2008 Land Rover LR2

2008 Land Rover LR2 2008 Land Rover LR2
First Drive Review

The LR2 is known as the Freelander 2 elsewhere in the world, but Land Rover's North American brass have decided to jettison the name here, in the same way the Discovery moniker morphed into the LR3. Perhaps that's because the Freelander wasn't that great a small luxury truck, but more likely because the LR2 is moving upmarket to compete with the Acura RDX and BMW X3 rather than the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. The LR2 has also grown up. It's nearly two inches longer and about 600 pounds heavier than the Freelander.

The LR2 certainly looks upscale, mainly because it has plenty of styling elements from other Land Rover products, such as the LR3-style rear pillar and the Range Rover Sport-like front-fender treatment. Inside, head- and legroom are class competitive, but the luggage space — 27 cubic feet with the rear seats up, 59 with them down — isn't as generous as a CR-V's or RAV4's. In keeping with the truck's newfound luxury status, power front seats, leather seating, and a sunroof are all standard, as are seven airbags. Items such as swiveling high-intensity headlamps and a DVD-based touch-screen navigation system are included in options packages.

The underpinnings of the LR2 share a lot with the new Volvo S80. The Volvo donates its front crash structure, lower-control-arm and strut-front suspension layout, fire-wall stamping, and parts of its front subframe to the unibody LR2, along with a similar all-wheel-drive layout and a 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine. (The strut-type rear suspension is unique to the LR2.)

This transversely mounted 3.2-liter DOHC unit makes 230 horsepower and 234 pound-feet of torque and is mated to a six-speed Aisin-Warner automatic transmission that has manumatic shifting. Permanent all-wheel drive works through a Haldex clutch pack that's mounted in front of the rear differential. There is no low range, but the vehicle is equipped with hill-descent control and Terrain Response, which has four selectable modes that vary throttle sensitivity, the levels of traction, stability, and hill-descent control, and Haldex preload, depending on conditions.

Although the LR2's ability to plow through sand dunes and clamber over rocks is about as relevant to its normal use as invading Iraq was to defeating jihad-crazed terrorists, we had a chance to plow and clamber, and the LR2 was impressive.

However, as most LR2s are going to be transporting tots to school or their moms to facials, on-road demeanor is much more important. The LR2's biggest strength is marrying a supple ride with poised handling, although it isn't as overtly sporty as the X3 or RDX. The six-cylinder engine provides decent rather than startling performance: Land Rover claims 0 to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds and a top speed of 124 mph.

The LR2 is a huge step forward over the Freelander, but that will likely be reflected in a price of about $38,000 for a fully equipped vehicle. The LR2 is good enough to compete; the variable is whether people will pay the extra for a Land Rover over a CR-V, which does pretty much everything equally well, except for bounding through the boonies.