comes standard with leather seating and trim; dual-zone climate control; eight-way power seats; a multi-function steering wheel,; cruise control; keyless entry; power windows, mirrors, locks and tailgate; HomeLink; collapsible steering column; AM/FM/MP3 audio with an auxiliary jack, iPod compatibility, and virtual CD player; electronic parking brake; front and rear foglamps; privacy glass; power sunroof with Alpine roof; rear park distance control; Hill Descent Control; Hill Start Assist; Gradient Acceleration Control; 4-wheel electronic traction control, and 19-inch alloy wheels. LR4 comes standard with seating for five.
The 7-Seat Comfort Package ($1,250) adds a third row of flat-folding seats, longer head curtain airbags, second-row climate controls with additional outlets, and a third-row map lights and accessory power outlet. (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
LR4 HSE ($53,975) upgrades with voice-activated HDD navigation with 7-inch touch screen, rearview camera, Bluetooth hands-free phone capability, front and rear park distance control, driver information center for off-roading, Sirius satellite radio, halogen projection headlamps with LED lighting, map light, and the 7-seat package. The HSE Luxury Package ($5,000) adds 825-watt harman/kardon audio; Xenon headlamps; heated seats front and rear, memory for the driver's seat, steering wheel and mirrors; electronic power steering; premium leather; and heated windshield washers.
The HSE Vision Assist Package ($1,800) includes bi-xenon HID headlamps, Adaptive Front Lighting System, Automatic High Beam Assist, and the Surround Camera System.
Options for LR4 include harman/kardon Logic7 audio ($900); Climate Comfort Package ($1,500) with heated front and rear seats, steering wheel, windshield and washer jets; Heavy Duty Package ($750) with active locking rear differential and full-size spare wheel and tire; a revised rear-seat entertainment system ($2,500), now with dual 8-inch screens, six-disc DVD changer, WhiteFire headphones and remote. There are also special paints, and 20-inch tires and wheels ($2,500-3,000). Black lacquer interior wood trim, previously an extra-cost option, is now offered for no extra charge.
Safety equipment standard on all models includes six airbags, collision-activated inertia switch (unlocks doors, turns off fuel pump and activates hazard flashers), Dynamic Stability Control, ABS with Electronic Brake force Distribution and Emergency Brake Assist, and tire pressure monitor. The 7-seat package includes curtain airbag protection for the third-row seats.
The Land Rover LR4 presents a shape well-known throughout the world where it is known as the Discovery 4. It's a shape that manages to pull off boxy and, thanks to rounded edges at every opportunity, svelte. Here it's viewed as posh and upscale. In many parts of the world it's viewed as capable.
The LR4 grille features two horizontal bars with perforations that suggest eggcrate but don't really say Land Rover, despite the badge that literally says so. The big headlamps at each end of the grille might do more to establish the identity, as they reflect the all-business nature of the Land Rover: They're out there and ready to work, with twin round beams inside, LED parking lights at their edges, above round projector-beam foglamps on the fascia below the grille.
The sheetmetal is softened by rounding from the hood down to the grille, and, more distinctively, behind the headlamps to the fenders. All in all, it's a good-looking front end for a big SUV, including the nice touch of alloy-colored vents on each front fender behind the wheel, in recognizable eggcrate mesh.
The fender flares are smoothly full, consistent with the LR4's other rounded edges, and Land Rover says the front flares actually reduce aerodynamic lift. The standard 19-inch wheels and 55-profile seem less suited to serious off-roading than, say, a smaller-diameter rim wrapped in a meatier sidewall, but they are what the market demands. At least the 19-inch alloys feature a sturdy, all-business seven-spoke design, while both of the 20-inch options are a bit frillier.
Maybe the best view of the Land Rover is one people won't see unless they're 10 feet tall, the view looking down on the roof. The privacy glass on the third side window wraps up to the big dark Alpine roof that exposes the sky to the passengers inside, and forward of that is the power sunroof that's not quite so wide. From above, it sets the Land Rover apart and makes one realize what a special vehicle this is.
From the rear, it's unmistakable Land Rover, with the stepped rear hatch and the massive vertical taillamps, all business like the front headlamps.
The Land Rover LR4 interior is a complete success in terms of comfort, luxury and utility. Everything in the cockpit is luxurious to the eye and hand, and the quality of the interior materials is high, beautifully fit and finished. Underway, it's very comfortable and quiet.
The front-row power seats are beautifully stitched, supportive and comfortable. The thick multi-function steering wheel mounts a complete set of controls for audio, telephone and cruise control.
The second features a rear seat split 35/30/35, with each section folding flat to afford limousine-like rear seat leg room in the third row, or to accommodate combinations of cargo and passengers.
A third row is available for seven-passenger seating.
Up front, the driver's controls are relatively easy to understand and use. Moving many accessory functions to the touch screen at the center of the instrument panel means that not as many switches or knobs are needed. Steering wheel stalks have been revised for 2012 for easier use and higher quality appearance.
Also redesigned for 2012 is the thin film transistor (TFT) driver information screen within the instrument cluster, which can displays audio information, phone book entries and navigational direction symbols (augmenting the main navigation screen). For 2012, the phone book function can store several thousand entries, up from 700 in the 2011 LR4. For 2012, the Smart Key fob is smaller than before yet retains all functions, including lock, unlock, tailgate release and panic alarm.
