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2011 Land Rover LR4

Land Rover: When luxury and off-road capabilities collide Add to ...

The 2011 Land Rover LR4 is big, heavy, fast and capable of amazing off-road feats. Beyond amazing, really.

If a Porsche 911 Carrera Turbo is far too much race car for city streets – and it is, but who cares? – then the LR4 is a truly safari-ready rig that in most Canadians households does most of its work in the wilds of shopping malls, dodging carts and housewives laden with packages. Sure, the LR4 will ford streams, ease down boulder-strewn trails and climb over logs. And you can do amazing lap times on a racetrack in a 911. Owners of most will almost never do either.

Overkill? Of course. And fun, and comfortable, right down to the king-of-the road seating position. This Range Rover is refined, too. The cheap-looking interior of the old LR3 is gone, replaced by a first-class passenger compartment; the clumsy highway handling has been fixed, also.

And it feels powerful enough – not a small achievement for an SUV weighing 2,587 kg, with a 3,500 kg tow rating. Why? The 5.0-litre, 32-valve, direct-injected V-8 borrowed from Jaguar is rated at 375 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque and it’s paired with a superb six-speed ZF automatic transmission. Like other Land Rovers, the LR4 has a sophisticated full-time four-wheel-drive system.

This V-8 delivers effortless acceleration using premium fuel and lots of it – 17.1 litres/100 km city/11.6 highway. Oh, yeah, gas guzzler, just like the Mercedes-Benz GL550 4Matic ($88,900), a key rival. Frankly, I doubt many who buy the LR4 ($59,990) worry much about fuel consumption.

Yet Land Rover would make the LR4 more appealing to more buyers if it offered a diesel engine with a 25 or 30 per cent fuel economy bump. Mercedes offers lots of diesels and they are big sellers in Canada.

Okay, to the LR4’s cabin. It’s new and practical and luxurious, and more in keeping with Land Rover’s Jaguar cousins. You know, Jaguar and Land Rover are marketed and sold through the same organization and it’s a subsidiary of Tata Motors of India. Nothing wrong with that, by the way. Tata seems to be a supportive owner, more so than Ford was before it. But that’s another story.

Land Rover Canada sells one basic version of the LR4 and it’s loaded with standard features, including a very cool sunroof: three glass panels, two of which are fixed over the rear seats, the third over the front seats that opens and closes. All that glass, not to mention the low beltline at the side, makes the interior feel airy and open. Great visibility, too.

The rest of the package is what you’d expect: leather-faced seats, power everything, automatic air conditioning, even four-door curb lights.

For another $3,750, you get the HSE package, including satellite navigation and radio, Bluetooth and better wheels. For $2,500, there is seven-passenger seating. And for $10,800, Land Rover delivers the HSE stuff, seating for seven and a long list of electronic gizmos – rear-view camera, park-distance control, passive keyless entry, a better sound system and on and on. …

Land Rover says the optional third-row seat delivers room for seven adults and that’s dreaming. More like four adults and two small monkey-nimble children. With the third row folded, the cargo space is a little smaller than a Mercedes-Benz GL.

Oh, and all the important safety equipment is standard, though the LR4 has yet to be crash-tested by the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. I would expect this rig to be robust in an accident, though.

Better still, Land Rover’s engineers have upgraded the suspension and steering to the point where active safety is worth a positive mention. The on-pavement handling is more poised and more responsive and more controlled thanks to solid work on the suspension and steering – the latter in particular delivers pretty good feedback and more control.

Despite being very tall and with the long suspension travel of a bush-whacker, the LR4 changes direction quickly and without scaring everyone. The suspension handles all that height and weight far better than it really should – at least for a truck as tall as an apartment building. The highway ride is comfortable and quiet, too.

When there is no pavement, well, nothing can touch what the LR4 can do. The basic engineering is key, but so is Land Rover’s Terrain Response system. Turning a knob in front of the gearshift lever allows the driver to prepare the vehicle for conditions like snow, sand, mud or rocks. The computer then adjusts the suspension, brakes and power train for each situation.

The rest of the left-brain story goes like this: Land Rover quality is dead last in both of J.D. Power and Associates most recent short- and long-range studies. Not good. On the other hand, ALG predicts the LR4 will hold its value over three years better than anything else in its class short of the Infiniti QX56. Very good, indeed.

It looks pretty cool, too – despite or because (depending on your point of view) it’s big, heavy, fast and capable.

jcato@globeandmail.com

2011 Land Rover LR4

Type: Full-size luxury SUV

Price: $59,990 ($1,270 freight)

Engine: 5.0-litre V-8

Horsepower/torque: 375 hp/375 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: All-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 17.1 city/11.6 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: Mercedes-Benz GL, Lexus LX, Infiniti QX56

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