You could technically call the 2008 Land Rover LR2 a crossover, as it carries its SUV-like body on a smooth-riding independent suspension. But the LR2 comes with Land Rover's Terrain Response System and some pretty good off-road stats, such as 8.3 inches of ground clearance and the ability to wade through 19.7 inches of water. We were also pleased to see that Land Rover seriously upgraded its cabin electronics for the LR2 over what we've seen in other Land Rover models.
The LR2 shows many of the design cues of its bigger brothers. The roof of the cargo area lifts a little, similar to the LR3. Engine vents in the front fenders mimic that of the Range Rover. And the grille has a similar crosshatched metal look as the Range Rover's. The LR2 shows off its Land Rover make well, even if you can see the top of the car while standing next to it.
With the LR2, Land Rover brought its electronics into the 21st century. The exquisite Alpine stereo plays MP3 and WMA CDs, and includes an auxiliary input. Past Land Rovers showed no compatibility with digital music. Although the navigation system still isn't integrated with other car systems, it presents a very nice interface similar to what we saw on the Jaguar XK Coupe. The Bluetooth cell phone integration works almost as well as what we saw in the BMW 328xi. Best of all, our fully loaded review car came in under $40,000.
Test the tech: Supreme Court of Sound
We noticed prominent speakers mounted to the D pillars in the cabin of the 2008 Land Rover LR2 and figured this car must have an impressive stereo. A look at our spec sheet showed that the stereo is an Alpine 12 channel 440-watt Dolby ProLogic II 7.1 surround sound system with 12 speakers. A turn of the volume knob verified that this stereo would require some expert judgment. So we called in our Supreme Court of Sound, our golden ears, CNET MP3 player editors Donald Bell and Jasmine France, and Download.com Music editor Kurt Wolff.
Our Supreme Court of Sound lines up by the LR2.
We loaded our Court into the car and proceeded to drive around the streets of San Francisco. We subjected them to three songs: "Get Back," from The Beatles' Love CD; "Suite Guaracho Pt. 2," from Ursula 1000's Ursadelica, and "El Cuarto De Tula," from the Buena Vista Social Club CD. During our drive, members of the Court commented on the quality of the separation, how each instrument could be heard clearly. They also noted that the sound varied considerably from the back seat to the front, with the bass being stronger in the back.
Jasmine and Donald judged the backseat sound. Jasmine said, "the music was bright and bassy overall, but I got a lot of high-end detail and clarity." Donald commented on how he could feel the bass from the subwoofer through the back of the seat, yet it still felt restrained. Donald pointed out that "the sound was rich and balanced and I was surprised at how much detail I could pick out in the music." Kurt noted, "In the front seat, the separation was pretty intense, more so than I ever get on my home stereo; the bass seemed a bit weak up front and far stronger, bigger, and roomier in the back."
The Court was generally impressed with the audio quality, although at high volume they pointed out that it was potentially too bright. The Court's critical ears gave the audio quality an overall rating of 7.5, a respectable rating.
In the cabin
As we would expect for a Land Rover, the cabin of the LR2 is luxurious, with quality materials and good fit and finish throughout. But we wouldn't necessarily expect this comfortable of an interior from a car with a base price of $34,700--from that perspective the LR2 was off to a good start
The LR2 includes a nice list of standard cabin features, such as leather seats, a front power sunroof, a fixed sunroof over the rear seat, and dual zone climate control. To start the car, the key fob must be inserted into a slot in the dashboard, at which point you can push the engine start button.
Our LR2 came with the $3,500 Technology Package, which adds navigation, the premium stereo mentioned above, and Bluetooth cell phone integration. Besides a few minor issues, we like this set of electronics. We would prefer if there were better integration between these systems--as it is, the LCD at the top of the stack only shows navigation, while a radio display set lower is used to show audio and phone information. It would be nice to see audio tracks and phonebook entries on that nice, roomy LCD.
With a Dolby ProLogic II 7.1 surround sound system, the LR2 made some impressive noise.
The stereo is excellent not only for its audio quality, but for its capabilities. It comes with Sirius satellite radio, which is always nice, and a six-disc in-dash changer. Better yet, this changer reads MP3 and WMA CDs. And the radio display not only shows track, artist, and album information for MP3 and WMA files, it also shows that information for standard CDs formatted with CD text.
For MP3 players, there is an auxiliary audio input placed conveniently at the back of the center console, making it easy to keep the patch cable clear of the driver's space. Another interesting feature of the Technology Package is the rear seat audio controls set at the back of the console. These controls let rear seat passengers plug in headphones and control any CDs in the changer.
