Are you the type of person who pays scant attention to what's fashionable at the moment? Are you comfortable standing out in a crowd? Yes? Then Land Rover's LR4 and its long-standing safari-meets-suburbia style is your SUV.
Appearance: It's ungainly, striking and signature Land Rover: high cabin, two-bar mesh grille and asymmetrical rear window/split tailgate. For 2012, there are improved LED taillights. Our tester was "Siberian Silver," which seems misnamed; it's more a sophisticated (baby?) blue. Maybe the color wheel is different in Siberia. Either way, it's sharp. Overall, the look is of sophisticated ruggedness.
Performance: There's not a lot of places to go — as our British friends might say — "rambling" in the city, but we did our best. We took the LR4 to Gandy Beach near the bridge. This is where the Land Rover shines when compared with some of its luxury SUV competition — it's a legitimate off-roader. The LR4 has permanent 4-wheel drive with traction control, as well as adjustable air suspension. (Peter set it higher when driving over a parking-lot median when blocked in by traffic.) You can use a knob on the center console to choose from five terrain settings. This was perfect for our foray on Gandy's "Redneck Riviera," where the LR4 handily navigated the sand, ruts and mud. There is one engine choice for the LR4, a 5.0-liter V-8 that packs 375 horsepower, which is good for acceleration and off-roading, but horrible on mpg (12/17). The 6-speed automatic shifts smoothly and quickly, and there are Normal, Sport or Manual modes. On the pavement, the LR4 is a smooth, stable ride, with a surprisingly good turning radius. Still, you'll always be aware of its tall body, which is prone to lean and compromises handling.
Interior: The cabin is luxurious and expansive, with rich leather in the dash and seats, walnut trim and soft-touch materials. We can't imagine the more upscale Range Rover line improving on it much. The 7-inch touchscreen in the dash seems dwarfed by its plush surroundings. The front seats are a bit stiff, but feature great bolstering, which is good for off-pavement jaunts. There's plenty of headroom, even in the third row, which really isn't for adults. Our nits: Those way-back seats are difficult to fold. You have to reach in from the second row to do so, which is counterintuitive. Land Rover would also be wise to add a power hatch closer. (Lyra also found the defrost-element lines in the windshield annoying and headache-inducing.)
Our 3 favorites
Armrests: They are adjustable on the captain's chairs.
Ride selection: The console knob makes it easy to switch terrain modes.
Cabin: It makes for a luxury environment no matter your surroundings.
Sunroof: All passengers get a panoramic view that makes the cabin bright and airy.
U-turns: Excellent turning radius plus great acceleration equal exhilarating.
All-terrain: Sand? Mud? Rocks? No problem.
The bottom line: This Land Rover isn't for everyone. The LR4 tackles all kinds of terrain, but unless you need that capability, it's probably not the best option for a luxury SUV. Then there's the mpg . . .