2008 Land Rover LR2 HSE Review

By Igor Holas with Melissa J. Sanchez

05.03.2008

After driving two Fords, we finally had a chance to drive something different. And right away it was something “cool” – an LR2 luxury crossover SUV from Land Rover. This little trucklet is slightly bigger than Ford’s Escape, competing directly with BMW X3, Infiniti EX, and similar small luxury SUV’s.

Overall, we greatly enjoyed the LR2 and the many creature spoils it offers. And despite some quirky ergonomics and a few annoyances, we feel the LR2 is a great SUV.

What we drove
The car we were given for the test was an almost fully loaded 2008 LR2 HSE model (base price of $35,375) with Cold Climate package ($700), Lighting package ($1,050), and Technology Package ($3,500). The Cold Climate package adds heated seats, side-view mirrors and front windshield. The Lighting package added adaptive Bi-Xenon headlamps, memory function for driver’s seat, and puddle lamps. Finally, the expensive Technology package adds Navigation, upgraded stereo, satellite radio, and Bluetooth connectivity. Including Destination, the car we tested came in at $41,400.

We compared this price using True Delta’s feature-adjusted price comparison. The LR2 is priced right on top of the Infiniti EX35 with less than $1,500 difference. The BMW X3 was over $5,000 more expensive than either one of them. Surprisingly, comparing the LR2 to similar-size non-luxury cars such as Mazda CX-7 or Ford Edge, the LR2 is less than $4,000 more expensive when its extra features are accounted for.

Drive
Unlike its BMW and Infiniti competitors, the LR2 is based on a front-drive platform with a transversely mounted engine. This platform originated as Ford’s EUCD architecture, but it was modified for the use in the LR2 and the upcoming Volvo XC60. To date, there has been no bad car built on this platform, which universally delivers stout handling, balanced ride, and excellent safety. The LR2 is no exception, and overall the car is very capable on road, with smooth effortless driving around town, or in the freeway.

While the underpinnings originate from front-drive cars, there is no front-wheel-drive LR2 offered; in keeping with Land Rover’s tradition, all LR2’s come in all-wheel-drive trim equipped with Land Rover’s advanced Terrain Response system which lets you select from five different drive modes such as “sand,” or “snow.” Each mode adjusts throttle response, stability control, and other systems to allow better drive in the given conditions. This system is extremely advanced, and would be a life saver for those who can use it, but it is an utter overkill for vast majority of the buyers who buy AWD vehicles for the occasional need for extra traction on wet or icy roads. Needless to say, Melissa and I did not use this system at all, and left it in its “on road” mode for the duration of our test.

The only engine offered on the LR2 is Volvo’s 3.2l Inline six-cylinder engine delivering 230 horses, and 234 foot-pounds of torque. That is significantly less than most competitors, but the engine never felt underpowered. While the six-speed automatic transmission did sometimes hesitate to downshift upon sudden demand for more go, the engine torque delivery was strong at any speed and at any point of its power band. To add to the driving enjoyment, the engine did not hide its in-line configuration and was incredibly smooth especially under relaxed highway driving. We were quite impressed to see mileage north of 25mpg during highway speeds, but in the city mileage dropped to ten or twelve miles per gallon. With our highway-heavy use of the LR2, we averaged about 16 mpg, but thanks to the small tank, after less than 300 miles we ran on empty.


Outside
Our test-car was sporting a sexy Sangria Red paint, and equally attractive 19” wheels. The overall look stays true to the original Freelander (LR2 is called Freelander2 outside North America) with rounded SUV look; at first glance the LR2 (like the original Freelander) looks related to the Ford Escape, even though they share no underpinnings.

The look is quite attractive, but it is not very “Land Rover.” Unlike its bigger brothers, the LR2 is devoid of styling quirks that would set it apart from the masses. Most notably it lacks the blacked out A-pillars, so typical of Land Rover design. Upon closer look, there are plenty of Land Rover clues in the design, but after the in-your-face redesign of the Discovery into LR3, the LR2 is a little too mainstream.

Besides this small subjective gripe with the design, the LR2 is a very attractive SUV, especially satisfying for those that prefer traditional boxy styling to the now-popular bulbous tall-hatchback styling (see the EX35 for a good example).

The adaptive Bi-Xenon headlamps deliver excellent lighting in the city and on the highway. We took the LR2 to a Friday-night concert at a venue 70 miles away from our house, and driving back at almost midnight I appreciated just how well the headlamps worked. This was especially surprising to me as I have Xenon headlamps on my Mazda3, but they simply cannot compare.

Inside
If you have read our joint reviews before, you know that we focus a lot of our attention on reviewing the interior. This is where we spent majority of the time, and this is where a car can win us over, or completely fumble.

When you enter the interior, you are immediately welcomed by exquisite craftsmanship. Every piece of plastic is placed with precision and finished with care for detail. Every edge is perfectly smooth; there are no mold-seam residues; there are not hollow-backs. The materials are all of very good quality, and accompanied by very nice and soft leather. Melissa and I feel this is how all interiors should feel – but alas, you have to pay up to get this level of craftsmanship and attention to detail.

To exemplify how simple things about this interior made it great, let’s focus on the air vents. Air vents seem like such a simple part of the dash – they have three or four parts all made of plastic, and they should be quite cheap to build. However amid all the other details in the interior, it is air vents that often seem to be the part that gets hacked with the cost-cutting axe. I never understood this philosophy as air vents are among those parts of the car that you touch – constantly – and so along with great feeling buttons, they can make or break the feel of a car. In the case of the LR2, they made it. The vents are made of sturdy-feeling plastic and move with incredible smoothness. If there was one part that made the LR2 feel expensive – it was the air vents (laugh all you want).

