Full 2008 Land Rover LR2 Review
What's New for 2008
Replacing the old Freelander, the 2008 Land Rover LR2 is an all-new small luxury SUV tuned for a compromise between on- and off-road performance.
Because pedigree comes from prowess, every Land Rover must be made from the absolute toughest stuff, ready to rough it up on the world's toughest trails at a moment's notice. So goes the old thinking, anyway. More recently, the company's vehicles have been increasingly able to provide on-road comfort and performance as well. For a prime example of this shift in philosophy, look no further than the 2008 Land Rover LR2.
Land Rover clearly designed its new LR2 compact SUV for a life on pavement, but the company tried to preserve a modicum of off-road capability in the process. As a replacement for the now discontinued Freelander, the 2008 Land Rover LR2 comes to life with lots of mechanical DNA from parent company Ford's Volvo S40 and European-market Ford Focus. The resulting lightweight unibody construction, all-independent suspension, and new inline six-cylinder engine make this the easiest Land Rover to drive in history, while leather seats, wood trim, dual sunroofs, and room for four are meant to keep the brand's upscale luxury image intact.
In addition, this all-new LR2 still packs enough tools to handle light- and even medium-duty off-highway trails. Among them are a healthy 8.3 inches of ground clearance, standard all-wheel drive, and Land Rover's Terrain Response system, which provides four driver-selectable modes tailored for varying terrain. Each mode specifies different settings for the engine, transmission, center differential, suspension, traction and stability control system and hill descent control system. During our testing of a 2008 Land Rover LR2, Terrain Response proved its worth as the LR2 scaled rutted dirt trails with considerably more gusto and poise than most car-based sport-utilities.
However, as small luxury SUVs go, Land Rover's latest is not the ultimate on-roader. Among the LR2's flaws are soft handling on pavement and just-adequate acceleration. Inside, its cabin looks more utilitarian than it does elegant, and materials are unimpressive for a premium-brand sport-utility. To its credit, the LR2 does have more off-road capability and a more forgiving ride than firmly tuned rivals like the Acura RDX, BMW X3 and Infiniti EX35. But these competitors provide better performance, sportier handling, higher-grade interiors and more in the way of overall refinement. Accordingly, we think most compact luxury SUV shoppers will be happier with an X3, EX35 or RDX than they will with the 2008 Land Rover LR2.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Land Rover LR2 is a small, four-door luxury SUV offered in SE and HSE trim levels. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, a dual-panel sunroof, leather seating, power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a nine-speaker Alpine stereo with a six-disc MP3/CD changer and auxiliary input jack, push-button ignition, automatic headlights and wipers, and rear parking sensors. The LR2 HSE adds 19-inch wheels, body-colored bumpers and side sills, upgraded power front seats and an interior storage box.
Additional equipment is bundled into three options packages. The largest of these is the Technology Package, which contains a navigation system, an upgraded surround-sound audio system, satellite radio, rear-seat audio controls and Bluetooth phone connectivity. The Lighting Package offers adaptive xenon headlights, and driver-seat memory, while the Cold Climate Package provides heating for the front seats, windshield and washer jets.
Powertrains and Performance
Every Land Rover LR2 comes with a 3.2-liter inline-6 providing 230 horsepower and 234 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with sport and manual shift modes. Land Rover claims the LR2 can reach 60 mph in 8.4 seconds, but during our own instrumented testing, an LR2 tester did no better than 9.3 seconds. The all-wheel-drive system sends nearly all of the engine's power to the front wheels by default, though it can redirect most of it to the rear wheels to maximize traction in off-road situations. The AWD has no low range ("4 Lo") for serious off-roading, but for casual off-roaders, the LR2's Terrain Response system largely compensates by providing meaningful changes in engine and transmission behavior when the driver switches from the default "General Driving" mode to any of the three off-road modes (Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, and Sand). Fuel economy is 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, which is disappointing considering its modest acceleration.
The 2008 Land Rover LR2 comes with side airbags for the driver and front passenger, side curtain airbags for all outboard passengers and a driver's knee bag. Antilock brakes, traction control and stability control with a rollover sensor are also standard.
Interior Design and Special Features
The LR2 has an unmistakable Land Rover feel to it, which means plenty of leather and wood to go around, plus a traditional upright seating position and a utilitarian control layout with numerous buttons. Materials are average in quality and the overall look isn't very elegant, and the busy instrument panel is a little hard to read at a glance. Although the climate and audio controls are clunky to use at first, the optional navigation system's touchscreen interface couldn't be simpler. Cupholders and storage slots are sprinkled liberally throughout the cabin.
The LR2's front seats offer plenty of legroom and headroom, and the steering wheel's wide range of telescope adjustment makes it easy to find a comfortable driving position. The backseat has ample room as well, but the low-mounted bench compromises comfort for adults. Cargo space behind the rear seats is a bit small at 27 cubic feet due to the LR2's high cargo floor. Maximum capacity is only 59 cubic feet, but the rear seats do fold completely flat (though the seat-bottom cushions must be folded up separately).
The 2008 Land Rover LR2 is easily Land Rover's most accessible SUV to date, thanks to its relatively modest size and weight that make it easy to toss around and park. On the downside, acceleration is mediocre for a luxury SUV, due to the engine's minimal low-end torque and the transmission's sluggish response off the line. Handling on pavement is unimpressive, as the LR2 exhibits considerable body roll around turns. The steering is well weighted but low on feedback, and more demanding drivers may be put off by its unusually quick response just off center. The brakes are strong with a progressive pedal feel, but the suspension allows a bit too much front-end dive. One advantage the Land Rover does offer is a comfortable ride quality, as it's more compliant than either the RDX or X3. The LR2 is also a superior off-road vehicle, but we doubt most compact luxury SUV buyers will see this as a significant advantage.