The base stereo includes a new virtual CD changer, which allows you to upload the contents of 10 albums (in uncompressed, full-quality format) onto the hard disc drive. The virtual discs can then be played as CD albums. Portable Audio Connectivity allows streaming and control of audio files from an iPod, iPad, or USB-connect device. In addition, Bluetooth allows playing music from a compatible phone or device through the audio system.
For 2012, the navigation system has been updated with improved graphics. The Towards Guidance feature supplements the junction map and icon-based information with details of actual road signage seen by the driver along the route. And a new Say What You See voice activation for onboard and connected devices helps the user learn applicable voice commands by displaying a step-by-step format on the 7-inch touch-screen.
The optional surround camera system uses five cameras, two facing forward, one on either side of the truck facing down, and one at the rear to give a near-360-degree view of surroundings. Camera views can be selected from the touch screen, and the view can be zoomed if necessary. Remarkably and fantastically, it shows you exactly where your trailer is headed during backup maneuvers, guiding you to the correct spot. This feature was developed for this reason, but also for checking ground clearances and terrain when driving off-road.
The Land Rover LR4 comes with a 5.0-liter DOHC V8 with direct fuel injection and variable camshaft timing that makes 375 horsepower and 375 foot-pounds of torque. The design is shared with Jaguar, but the Land Rover version has been changed to be better suited for off road. It uses a deeper oil pan to maintain engine lubrication at high lean angles, and all the exposed pulleys, belts and motors have been waterproofed, including the starter, alternator, and air conditioning compressor. The LR4 was designed to be able to ford 28 inches of water.
Coupled to a 6-speed ZF automatic transmission that shifts quickly, the V8 can accelerate the LR4 from 0 to 60 mph in only 7.5 seconds, a downright sprightly pace given the LR4's weight. The transmission has Normal, Sport and Manual modes, and the electronic two-speed transfer case can be shifted on the fly. The LR4 meets ULEV2 emissions requirements.
The LR4 is rated to tow 7700 pounds, though we don't see towing to be its forte. Trailer Stability Assist is an option that works like electronic stability control: sensors detect oscillation in the trailer, and use throttle intervention and braking to get the trailer to stop weaving. We recommend getting Trailer Stability Assist if you plan to tow.
The suspension uses electronically controlled air springs and shock absorbers, providing excellent handling and little body roll in corners, especially for a hefty truck that rides this high off the ground and has a high center of gravity. The ride is smooth and the steering response is surprisingly good. It's a wonderful mix of luxury, silence and serenity. If you come upon a surprise in the road, the chassis and brakes and big tires will handle it. If you find a challenge in the middle of a corner, the LR4 takes it on with a minimum of fuss.
The Terrain Response system has five settings: Highway, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, and Rock Crawl. All you have to do is look out the windshield and select the correct terrain, and the LR4 will drive accordingly, including setting the suspension height. Its capability in rough terrain earned it the crown for 2010 Off-Road SUV of the Year at the 16th annual Mudfest, a competition for SUVs put on by the Northwest Automotive Press Association.
Our test of the LR4 included two days of off-road driving in Colorado's San Juan Mountains, over trails that exceeded 13,000 feet. The rock-crawling challenges we faced far exceeded anything most Land Rover owners will ever face, yet there was nothing that even caused our LR4 to pause, except maybe the dangers, when we climbed out to peer over the cliffs we might drop over if we made a big mistake. With guidance from Land Rover instructors riding shotgun, we saw first-hand the amazing things the LR4 was capable of, and how the sensors found traction in any situation, including climbing up steep bare rock covered with dust. Suffice it to say that you're unlikely to ever get stuck in the mud.
We used Hill Descent Control much of the time, and it worked flawlessly to keep us out of trouble on steep downhill rocky paths. Gradient Acceleration Control kicks in to keep the car from going too fast, when Hill Descent Control isn't set. These sensors are so smart the best way to drive on steep, muddy downhills is with no feet, letting the system control wheelspin as you steer down the correct path. And going up, we used Hill Start Assist, to keep from sliding back when we went from the brake pedal to the gas.
The large and quiet brakes do the job well, even when driving through water that covers them completely. We got out on the highway at high speeds, and they hauled the heavy LR4 down admirably. Brakes on the LR4 HSE are the same as the Range Rover Sport's 14.2-inch ventilated front discs and four-piston calipers, with 13.8-inch ventilated rear discs and twin-piston calipers.
The Land Rover LR4 delivers phenomenal off-road capability, luxury, comfort and panache. Its high-tech V8 engine offers an abundance of power and torque, although gas mileage is low because of the LR4's weight and shape. The ride is exceptionally smooth, handling good, considering its size, brakes are big, and safety is at the top of the heap. The interior materials and comfort are first class, and cargo capacity with the fold-flat second and third rows massive. The LR4 is simply untouchable in its off-road and foul-weather capability.
Sam Moses contributed to this report after his test drive of the Land Rover LR4 in Washington's Columbia River Valley; with Jim McCraw reporting from Scotland.
Land Rover LR4 ($49,750); HSE ($53,975).
Options As Tested
Climate Comfort Package ($1,500) including heated first and second-row seats; heated windshield, steering wheel, and washer jets.
Land Rover LR4 HSE ($53,975).
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