The seats were very comfortable, and I found it quite easy to find a comfortable driving position. However, I found the side view mirrors weirdly positioned, and could not set them quite right; however, Melissa had no such problem. The steering was just the right size and had perfect feel to it – it was not over-assisted like so many other SUV’s and it controlled the car with purposeful precision. The overall cabin feel was very comfortable, with two overhead sunroofs, well isolated outside noises, and very well executed cabin.

One note about the sunroofs: They are covered by mesh manual shades which can be closed even if the sunroof is open (a nice touch). However, the sunshade never blocks all the sunshine so the cabin easily overheats on a bright sunny day. Moreover, we were surprised, that the roof opened only “half way” – the opening was quite small for such a big sunroof. Finally, we were having trouble making the shade roll back every time, which was quite annoying.

One odd choice Land Rover made with the LR2 is the underutilization of the navigation screen. In most mainstream (non-luxury) automakers, the navigation screen replaces the stereo head unit and takes care of the audio controls and information. In the LR2, the screen was exclusively for navigation purposes and was turned off (or showing an analog clock screensaver) otherwise. The head unit sat below with own small LCD screen and full set of buttons. I have to admit, the head unit was confusing, and the small screen limited the information displayed. With the navigation screen sitting atop the dash unused, I could not understand why I have to look elsewhere to get my audio information.

To make matters worse (in my opinion) the hands-free Bluetooth system was integrated into the stereo and not the navigation screen. I had to use the small head unit screen for the pairing process as well as the phone-related information such as caller ID. Once again, I would have much rather seen this information on the navigation screen. The Bluetooth system worked fine, and all calls sounded loud and clear. I did not, however, find a way to dial by voice (like with Ford’s SYNC), or use my phone’s phone book for dialing, so I had to manually punch in the number every time (I have to admit, I never looked this up in the manual, so I might have just missed something)


Finally, we were a little baffled by Land Rover’s “keyless ignition” system. Our reference keyless lock/ignition system is the one Mazda uses in the CX-7 and CX-9 SUV’s. With that system, you have a credit-card sized transmitter in your pocket (or wallet); as you approach the car unlocks, and as you sit down inside, you just push the button and the car starts. That is extremely convenient, and an obviously an attractive feature. The LR2’s system asks you to press a button to unlock the car (like cheaper keyless entry systems), then stick the key-fob into an ignition “slot”, and then push the button. This system completely eliminated any convenience of having a keyless ignition system. The fob houses a small actual key that can unlock the driver’s door should the battery die – this keyhole is under a small plastic cap by the door handle. This little cap was easy to remove, and I would be worried about it falling off eventually. Finally, the whole key fob was very bulky, and heavy – in short, we were not impressed; especially in a luxury crossover.

There were other oddities in the interior that we noticed: there is very little front-cabin storage space, turning off the air-conditioning system requires two pushes of a tiny far-away button, and you can’t just bang the steering wheels airbag cover to sound the horn; you have to push the silver-plastic strips on its side. It is very possible some of this quirkiness is in place to appeal to return Land Rover customers, preserving some lasting Land Rover DNA, but Melissa and I do not belong to such a group, and found these annoying.

The rear seats were also a nice place to be, with comfortable seats, armrest with cup holders and a storage bin, and enough legroom. However, there are no HVAC controls and the seats do not recline. Moreover, in another odd move, the front seats slide really far back, to the point of eliminating rear legroom altogether. However, with my 5’11” height I was able to sit comfortably behind the driver’s seats adjusted for me. The second sunroof over the second allows for nice views, and provides its own sun shade, but (as usual) it does not open.

Finally, the cargo space offers a nicely carpeted flat floor with storage nooks on the side. The rear seats fold flat after the cushion is flipped forward, and their backs are also carpeted for easy sliding of cargo. The cargo tray can easily slide out, providing a way to load and unload heavy or bulky items. The spare is under the cargo floor, but we were surprised it was a temporary spare, which is something we would not expect on an off-road capable truck.

Conclusion
The doughnut under the cargo floor brings us around full circle, because at the end, the LR2 is a Volvo dressed in hiking boots. The LR2 is off-road capable enough to call itself a Land Rover, but it is not an off-road truck – it is an on-road crossover accessorized for possible off road duty. Given consumer use, SUVs always provided an overkill of off-road credentials, and many latest crossovers are replacing true off-road credentials with off-road pretense and real, on-road stability. Like buying a Trail Rated Jeep, buying a Land Rover adds yet another layer to this overkill.

However, the LR2, more than any other Land Rover, actually responds to the consumer uses, replacing some of the toughness for more civilized on-road manners. Unlike the Range Rover Sport, it does not feel like a truck; unlike it predecessor it does not have a full size spare tacked on in the back, and unlike the LR3, it does not have a true off-road adjustable suspension. The LR2 is a great luxury SUV, it is also an SUV that Land Rover should be proud to have in its stable, but would you not rather have the Volvo which omits the utter overkill of the Terrain Response with a more sensible and innovative interior, and/or a lower price? I certainly would, and am quite convinced that once we get a chance to drive the new Volvo XC60, we will find it to be a better, more sensible SUV.

For more images, go HERE

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Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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3 Comments

  1. What a lot of money for a vehicle equipped with a lot of stuff that 99% of its buyers will never use!

    I’m sure it’s a great vehicle, but why pay for so much stuff you don’t need, and more importantly, will never use?

  2. Do you need 400 hp in a sports car or luxury sedan? Of course not. Do people use it? Rarely do they do something that would require the 400 hp. Do people gladly pay for the horsepower they don’t need and rarely use? Sure. Not only that, but they brag about it to their friends. It just depends what sort of overkill you want.

  3. Not crazy about the looks, although I’m sure it’s a nice thing to ride around in

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