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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Mike Hanley
December 31, 2009
Editor's note: This review was written in April 2009 about the 2009 Land Rover LR2. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2010, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.
The LR2 is Land Rover's smallest and most affordable SUV, but it's still capable of some impressive offroad feats, including being able to drive through water up to 19 inches deep.
While it's nice to know the LR2 could cross a small stream if needed, most people's daily routine consists of dropping the kids off at school before heading to the office. For those people, there are more comfortable and luxurious competitors, like the Mercedes-Benz GLK350, Lexus RX 350 and Volvo XC60. While the LR2 provides acceptable ride comfort, in some ways it feels like an SUV of yesterday. Ride & Handling One thing working in the LR2's favor is its reasonably comfortable suspension tuning. While still firm, as is common among luxury crossovers, it manages to absorb impacts without excessively jarring cabin occupants. However, it's not as soft-riding as the Mercedes-Benz GLK350, which has an adaptive suspension.
Considering its relatively small footprint, the LR2 feels quite stable on the highway, which makes for more relaxing driving. Also putting the driver at ease at higher speeds is the weightiness of the LR2's steering wheel. What this means to drivers is you don't have to constantly make small steering corrections to maintain lane spacing; just pick a point and let the LR2 track there. It might seem like a little thing, but it makes a big difference, especially on longer trips.
Another quality that significantly enhances the driving experience is the combination of a tall driving position and a low dashboard, making for great forward visibility. To illustrate how tall the seating position is to begin with, I usually move the seat as high as it will go when I drive, but in the LR2 I was high enough after moving the seat up just a little. When you factor in the good over-shoulder and rear views afforded by the LR2's squared-off styling, this SUV offers some of the best visibility in its class.
While I like the position of the front seats, the standard leather bucket seats aren't as praiseworthy. They're firm, so they offer quite a bit of support, but the bottom cushion isn't long enough to give taller drivers good leg support. Additionally, the seats aren't that big overall, so some drivers might feel squeezed by the backrest's side bolsters.
The LR2 corners reasonably well, but you can tell from the body motions when driving around town that on-road performance isn't its forte. From the way the LR2 wallows on bumpy pavement, you get the sense that it would prefer a different kind of setting, like an offroad trail. The nose dives under even mild braking, which isn't particularly appealing. Modest Six-Cylinder Power The LR2 is powered by an inline-six-cylinder engine. It offers enough power to keep the LR2 moving at a fast highway clip of 75 mph or so, but accelerating up to this kind of speed takes some time — along with a willingness to give the engine an extra kick by pressing down hard on the gas pedal. In the 230-horsepower engine's defense, it's saddled with a lot of weight; the LR2 tips the scales at 4,255 pounds. In comparison, the GLK350 weighs about 200 pounds less.
Luxury SUVs Compared
2009 Land Rover LR2
2009 Audi Q5
2010 Mercedes GLK350 4Matic
2010 Volvo XC60
230-hp, 3.2-liter inline-six
270-hp, 3.2-liter V-6
268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6
281-hp, turbo 3.0-liter inline-six
Curb weight (lbs.)
Estimated mpg (city/highway)
Cargo room, seats up (cu. ft.)
Cargo room, seats down (cu. ft.)
The six-cylinder is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission that incorporates Sport and clutchless-manual modes. The transmission works diligently to execute smooth shifts, so it feels like one gear is just blending into the next one. It's also only a matter of pressing the gas pedal a little harder to make the transmission kick down a gear when you need a little more power.
The LR2's EPA-estimated gas mileage is 15/22 mpg city/highway. I wasn't expecting to do much better than that, but I surprised myself by getting 24 mpg over the course of a few hundred miles — most of them on the highway. That's not too bad considering the LR2's hefty curb weight and decidedly non-wind-cheating shape. However, the XC60 and GLK350 have similar gas mileage estimates while offering stronger acceleration. Interior Design In addition to contributing to stellar forward views, the LR2's low-profile dashboard introduces some negative ergonomic aspects to the cabin. The low position of the center controls in relation to the high seating position means you're always reaching down to adjust the radio — though there are steering wheel controls for it — and air conditioning. You even have to glance down quite a ways to take a look at the optional navigation system's screen. Not helping matters is the fact that the buttons in the middle of the dash look mostly the same — they're a flat gray — which makes it hard to find the one you want by touch alone.
That brings me to the LR2's cabin aesthetics, which on the whole don't seem nice enough for a vehicle that starts at $35,375. The imitation wood trim strip across the dash isn't very convincing, and the silver-colored trim pieces in front of the door armrests look downright cheap. There are nicer interiors to be had in models like the GLK350, XC60 and Audi Q5, all of which are priced in the realm of the LR2. Backseat Comfort & Versatility The LR2's backseat has firm cushioning, like the front bucket seats. There's not a lot of extra room for adults to spread out, but the LR2's primary competition isn't that different in this regard. Legroom is limited for taller adults, but headroom is good even with the standard panoramic moonroof, which typically robs headroom. Like the front seats, the rear bench's cushion isn't very long, which doesn't bode well for comfort on long drives.
The LR2 uses an outdated backseat-folding design. To get a flat extended load floor, you first have to flip the seat cushion forward, then fold down the backrest. It takes a little extra time to do, but it works fine — as long as you don't have someone tall sitting in one of the front seats. If you do, you may find that the cushion can't flip far enough forward to let the backrest down. Moving the front seat forward helps, but that can compromise driver comfort. The backrest will still fold down if you don't flip the seat cushions forward, it just won't lay flat. LR2 in the Market There's no question the LR2 offers some impressive offroad capabilities, which is expected of a model bearing the Land Rover badge. However, what's also expected when the as-tested price tops $41,000, as our model did, is a level of comfort and luxury befitting that price. It's just not there in the LR2, and that's bad news, because its competitors deliver on that front. Land Rover recently overhauled the interiors of its larger models, and the results look promising, but we'll have to wait and see if the LR2 gets similar treatment in the future.