Driven: 2012 Land Rover LR4 HSE Lux

By Seyth Miersma

July 11, 2012

Ann Arbor, Michigan
 
The three-row premium SUV segment is an interesting space. The players range pretty widely in terms of price point, exterior size, and interior volume. This was all made clear when we compared three of the monsters a while back, including a Land Rover very similar to this 2012 LR4 we tested more recently.
 
In that comparison test, the LR4 was declared the ultimate victor in terms of offering the best driving experience, despite being somewhat handicapped by its smaller size. We can report that, with no very significant changes for this 2012 model-year LR4 that our love for the three-row Landie hasn’t diminished much.
 
[Click here to read our review of the 2013 Infiniti JX35]
 
A whiff of sophistication and elegance seems evident from the first tall step one takes into the LR4 cabin. Materials feel of a high quality if not overtly rich—there are certainly plastics in evidence, though few enough and nice enough that we don’t mind them. Controls are laid out in a reasonable fashion; the instrument panel is a bit button-heavy, but most drivers won’t take more than a few days to understand the fundaments. Perhaps most importantly, the controls that come to hand most often, steering wheel, gear lever, door handles, etc, all feel very robust and thoughtfully appointed.
 
Quick Drive: 2012 Land Rover LR4 HSE LuxThe interior room and packaging is pretty neat as well. It is true that the LR4 is smaller than some other three-row setups, but we think it works. Certainly the second and third rows are as good as the comp in terms of leg and elbow room, and the driver’s space only seems more cramped for those that are really long-limbed. The big tradeoff with the LR4, when compared with the Infiniti QX for example, is that you really must chose between space for cargo, and space for a third row. Where the Q has got three rows and a substantial loading bay, all of the Land Rover’s stuff-space is eaten up when the third row is erected out of it’s flat-folding home. This will make a difference for those who tote a lot of people regularly, but not so much if one is merely looking for the option of seating seven.
 
Shifting gears, we’ll say that the Land Rover navigation/infotainment touch screen is now, officially, in need of an update. The user interface and software both feel badly out of date when compared with the younger members of the competitive set (which, admittedly, has a longer life cycle than most). Swapping audio source, scanning radio stations, and programming in directions all take longer than they should circa 2012.
 
The counterpoint to that bitching is that the LR4 still feels like a value leader here. A sub-$50K starting price feels like a really good deal, and even around $60K for the three-row version keeps the competition thousands of dollars away. And, don’t forget, that money isn’t just buying you a lifted, upscale grocery getter—this is a truly utile truck for those looking to beat down the unbeaten path.
 
Let’s talk about just how hard-core a vehicle this is, for a start. The LR4 can boast of a five-way version of LR’s famous Terrain Response System, Hill Descent Control and Gradient Acceleration Control for those very steep pitches (and, of course, Hill Start Assist for steep pitches with stoplights), a heavy duty oil pan for the rocks that can introduce drama at steep approach/departure angles, and waterproofed belt drive, AC compressor, alternator, starter motor, and more.
 
All of that is a pretty critical part of the LR4’s appeal, we say. Because, even if the SUV isn’t regularly used to cross a mountain range, or ford a flooded creek, rest assured that the Land Rover has been engineered, as ever, to do those kinds of things. And, one of the really great reasons to opt for a Land Rover instead of a similarly sized luxury ute from other makers, is that the company has built its reputation on the back of off-roading ability.
 
With that said, we, like many buyers of the LR4 we expect, didn’t do anything more taxing than drive the truck over a stretch of gravel road, and slowly at that. We filled it full of all kinds of floating things, coolers, and people, and drove to a parking lot next to a river. We made use of the impressive articulation to hop over the edge of a curb when our wife had parked us in. We filled it up with groceries, took it downtown for dinner, and drove it to the office in the morning. Quick Drive: 2012 Land Rover LR4 HSE Lux
 
And, as you would expect, the brutally effective off-roader was nearly as competent in all of those mundane tasks, as it was when one of our editors crossed the Continental Divide in an LR4 a few years back.
 
If we’re picking nits, we’d admit that the suspension feels a little less than tied down to the road when we’re turning corners around town. Even low-speed changes of direction are met with quite a bit of vertical motion through the underpinnings, which makes for a bit of a boaty feel if one attempts to, for instance, change in and out of a lane of traffic pretty quickly. We’re also not huge fans of the ultra-light steering feel in an SUV this massive, but we understand that the resultant aid in low-speed maneuverability is probably worth the tradeoff for most buyers here.
 
Overall though, this is one very classy, smooth riding way to get around town. We dig the looks of the LR4, and we certainly enjoy the confident speed provided by its strong V-8. 375 horsepower are enough to vault this big boy to 60 miles per hour in about seven seconds, while also providing a towing capacity of 7716-pounds. Fuel economy is a bit depressing at 12/17 miles per gallon, city/highway, but you should probably know you’re not getting a fuel sipper at this size and class.
 
When it comes right down to it, there’s just something about a Land Rover. Given the stratospheric prices on offer for big luxury SUVs, we think the LR4 has plenty of that hard-to-classify British appeal, at a price that’s quasi-reasonable, too. And, naturally, if you’ve got a stylish rock crawling event in your future, the choice is crystal clear.
 
2012 Land Rover LR4 HSE Lux
Engine: V-8, 5.0 liters, 32v
Output: 375 hp/375 lb-ft of torque
Weight: 5833 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 12/17 mpg
Cargo Capacity: 90.3 cu ft
Base Price: $48,900