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2011 4x4 Of The Year Wrapup: Land Rover LR4 HSE

Posted in Project Vehicles on June 1, 2012 Comment (0)
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2011 4x4 Of The Year Wrapup: Land Rover LR4 HSE

For those of you who missed it, and for those of you who dissed it, our 2011 4x4 of the Year winner wrapup is here. That’s right, the lowdown and real skinny on the Land Rover LR4 HSE, one of our most expensive winners. But then again, what do you get for that $65,000 price tag? That’s what we wondered. After picking it as our choice and wheeling it for a year, we have the answer right here for your perusal.

When Land Rover decided to best the popular LR3 and continually improve the Land Rover line, the automaker said goodbye to the Discovery model on this side of the pond. Instead we received a fully independent suspension (FIS) rig that had heritage behind it, as well as baggage. We all know the limits of FIS on a true off-road rig, but even with this handicap the folks at Rover threw their engineering know-how at the problem and delivered a rig that bested three other contestants—no small feat considering what it competed against: the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor Supercab 6.2L, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the Lexus GX-460 Premium. The pickup and SUVs were all formidable competitors, but time and time again the spunky LR4 bested them, even considering the high price of entry.

Over the course of a year and some 40,000 miles we thrashed the beast through thick and thin, including treks we can’t even tell you (much less the manufacturer) about. In every instance we felt the LR4 could handle what we wanted to put it through, but because of the price and suspension style we admit that we hesitated to put it in really extreme situations. Even though the traction control system is a phenomenal advance over all its competitors, the LR4 is still electronically based, which limits our trust. But in fact the only time it let us down was the fault of the driver not heeding the limitations of an automatic system, not the system itself.

In all, the Land Rover LR4 is a stupendous evolution of the stock 4x4 Land Rover, carrying some of the best features forward while improving on the worst. Ride comfort, handling, power, performance, and general all-around style are superb, and we miss driving the beast since it’s been gone. It fared well in all situations, even while covered in mud on our suburban street. One dog-walker passing by exclaimed, “Wow! I’ve never seen a Land Rover with mud on it. It looks great!”

Wearing dirt, leaves, and mud as a badge of honor and to show city slickers that indeed the marquee can perform admirably, the LR4 has been enjoyable to have. Other comments (like “How’d ya get that here?” on a rock trail) were just as enjoyable to hear. We even upfitted it with the available BFG knobbies for more rugged looks and capability. Since it is a factory option, we figured it was the smart thing to do.

If Land Rover makes another iteration of the LR4 or, better yet, brings back the solid-axle Disco, we’ll be keen to test it out. While the new Evoque has won high honors in the car-based media, its lack of low-range gearing keeps us looking askance at that model. But for power, performance, luxury, style, and a hefty dose of good old-fashioned 4x4 ability, the Land Rover LR4 is hard to beat. Like many before, we miss her already and dream of the days.

The LR4 is equipped with a peppy 5.0L V-8. While fuel efficient, it propels the car mightily, even with way too much weight behind it. We appreciated the towing capability of the LR4 in comfort and style, and it hauled all our other junk around without complaints or problems. The self-leveling air suspension was handy when we had too much tongue weight. While not a huge SUV, the LR4 could be stuffed to the gills and still be a competent wheeler. Long trips to score some cool parts or tires were not a problem, and the leather seats all fold safely away to prevent grease and tire marks on the inside. It makes for happy hauling. The incredibly sophisticated four-wheel-drive system was almost too involved. While a simple low-range control and a separate terrain knob handled most of the duties, there were still more options. This interesting message came to our attention long after we needed it: “For further suspension lift press raise switch and brake pedal for 3 seconds.” We already thought we were at the highest point, but this raised us even more!

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