At some point, Land Rover’s image transformed from rugged, jungle-conquering, desert-traversing, go-anywhere, testosterone-fueled beast, to a soccer mom’s vehicle of choice, more likely to be seen trolling the Costco parking lot or the carpool lane than traipsing off-road. Case in point, during my weeklong test drive, my 2013 LR4 was far from the only Land Rover in the parking lot at the local Whole Foods.
That said, Land Rover is every bit the off-road brand it ever was, even if its owners tend to stick to the pavement; any list of top off-road vehicles would be lacking without one on it. Anyway, who said that rugged and luxurious were mutually exclusive concepts? The LR4 is both.
Stylistically, while everyone else is flaunting curves, the LR4 remains unapologetically square, and iconically Land Rover. This slab-sided, tall physique equals ample interior room for seven adults to fit comfortably, when equipped with an optional third row. Third row sits are fussy to operate (one might expect a power feature, but alas, old fashioned muscle is needed here), but can actually accommodate people who are not toddler-sized, no contortion required. The interior is luxurious, with leather seating, and stitched dash, console and door casings, trimmed in natural-finish wood. Adding to the airy ambiance is a three-paned sunroof, the front-most of which slides open to bring the great outdoors in, either while taming the trails or braving suburbia.
The LR4’s technologies also take into account its dual use as a luxury family hauler and a go-anywhere all-terrain explorer. It is equipped with permanent all-wheel drive, coupled with the Terrain Response System that has five settings to suit specific demands: general driving, grass/gravel/snow, sand, mud and ruts, and rock crawl. The system also incorporates hill-descent control to restrict downhill speeds in slippery conditions.
While negotiating the Rubicon Trail, climbing rocks, and fording 34-inches of water, you can listen to your chosen soundtrack through an awesome 380-watt, 11-speaker harmon/kardon sound system (an 825-watt, 17 speaker system is optional). The scenery and the drive provide all the entertainment you’ll need off-road, but on long road trips, the kids can watch movies or play on their game console when the LR4 is equipped with the optional rear entertainment system, which includes wireless headphones.
The LR4 is, no-doubt, a large vehicle. Its three trim levels (base, HSE, and HSE LUX) are all powered by a 375-horsepower V-8 engine with a six-speed transmission — more than sufficient to handle suburban roads and reach highway speeds quickly. Five cameras in the available Surround Camera System give you a near-360-degree view of your surroundings, relayed to the five-inch LCD touch screen in the dash, which also houses most operating controls (audio, navigation, climate, etc.). This system is invaluable in parking lots and when maneuvering out of tight spots off road.
It may not be a practical vehicle for every lifestyle, but the LR4 is a status symbol that has the goods to back up its reputation, whether it’s envied for its luxury factor or its rugged ability to go literally anywhere. It is the epitome of the all-purpose vehicle.
Pricing: $49,950 to $54,175 (base);$64,090 (as tested). As tested price includes the LUX package ($9,225), Black Design Package with 20-inch black wheels ($3,500), satellite and HD radio ($750), and Protection Package ($520).
Fuel Economy (city/highway/combined): 12/17/14