Once you program a destination, the navigation system lets you choose from three routes.
The navigation system uses nice, bright graphics on its touch-screen LCD, and an innovative menu system. The buttons for destination entry and other navigation settings slide into view from the left side of the screen when you push the Menu button. This theme is used for the various submenus, as well, and the graphic design of these buttons is pleasing. Destination entry is easy, and the system gives you a choice of three routes.
One particularly nice feature, which we have frequently thought would be helpful, is a button to find the nearest freeway on-ramp or exit. Route guidance is also very good, with a split screen showing complex freeway junctions on the right side of the screen. As the voice prompts, in a pleasant female voice, guided us along our route, we missed the voice from previous Land Rovers that sounds like a British World War II officer. Under the Language menu, we were able to switch our voice prompt from American English to U.K. English, but we only ended up with a pleasant female voice with a mild English accent. People learning another language have great variety to choose from under the Language menu, including German, French, and Spanish. Our one issue with the navigation system is that the points-of-interest database didn't include individual retail stores, although it did have a good list of grocery stores.
The cell phone integration was very good, listing recent calls and copying over the phone book.
The Bluetooth cell phone integration also worked very well in the LR2. We paired up a Samsung D807 to the system without a problem. The big number pad below the radio display in the LR2 made it easy to dial numbers, although we would have preferred a voice-dialing system. The system does show useful lists like recent calls, and it can copy the phone's address book over. Call quality sounded good through the car's speakers.
One other small complaint about the interior of the LR2: the radio display and the gauges are subject to bad glare, and can be hard to read in bright sunlight. The gauges are small white numbers on a black background, which easily gets washed out. Same with the radio display, which is black on green.
Under the hood
We were intrigued by the LR2's engine after reading about it on the spec sheet. The LR2 uses a transversely mounted 3.2-liter inline six cylinder, which puts out 230 horsepower and 234 lb-ft of torque. While these numbers aren't overwhelming, we were interested to see if this relatively small engine could move the LR2 adequately while getting decent gas mileage.
We weren't disappointed in the engine's power. The LR2 isn't going to win drag races, but it can be made to move fast off the line, and works well in passing maneuvers. We tried it on a few steep hills around San Francisco, and it climbed them easily. Unfortunately, we don't have fuel economy numbers on this car. It's a 2008, and the EPA hasn't posted numbers for its new test. Also, we only had the LR2 in for a few days, which we didn't feel was adequate time to judge the fuel economy. We can only speculate that an engine of this size should rate around 20mpg, give or take 3mpg.
Even though the LR2 is the baby Land Rover, it still comes with the Terrain Response System.
We were happy with the transmission in the LR2. It's a six-speed automatic with three settings: drive, sport, and manual selection. Its shifts were smooth and barely noticeable, and it downshifted appropriately as we began hill ascents on the highway. In drive mode, we noticed the transmission kept the tachometer around 2,000 to 2,500 RPM, whether we were on city streets or the freeway.
The LR2, as we would expect for a Land Rover, features solid off-roading gear. Its all-wheel-drive is full-time, and it has Land Rover's Terrain Response System. The driver gets a dial in front of the shifter that can be turned among four settings for normal roads, gravel, snow, or sand. Each setting puts different torque characteristics to the wheels and can raise the suspension.
Handling on the LR2 was as we would expect for an SUV. It feels a little top-heavy on the corners, but the steering is tight and accurate. The LR2 comes with loads of road-holding and safety gear. Along with its anti-lock brakes, it gets stability control, roll control, cornering brake control, and an emergency brake assist system. And it also gets a special hill descent-control mode, useful on- and off-road.
Our 2008 Land Rover LR2 SE had a base price of $34,700. The $3,500 Technology Package brought in all of our favorite tech, such as navigation, a premium stereo, and cell phone integration. The $1,050 Lighting Package added bi-xenon headlights and made them adaptive. Finally, the $700 Cold Climate Package included heated seats and a heated front windshield. That put the total for our test car at $39,950, just shy of $40,000.
We were very impressed with the LR2. It was good to see that Land Rover upgraded the cabin electronics over models we saw last year. And at the price it's an excellent value. The LR2 seems more rugged and is less expensive than either the Mercedes-Benz GL450 or the Infiniti FX45, yet offers a similar feeling of luxury. The LR2's closest competitor in price and gear is the Acura MDX, but we would lean towards the more serious off-road gear and more refined electronics of the LR2.