The most changed vehicle in our test from its previous version was the Grand Cherokee. Riding on an all-new fully independent suspension platform with styling to match, the Jeep was praised for its athletic new look. Many of our testers felt the exterior was reminiscent of a European SUV. However, the high beltline was noted as reducing visibility in the Jeep.
On the inside, the previous interior, formed of the same grade of plastics that Rubbermaid settles on for its trash cans, has been replaced with truly world-class materials. Styling is thoroughly modern with understated luxury and a host of amenities. For less than $46,000 you get a leather-stitched dashboard, navigation and even heated rear seats. The real fun is getting in and grabbing the meaty wood-rimmed steering wheel that seems to have the same circumference as a baseball bat and feels just as good in the hand.
Hit the road and the Grand really shines. With Selec-Terrain in Sport mode, the Grand hunkers down, biases power to the rear and sacks the twisties like they are John Elway on the gridiron. It is truly a blast to drive in tight, winding stretches of road and is just as satisfying on wide straight portions of Interstate, where a taut ride and quiet interior work well to keep the occupants relaxed.
Overall the Grand is well thought out, with easy to understand switchgear and a level of value that undercuts the next-most expensive competitor by over $10,000.
The GX 460, by contrast, was a bit of a disappointment to the staff in the styling department. The once distinctive style of the GX series looks like a melted lozenge of its former self, with uninspired lines that left the staff wondering what happened to our beloved GX.
Inside, the GX is nice enough, with quality materials and a very executive-looking interior that has a mix of metal, leather, and wood. However, the Toyota roots are still evident, as it feels a half-step behind the others. Seats were as comfortable as anything in the test, and the quiet cabin bordered on a depravation chamber in its serenity and smooth ride. One tester feared the tranquil Lexus would cause him to nap at the wheel, but then discovered the great audio system to help keep him awake.
One place where there was no disagreement amongst testers was the Lexus' refined powertrain, with an engine that was eager to rev and well matched to the transmission. Passing power was immediate, and the Lexus never felt like it was in the wrong gear or breaking a sweat, despite having the smallest engine and least amount of power in the test.
The Lexus was noted for having solid steering and being far more dynamically capable on the road than the stability control would allow. To us, the GX seems like it would make a fantastic commuter. It always feels safe and in control, but rarely ever fun.
Unlike the Lexus and Grand, which only needed a quick tutorial with many of their controls being intuitive, the Land Rover requires a semester course in vehicle operation. The beautifully crafted LR4 interior is wrought with an array of buttons marked with hieroglyphics that aren't all easily deciphered. Simple interactions with the LR4 can be frustrating until you learn the shortcuts. This is not a car for the technology challenged.
Thanks to the boxy styling that manages to look both distinctive and modern, the LR4 has vast amounts of space inside. Slab sides and a tall greenhouse translate into 10-gallon hat headroom and plenty of cargo space. Expansive glass above and to the sides gives every passenger a front row view to the outside world, and a low beltline with narrow A-pillars provide the driver with
More refined than the LR3 it replaces, the LR4 keeps the great ride, but the vehicle feels better planted when pressed. The tall LR4 never feels top-heavy, but it does tend to get pushed around more on the highway by crosswinds. We also thought the LR4 steering was too quick, especially at highway speeds, netting comments in the logs about how the Land Rover felt twitchy on the highway.