THE 2012 LAND ROVER LR4 REVIEW
Full Review by Andy: Who Gets the Credit?
The year 2008 threw the Land Rover LR4 in the middle of a bitter battle. A double-edged sword pierced its sheet metal skin: a global recession and a divorce. Four years after its near-death experience, the LR4 breathes fresh air again.
Thanks to the pecuniary imprudence of U.S. mortgage lenders, 2008 marked the first year of a global recession from which the world is still trying to recover. According to USA Today, luxury vehicle sales dropped by almost 13 percent in April 2008. As sales plummeted, dealers were left with dusty inventories that the most generous rebates could not sell.
Mired in a fiscal quagmire, Ford was forced to eliminate its peripheral brands such as Land Rover. In 2007, Ford announced its intentions to sell Jaguar and Land Rover. Four main corporations vied for the joint sale. Tata Motors, an Indian auto manufacturer, was the last contestant standing. It spent $2.3 billion dollars to acquire the dying marques. The following year, for the first time in eight years, Tata Motors posted annual losses due to the acquisition of Ford’s would-be lemons. Land Rover sold a pathetic 1,881 LR4s in the United States in 2008, over 9,150 units fewer than the year prior. Rumors speculated that Tata wanted to cut the cord.
But it was not to be. LR4 sales have ballooned since 2008. Last year, Land Rover sold almost 8,000 LR4s in America, and YTD numbers hint at similar or better performance for 2012. Why has the LR4 done so well? What has Tata Motors done that Ford did not?
In truth, Tata deserves less credit for Land Rover’s resurrection than Ford. The current LR4 is an overhauled LR3, both of which were developed under Ford leadership.
Yet even that is not entirely true. The LR4’s body style predates Land Rover’s ownership by the Blue Oval, dating back to Wilk’s original creation. The modern LR4 rides on 19-inch alloy wheels, has foglamps, a dual sunroof, and is slightly more wind-tunnel tested, but it retains the same classic styling.
In fact, Ford did not develop the powertrain either. The 2012 Land Rover LR4 uses a 375-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 known as the AJ133, a Gen III AJ-V8 engine developed entirely by Jaguar and originally used in Jags of the late ’90s. Ford merely borrowed the engine for Lincoln. The engine routes power through an automatic transmission to all four wheels via a full-time 4WD system with two locking differentials, a five-mode Terrain Response system, and adaptive air springs that adjust to road conditions and can raise ride height to 9.4 inches. So equipped, the LR4 is a British brute, capable of hauling over 7,700 pounds and skipping to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds. Given good enough rubber, one suspects the LR4 could summit a vertical glass wall. Drivers say the highway ride is quiet and comfortable, but the LR4 doe suffer from some body roll. The price for the LR4’s can-do, do-all attitude is 12/17 mpg, guzzling premium fuel. John Muir just died twice.
At least Ford can take credit for the lavish and luxurious interior, notwithstanding the LR4’s unmistakable anglophilia. An analog clock, for instance, reflects the car’s British roots. From its impeccably stitched leather upholstery to its sophisticated architecture, the LR4 reeks of richness, both visually and sensually. The quality of the underlying mechanics may be in question, but there is no doubt as to the decadence and craftsmanship of the cabin. The LR4 comes with either walnut or black lacquer wood trim.
(See 80+ images of the 2012 Land Rover LR4).
Thanks to the exterior’s boxy layout, the Land Rover LR4 houses up to 90.3 cubic feet of space. Accessing the cargo hold requires manually lowering the second-row seats and possibly the optional two-person third row. The stadium-style seating accommodations are spacious and comfortable, even for those relegated to the rear.
In grand Land Rover tradition, the LR4 comes loaded to the hilt with opulent features. Standard amenities include an 11-speaker audio system with all requisite ports, rear parking sensors, and a myriad of convenience features. Tacking on the HSE package adds front parking sensors and a rearview camera, an HDD navigation system, the third row, and more. Rounding out the lineup is the HSE LUX package, which adds in addition to the aforementioned amenities a 16-speaker Harmon/Kardon audio system, adaptive xenon headlamps, and enough heated amenities to warrant their own electric bill. Each trim contains abundant luxurious features not mentioned herein.
Who gets the credit for the Land Rover LR4? Land Rover, Jaguar, Ford, Tata, and the buyers of the LR4, the ones who truly gave it life anew.
Engine: 5.0-liter V8: 375 hp @6,500 rpm/375 lb-ft of torque @3,500 rpm
Transmission: six-speed shiftable automatic
Fuel Economy: 12/17 mpg
Base MSRP: $48,900
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