Land Rover sells cars more on its image that ability. These SUVs are great off-roaders, but rarely do you catch their owners forging a stream or survey open land. Instead, owners demand luxury and handsome looks.
Land Rover first tried to give the U.S. a small SUV by adapting the Europe-only Freelander for North America. By the time the car first appeared here in 2002 it was already six years old and showing its age. Sales were slow, and Land Rover learned ts lesson.
Starting in 2007, Land Rover had a new Freelander they renamed LR2 for North America. This had much better materials, more features, and looked a lot more like the up-market Range Rover.
We like the look of our LR2, but we also know it kills the function. We’re suckers for a good body kit, but this $2,200 option means we have limited off-road capability. The body kit lowers the overall ground clearance as well as changes the approach and departure angles. Any real off-roading would just scratch the car.
What our car is meant for is to look good in suburbia. That part it plays well. Satin silver trim package, 19-inch eight-spoke wheels, deep black paint and baby Range Rover styling all give off a luxury vibe that we want in a premium SUV.
Interiors of Land Rover really got a boost from BMW. From 1994 until 2000, Rover and Land Rover was under the control of BMW . Although Land Rover was the most profitable of the Rover Group that didn’t stop BMW from showing the off-road guys a few things about luxury.
Everything inside the LR2 feels nice to the touch. The plastics have a softness to them that give off a real feeling of quality, which is something the Freelander never did. Most SUVs we drive have seats that are equivalent to a good office chair, but we found the seats in the LR2 to be a much more appealing and much firmer than the others. The whole layout is not as ergonomic as a German car, but the interior has more soul.
Our LR2 came with an optional DVD-based navigation system. It is exactly the same setup found in its sibling Jaguar, and we’re fine with that. Just like in the Jag, there are a few animations we could live without, but otherwise, everything is laid out in a logical manner.
Although our LR2 did not have that much ground clearance, the interior setup felt like we in a much taller car. The entire instrument cluster is set low in the car, which allows for better visibility and gives the driver a feeling of riding high. This is always good when taking a car off-road because the more the driver can see out of the car, the more likely he/she won’t get stuck in an obstacle. This is also good for city driving because the more the driver can see out of the car, the less likely he/she won’t hit a curb and dent the nice wheels.
As mentioned before, the body kit on this car discourages taking it off road, which is a shame. The LR2 comes standard with all-wheel drive, hill descent control, and a terrain response system. From a dash-mounted knob, the driver can switch between settings that specialize in snow, mud or sand. This is great out in a real jungle, but it will have to make do with being surefooted in the urban jungle.
The 3.2-liter V6 engine is the only one available, and it puts out 230 hp. Since our Land Rover weighs in at over 4200 lbs, there is a lot of car to haul around. But the engine works hard enough with out making too much noise, so as long as you don’t expect to win any drag races in an LR2, the extra weight goes unnoticed.
The same holds true for the steering and braking. The LR2 feels like the small car that it is. The steering is as nimble and sharp as can be expected from a small SUV. Our LR2 could be thrown into corners or stopped quickly, and it felt like a mid-level sports car – not bad for an all-wheel drive SUV.
This LR2 keeps with the traditions of the modern Land Rover. It can go anywhere, but it’s most likely it will just go to the mall.
There was a lot to like about out Land Rover LR2 HSE, but we also had a lot options on our car. At $44,000 (base price $35,375) this Land Rover is up against big competition with it squarely in the well-optioned BMW X3 territory. What would level the playing field for us would be to take back a few of the extras, like the body kit. Then we could have a go-anywhere luxury SUV that would feel good for the money.