The LR2 is based on the same unibody chassis architecture as the Volvo XC90 and uses a variant of its transverse-mounted straight-six. But the result, which replaces the outdated and generally less-than-stellar Freelander, is one that still gets it done as a Land Rover.
The LR2's look is right, inside and out. You get the square-shouldered design and command seating position. You also get a somewhat ergonomically confused audio system and switchgear, but it's better than in past Landies. The aforementioned 3.0-liter six spools out a smooth 230 horsepower-less than the class average, but enough. It's backed by a six-speed automatic with standard drive, Sport drive, and manumatic modes that make the most of the powerplant.
While the LR2 doesn't offer a low range, it has full-time all-wheel drive, excellent ground clearance, aggressive approach/departure angles, Hill Descent control, and Land Rover's remarkable Terrain Response, which lets you tailor its many electronic systems for the type of turf you'll be covering. In short, the LR2 packs more off-road capability than most any other crossover. A super-stiff structure, full of high-strength steels, seven standard airbags, Traction, Corner Brake, and Roll Stability controls plus ABS, makes for what should prove an exceptionally safe package. Our tester came loaded with dual sunroofs, leather interior, navigation system, and all the usual power goodies.
Unlike some previous Land Rover offerings, this one has good on-road dynamics, too. Says one staffer: "Steering is light and quick, remarkably responsive on-road for a vehicle with this one's off-road pretensions." Another notes, "Engine is smooth and sweet, if not a powerhouse. I prefer this to the RDX's peaky turbo-four."
While the LR2 won't hop rocks with an old Defender 90, it's still a doer in the dirt-and now, a joy to drive on-road as well. Will it have enough stuff to climb to the top of the Sport/Utility pile? Stay tuned...
VIDEO: THE 2008 LAND ROVER LR2 FROM THE SUOTY
PHOTOS: EXCLUSIVE 2008 JEEP LIBERTY PHOTO GALLERY