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2009 Land Rover LR2 HSE Review

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2009 LAND ROVER LR2 HSE Review
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

This is not your father’s Land Rover. This isn’t the rough and tumble off-roader made for banging through the wilds of Africa that you could fix with duct tape, wire and a good sturdy hammer. Instead, this is a sophisticated, 5-passenger, unibody crossover (CUV) on essentially a Volvo S40 platform. LR2 replaced the Freelander in ‘08 and has all the electronic gadgets and features you’ll find on any suburban CUV with off-road aspirations and that tries to project an adventurous image.

We have had a wonderful week to experience the LR2’s excellent treacherous-road manners here in mid-Michigan with three good snow storms back-to-back. I had a meeting in the city on Friday, right at the height of the second storm. About three inches of accumulated snow and slush with rutted, glazed paths characterized freeway conditions. Intermittent squalls reduced visibility to about 50 yards. Surprisingly few cars floundered in the ditches and surprisingly many trucks played out the skidding game.

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The drive was a real adventure but the LR2 has all the electronic controls and chassis dynamics we’ve come to expect in the up-market brands. It tracked straight on the glazy parts and through the deeper stuff. I could feel it engage every few seconds triggered by the slightest yaw, gently correcting for every little slip. It was disconcerting only when I got too far into the deep slush and tried to accelerate out. The electronic wizardry just took the power away. The suspension is a tad stiff for some tastes. Again, it’s meant to be an off-roader – sort of. With 8.3 inches of ground clearance, extra-long suspension travel, a 19.7-inch wading depth, electronic hill descent control and an intelligent, full-time all-wheel drive, it can certainly claim some competence there. But serious off-roaders will want more than that. Power is adequate - certainly nothing that will give you a thrill. The in-line 6-cylinder displaces 3.2 liters, makes 230 horsepower and delivers 234 lb-ft of torque. It doesn’t feel like much pushing this 4,255-pound “Compact, Luxury SUV,” as they categorize it. Zero-to-sixty time is claimed at 8.5 seconds. The weather prevented me from verifying that number. EPA rates it at 15-mpg in the city and 22 on the highway using premium fuel - nothing to write home about either. I managed about 17.5 this week in bitter cold temps and mighty messy roads. While the throttle response is noticeably slow the steering may be too quick for some. Steering response is so quick it was a little disconcerting during my first high-speed freeway cruise. Otherwise the handling was excellent. I’ll admit, though, we had no clear dry roads this week. My assessment is entirely influenced by treacherous roads.

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The environment inside is functional, attractive and contemporary. Just a hint of Land Rover ambiance insinuates the core brand image. The firm leather seats are stylish and comfortable. Large gauges under a conventional brow and busy but clear center stack controls make it comfortable and intuitive. The back seat is adequate for three though it doesn’t feel as roomy as some of its competitors. A couple of rough edges on poorly finished plastic grabbed my eye.

I’m not fond of the nontraditional ignition key. It’s essentially a fob that slides into a port in the dash. The problem is that the port is tucked beneath a narrow brow where we can barely see it and once inserted we have to give it a slight push until it is sucked in. To remove it we have to push in again so it can be pushed back out. A sharp heel makes it uncomfortable to push and I usually had to push a second time to get it to disengage.

Cargo capacity doesn’t quite keep up with the pack. Behind the rear seat we have 26.7 cubic-feet and with the split rear seat folded we’re up to almost 60. Payload is 1,100 pounds and it can pull a 3,500-pound trailer if the trailer has its own brakes.

The LR2 starts at $36,150 mighty well equipped. The list of standard features is impressive including leather, dual zone climate controls, sunroof, 9-speaker Alpine sound with six-CD changer in-dash, a sophisticated all-wheel drive system, full-function chassis dynamics, 19-inch wheels, seven air bags and all the stuff everybody else has. For a few extra bucks you can add packages or specialty options. With everything added it would probably be just under 50-grand – a bit pricey for what you get, I think.

Land Rover’s warranty covers the LR2 for 4 years or 30,000 miles.

Land Rover and Jaguar, as you may know, are now owned by Tata of India having been sold off by Ford something over a year ago. They are still made in England and the company operates from there. As the automobile business continues to spread out all over the world we’ll probably see more international ownership of iconic brands. It’s nothing to worry about.

The Brits are still in the game.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved