Please answer the following question as honestly as possible. I require a sport/utility vehicle because:
(A) I chase gazelle across the Gobi Desert (well, I do some camping in locales without electrical outlets).
(B) A huge and rugged vehicle is essential for visiting the farmer's market, picking up fresh organic greens, and chauffeuring Dacoda to her pottery class.
If you answered "B," close this magazine immediately, shred it, place the tatters in your compost heap, and buy a Honda Civic. If you answered "A," however, read on. Gathered here are three industrial-grade sport/utes. And, yea, we're going stalk through the valley of death.
Until the arrival of Jeep's redesigned Grand Cherokee (just months away at the time of this test), the three grit-tamers gathered here represent the best of their luxurious breed. Land Rover's LR4 is new for 2010, a thorough revise of the maker's LR3 (our 2005 Sport/Utility of the Year). Improvements include a revised suspension, enhanced Terrain Response system, and a gorgeous cabin, but the big news lies under the hood: a new Jaguar-sourced, direct-injection, DOHC, 5.0-liter V-8 making 375 horsepower-a 25-percent increase over the outgoing 4.4-liter mill. Another SUOTY winner (for 2007) is the unibody Mercedes-Benz GL450, a velvet-cloaked bruiser with a stout 4.7-liter V-8 and a superb seven-speed automatic. Rounding out our trio is the Lexus GX 460, which first appeared in 2002, but, like the LR4, is heavily reworked for 2010. Sharing its updated platform with the new Toyota 4Runner, the GX remains a body-on-frame workhorse-with fresh styling, a handsome new interior, an electronically controlled transfer case, and, most significant, a version of the 4.6-liter V-8 that romps in the Tundra pickup.
Again, we judged these seven-passenger tanks (each offers three seating rows) primarily on how they fared through Death Valley-hundreds of miles from such hedonistic diversions as Starbucks and the Olive Garden. If you're after something to ferry Dacoda to her harp-stringing lessons, this comparo won't serve you well. If you're looking for the dirty truth, though, read on.