Review: 2008 Land Rover LR2
This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2012.
By Mike Meredith of MSN Autos
Land Rover has built its reputation on luxury SUVs that have the ability to handle just about any terrain, even if most owners don't need that ability. But since the compact Freelander was discontinued in the U.S. a few years ago, the brand has not had a small vehicle offering. Enter the new Land Rover LR2.
All-new from the ground up, the 2008 Land Rover LR2 possesses excellent on-road performance while still delivering legendary Land Rover off-road prowess when needed. The intention is to give the premium compact SUV the greatest breadth of capability in the segment, with an excellent balance between handling and ride comfort for the street.
Beginning with the Range Rover in 2002, followed by the LR3 in 2004 and the Range Rover Sport in 2005, the LR2 is the fourth new model from Land Rover in just five years, giving the automaker its most complete U.S. model range to date.
With styling cues derived from the flagship Range Rover, such as the vertical egg-crate grille; blacked-out D-pillar and metallic front fender vents; and the stepped-up roof design similar to the LR3, the LR2 presents a contemporary look immediately identifiable as a Land Rover.
"LR2 combines the advantages of a premium sedan—such as polished ride, accomplished performance and an attractive cabin—with the attributes of a robust SUV," said Richard Beattie, executive vice president, marketing and sales, Land Rover North America.
Premium Equipment, Improved Road Manners
A first in the compact SUV segment, the transversely-mounted inline 6-cylinder engine improves interior space and helps with the design of safety systems. EPA fuel economy ratings for the LR2 are 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, based on the new EPA rating system for 2008 models designed to produce ratings closer to real-world results.
The LR2 also benefits from a sophisticated new 6-speed automatic transmission developed to address Land Rover's blend of both on- and off-road performance, including unique attributes to support the LR2's ability to travel through nearly 20 inches of standing water in off-road conditions.
The transmission features three different modes: fully automatic, Sport and CommandShift. Each has different gear-change mapping, as well as adapting when one of the special Terrain Response programs is selected to maximize transmission performance for the appropriate conditions.
During our test drive, we found the 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder smooth and quiet, with enough power to make the new SUV fun on the highway. The 6-speed automatic does an excellent job, even in automatic mode, shifting to the right gear quickly and smoothly based on what the driver has requested with the throttle pedal.
In Sport Mode the transmission downshifts more aggressively and holds the lower gear longer when more power is needed. CommandShift manual shift mode easily engages by simply moving the shift lever to the left, then shifting by moving the lever forward or back in a sequential motion.
Like all Land Rovers, the LR2 delivers power through an all-wheel-drive system. Developed in conjunction with Haldex, the all-new system includes an electronically controlled center coupling that continually alters the front-to-rear torque split. This system is exclusive to the LR2.
Engineers of the LR2 had a stated focus to deliver driving dynamics that give an agile and refined feel with excellent ride comfort for the street, while retaining the requisite Land Rover off-road capability. To this end, the LR2 has excellent torsional body stiffness. A long-travel suspension with coil springs and struts, as well as large-diameter gas shocks, work in combination with front and rear sub-frames isolated by rubber at the mounting points. LR2 is also the first Land Rover model to receive Roll Stability Control, developed by Volvo and Ford.
The rack-and-pinion steering is direct and responsive, and during our highway drive the compact LR2 had all the refinement and feel of a Range Rover, but in a more nimble package. Responsive steering and consistent, smooth suspension make the LR2 as fun to drive on city streets as any other SUV in its class—and as good or better than many up-market sedans, for that matter.
To add to the on-road comfort and refinement, the LR2 comes with a high level of standard equipment—no stripped-down version that could dilute the brand's reputation is offered. Amenities include leather seats, a two-part panoramic sunroof and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The all-new LR2 has a starting price of $34,700 (not including destination charge).
Options include a keyless starter button, a DVD satellite navigation system with full-color touch-screen, and a Premium Audio System with Dolby® Pro Logic® II 7.1 Surround Sound, as well as 14 speakers including a subwoofer and a six-disc in-dash CD changer. When fully loaded, the LR2 tops out right at the $40,000 mark.
The interior has the refined, luxurious feel expected from a Land Rover, but two features that we would like to see are an angle adjustment for the lower front-seat cushions and a solid sunroof shade instead of the mesh shade, which still allows too much light through.
While Land Rover refers to the system as permanent all-wheel drive, it is actually an on-demand system that delivers torque to the front axle until conditions require that torque be delivered to the rear axle as well. Developed with Haldex, the LR2 system engages all-wheel drive so quickly—in 150 milliseconds—that it performs like a permanent all-wheel-drive system found in other Land Rover models.
Make no mistake, the LR2 is a Land Rover and is still more capable than most compact SUVs on the market. It offers 8.26 inches minimum of ground clearance for rocky conditions and can wade through water up to 19.68 in. (500 mm) deep. Short front and rear overhangs mean approach and departure angles are also excellent.
In addition the LR2 offers new off-road technology in the form of Gradient Descent Control, as well as Terrain Response, which debuted on the LR3 in 2004.
Terrain Response allows the driver to choose one of four settings that change the responses of the engine, transmission, center coupling of the all-wheel drive, and the chassis systems to match certain conditions. The settings are General Driving, which provides the broadest range of functions for most driving conditions including easy off-road situations; Grass/Gravel/Snow for slippery conditions either on-road or off-road; Mud and Ruts; and Sand.
Terrain Response also adjusts the Dynamic Stability Control, Electronic Traction Control, ABS, and Hill Descent Control to maximize the advantage from these systems in given conditions.
Debuting on the LR2, Gradient Release Control is the newest electronic innovation from Land Rover to assist in extreme off-road conditions. On an extremely steep hill, the Gradient Release Control works with the Hill Descent Control to progressively release brake pressure, regardless of how quickly the driver releases the brake pedal, helping to maintain vehicle control during tricky descents.
We tested the Terrain Response and experience all the other systems in all of the aforementioned conditions on a course designed by Land Rover, before visiting the Oceano Dunes off-road park near Pismo Beach, California, where we tested the LR2's sand capabilities.
Simply put, the compact LR2 performed on par with the best off-road vehicles we have tested, whether it was descending a steep hill over large, slippery rocks; fording standing water; crossing through muddy ruts; or experiencing windswept sand dunes.
Off-road capability has been the hallmark of the Land Rover brand since its existence, and the compact LR2 continues that heritage in an impressive fashion.