As some of you might recall, the LR2 was the big winner of our comparative match held last July. Despite facing some hardcore off-roaders, this little Land Rover used its versatility, styling and overall balance to earn our jury's approval. Said balance is vividly felt each time you sit behind the wheel of the British compact SUV.
|The LR2 was the big winner of our comparative match.|
Given the fact that I have always loved the boxy styling of Land Rover models, it should come as no surprise that I am fond of the little LR2. Replacing the infamous Freelander, which sadly contributed to tarnishing the Land Rover name, the LR2 appears blockier while managing to incorporate smooth curves. Such an artistic tour de force is virtually impossible to explain.
The family traits are more obvious; the LR2 comes dangerously close to looking like the Range Rover Sport, for instance. The only design cue that was carried over from its predecessor is the sloping front end, which is racier and probably more aerodynamic.
The new exterior dimensions also make for a much more spacious interior. The compact LR2 can now be rightfully considered as a 5-passenger vehicle (whereas the Freelander could only sit four), all this without compromising comfort.
Both front and rear passengers enjoy impressive room, while the cargo area allows you to bring your entire camping gear. Everyone knows that Land Rover buyers are avid fans of the great outdoors and they are always in the mood for sleeping under the stars.
On a negative note, however, while the dashboard is far better executed that the LR3's, there is still a hollow space in the middle, which remains a mystery. True, that's where the optional navigation system is supposed to go but, as it is, this void nearly ruins the whole layout.
|The hollow space created by the absence of a navigation system marks an odd styling execution.|
Also, I have to admit that the ergonomics of the controls could be improved; they require a certain amount of time before you can manipulate them intuitively. And it's a good thing to learn how to use them prior to taking the road, unlike some of my colleagues who encountered various problems while trying to adjust the climate control system.
I can hear the skeptics question the actual off-road capacities of the little LR2. After all, this vehicle is better suited for the highway than the trail. Well, amazingly, despite being the smallest of the Land Rover family, it proves to be fully prepared for an intense battle with Mother Earth.
The EU-CD chassis, also used by Volvo, allows for a pleasant balance between ride and handling. The LR2 is as smooth on the road as rugged off of it.
|The AWD system is a highly capable and efficient operator.|
Likewise, the intelligent all-wheel drive system was developed by Haldex, a Volvo supplier. It incorporates a center differential with electronic management to anticipate the least bit of wheel slippage and reacts accordingly by providing the appropriate amount of torque at all corners for optimum grip.
But the most impressive aspect of the LR2 is undoubtedly the Terrain Response system, which offers four different traction modes depending on road conditions: General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud & Ruts, and Sand. This permanent four-wheel drive technology adjusts the vehicle parameters (for example, the traction control system) based on the selected mode. That's why the LR2 was able to win our comparative match despite using low-profile performance tires.
Last but not least, the Hill Descent Control (HDC) system of the LR2 automatically applies the brakes to control speed on steep downhill slopes. Thus, the vehicle never exceeds 8 km/h during descents.
With its fully independent suspension, refined 3.2L L6 (also found in the Volvo S80) and reduced noise levels, the LR2 is also an adept performer on the road. Accelerations are brisk and the ride remains quiet, which creates an overall dynamic driving experience. It has to be said, though, that the brakes were guilty of hesitating a bit during emergency situations.
While reliability is still an issue (due to the Freelander's lackluster record), the 2008 LR2 is a very promising SUV -- one that will likely keep all its promises, actually.
Powerful yet refined engine
Premium off-road capacities
Dashboard ergonomics could be improved
Ill-designed center stack