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In the Maxim Garage: 2010 Land Rover LR4

Most car manufacturers have taken their SUVS “crossover,” instilling them with car-like driving manners (and car-like mpg’s) while crafting them with curves softer than a bar of Ivory melting in the bathtub. But the new LR4, Land Rover’s entry-level five seat SUV, sets itself apart with a defiantly squared-off design and even more defiantly truck-like road manners. In design and performance, the LR4 is refreshingly rugged.

Given the opportunity to take one for a spin on a January weekend, I set out from Manhattan to World’s End State Park in Northeast Pennsylvania, a nearly 200-mile drive over sleet, snow, and rain-slicked highways. The LR4’s clubby wood and leather interior—along with heated seats and a heated wheel—made me feel far removed from the awful weather. Or maybe it was from playing “Margaritaville” on repeat. (I’m kidding.)

Regardless, driving the LR4 is a guilty pleasure. The view from the high-up driver’s seat is commanding, and opening up the throttle of its 5.0-liter V-8 unleashes a satisfying jolt. That 375-hp, 375 lb.-ft of torque-producing powerplant—and some pretty good brakes—make it easy to forget that you’re piloting a nearly-6,000lb monster.

What makes you remember, though, is a trip to the gas station. The LR4 goes through gasoline like the Jersey Shore’s Pauly D goes through hair gel. It’s rated at 12city/17hwy, or a combined 14mpg. I had to fill up just 250 miles into the trip. That fuel economy is pretty dismal, but then again, those who have the bennies to buy this nearly $60K ride are likely numb to any pain at the pump.

One place LR4 drivers won’t feel any pain: off the beaten track. While a majority of the British-built brutes won’t leave the pavement, Land Rover has maintained a serious commitment to building beastly off-road capabilities into its vehicles. The LR4’s can be dialed up with its terrain response system, a switch that adjusts the chassis, throttle response, and drivetrain to suit grass/gravel/snow, sand, mud, ruts, and rocks when you’re off the highway. I kept the LR4’s terrain response system on its “snow” setting for much of the weekend, and drove with confidence, but I surely didn’t come close to approaching the vehicle’s off road limits. (There are driving schools to teach you how to do that.) Some of the LR4’s underpinnings are even waterproof. You know, for when you have to ford a creek on the way to work.

A couple of weeks after my visit to World’s End (pictured above), melted snowpack wreaked havoc on the park, destroying roads and bridges in a flash flood (nobody was hurt.) I’ll admit I have a perverse wish that I was there during the flood—I’m sure the LR4 would have got us out of that mess just fine.

2010 Land Rover LR4
Price: from $47,250
Engine: 5.0-liter V-8
Torque: 375 lb.-ft @ 3,500rpm
Horsepower: 375
0-60: 7.5 seconds