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2011 Land Rover LR4: Driven

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To anyone who's driven a Land Rover in the past—or a Mercedes-Benz Gelaendewagen, or even an old Isuzu Trooper—the LR4's appearance can be misleading.

The LR4 looks tall and tough—and yes, maybe tipsy—but it's really more graceful and coordinated than you'd guess.

And unfortunately, it's easy to rush to conclusions and call it just another truck from afar. From the Discovery to the LR3 to the LR4, the mid-range Land Rover's silhouette hasn't evolved that radically. In fact, squint just a bit and you could very easily mistake an LR4 for an LR3 and vice versa.

While this wasn't my first drive in a LR4, it was still a bit of a surprise that the LR4 carries itself on the road with so much more grace and poise—much more so than its predecessors.

The LR4 feels much more powerful than the LR3, thanks to its 5.0-liter V-8 engine, making 375 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque. It has much stronger low-rev responses than the engine it replaces; and the six-speed automatic shifts smoothly and locks up decisively, avoiding the low-rev torque-converter shuddering that plague some utes. Altogether, the V-8 doesn't make the LR4 downright quick but you can escape with your dignity as it can beat that much-maligned minivan in a stoplight drag race. Revs are kept low on the highway, yet a full throttle quickly demands a multi-gear downshift. This is one of those transmissions that you can shift manually, though the vast majority of the time you won't need to.

Yes, actually nimble—for an SUV

Nimble isn't a word that you'd likely apply to a big, burly ute either, at least not on-road; but it applies here in a sense. The LR4's rather numb, long-ratio steering and tall driving position aren't exactly reassuring, but when pushed to the task the LR4 can be hustled through tight curves with better body control than you'd ever think possible for an almost-6,000-pound ute. And on the highway, when you make a quick lane change or adjustment, the queasy secondary motions that were still abundant in the LR3 have been almost completely quelled.

You'd also expect the LR4 to become a little less settled as speeds ride, but it seems to hunker down and, provided you're comfortable with your height over the road—it can feel a little bit like you're taking off on a runway sometimes when accelerating hard on the highway—the LR4 handles 80 mph with stoicism, and there's only an amplification of wind noise to let you know. One other nit, though, is that you hear the engine a little too much; it sounds good, but in such a luxury vehicle, we don't think you should at a constant 70, for instance.

Plush, adult-friendly interior

This experience with the LR4 included zero time driving off-road. In fact, we spent most of the time ferrying out-of-town visitors around city and suburbs and using the LR4 as a passenger wagon. For that, the LR4 excels, and while it's far from the most efficient way to transport four adults around it sure does it in comfort. Even with the front seats scooted back for tall occupants in front, there's enough adult knee room in back and a good view outward for the first two rows. We're not so fond of the third row's elevated position, though; unless you need it for kids you might as well keep it folded—or get one of the five-passenger versions. And we're not sure about the side-hinged rear door; it depends on what you'll be loading and how important power openers are (this one's all manual).


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