2010 Land Rover LR4: An Upscale Journey Through the Urban Jungle
The debate over the usefulness of traditional, capable SUVs in today’s world seems to be coming to a close, with the more efficient and car-based crossover winning the argument. Who really needs a rock-climbing 12-mpg mountain goat on four wheels when all it gets used for is to pick up the kids from school and get to the mall?
For mainstream customers, there is no doubt that a crossover is a far better and more rational choice. But at the upper echelons of the marketplace, it’s not about rationale. It’s about image. It’s about knowing that even though the most challenging incline you’ll ever encounter is the spiral ramp that goes up the Beverly Center parking structure, your vehicle could scale Everest. Think about it: why else are commercial grade Viking appliances and five-figure digital SLR cameras so aspirational? It’s because their image is tied to professional strength capability, no matter that you won’t ever use said capability.
Land Rovers have history and heritage oozing from every seam; it’s a heritage of rugged capability and cultured exploration. Land Rovers have explored every corner of the earth, plodding their way through mud, ravines, rivers, and whatever else Mother Earth can throw in their path. No doubt, these are extremely capable vehicles.
How does all that capability translate then to a Land Rover’s true habitat today, the modern urban jungle? Is it too much vehicle? Would a modern crossover indeed work better?
Our test vehicle, a 2010 Land Rover LR4, is a nicely reworked follow-up to the LR3. Visually, it’s not much different from the LR3, but it does boast a new front end, new tail lights, a richly updated interior, and a new 5.0L direct injected V8 with 375HP. And over a rain-soaked weekend, I enlisted five intrepid explorers (in the form of my wife, three nieces, and nephew) for an expedition through the urban jungle of Los Angeles. Our destination? An upscale youth symphony event at the famous Walt Disney Concert Hall. Sounds like a perfect job for a Land Rover, right? Adventure, class, culture, and room for all!
Let’s start with the revised interior. It’s gorgeous. The new interior is stunningly sumptuous, with rich-looking hand-sewn leatherette covering the dash and door panels and gorgeous matte-finish wood tastefully applied throughout the cabin.
More importantly for our young explorers, however, was the basic architecture of the vehicle and its impact on the interior package. This is a tall three-row vehicle with a high roof and high, chair-like seats (even for the very spacious third row that often gets overlooked in lesser SUVs and crossovers). It also has massive windows and three individual glass skylights in the roof – one for each row of seats! Simply put, the kids were never bored or agitated as we plowed through the city because each of them was so comfortable and had such a marvelous view out of the vehicle. As we drove through downtown, our young explorers looked up through the skylights and counted gargoyles on the facades of the old gothic skyscrapers above us, and looked around from their elevated perches at all the fascinating non-stop big city hustle and bustle. Quite simply, this vehicle may be the best sightseeing vehicle you can buy without a commercial driver’s license.
We drove all through the city, experiencing a lantern festival in Chinatown, feasting on gourmet cupcakes at Sprinkles in Beverly Hills, and finally descending upon the Walt Disney Concert Hall for the L.A. Phil’s Beethoven in the House concert, a kid-friendly introduction to the musical genius of Ludwig van Beethoven. All the while, the LR4 never missed a beat as it deftly smothered giant potholes with ease (remember, this thing is made to ford streams and climb rocks) and maneuvered through city obstacles in a manner defying its considerable exterior bulk. Its air-suspended four-wheel independent suspension and that potent V8 definitely work wonders in the urban jungle.
The LR4’s biggest drawback is, not surprisingly, its considerable thirst. This is a big, heavy, ladder-framed vehicle meant to handle serious off-road duty. As such, we averaged 12 miles per gallon over the weekend, with about 70% city driving. The EPA rates the LR4 at 12 city/17 highway, for the record. Keep in mind too that premium fuel is recommended.
As for whether such a vehicle is overkill for urban family usage, I for one found that the very attributes that make it so capable off-road – tall, big windowed, and high off the ground – make it one of the most enjoyable family vehicles around for both driver and passengers alike. And if you’re one of those affluent conscientious consumer types who would feel guilty about using so much fuel (like I probably would), well, go buy some carbon offsets then! Your family will thank you. Trust me – they will.