- The Washington Times - Friday, June 8, 2007

The all-new Land Rover LR2 reached the U.S. marketplace this spring as a replacement for the Freelander that went out of production after the 2005 model year. Like the LR3 that succeeded the well-known Land Rover Discovery after 2004, the LR2 adopts an alphanumeric naming strategy for the North American marketplace. European customers, however, continue to identify this premium SUV as a Freelander, just as they call the LR3 the “Discovery 3.”

Visually there is no mistaking the LR2 for anything but a modern Land Rover, as the stepped roof line, functional front fender vents, dual circle “budding” headlights, strong C-pillars, geometric rear end and flat “lidded” hood combine styling elements from the LR3, Range Rover and Range Rover Sport.

A high beltline and tall headlights emphasize the off-road capabilities built into the compact SUV, and a lack of exterior body molding creates slab sides that suggest functionality above ornamentation. Standard 18-inch alloy wheels inside 235/60-series tires are well proportioned and help facilitate the LR2’s 8.3 inches of ground clearance.

In creating the interior, Land Rover designers sought to deliver a “comfortable, attractive, well equipped and spacious” experience on par with that of a premium sedan. Soft touch materials, high quality upholstery and carpeting, tight assembly tolerances, clear instrumentation, “command view” driver’s seat positioning and stadium seating for rear passengers allow up to five LR2 occupants to fully realize the interior’s exemplary execution.

Under the hood, all LR2s are powered by a 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder shared with some Volvo models. Horsepower output is 230 at 6,300 rpm, while maximum torque of 234 foot-pounds is achieved at 3,200 revolutions.

A six-speed automatic transmission includes a ‘sport’ mode and manually controlled CommandShift operation. The extreme compactness of the six-cylinder engine allows transverse mounting, increasing cabin space and flexibility. Variable valve timing, cam profile switching, the variable intake system and rear-end ancillary drive (placement of engine accessories in a compact, efficient orientation) enhance the inline-six’s versatility, cleanliness and potential power.

Permanent “intelligent” all-wheel drive sends most available torque to the front wheels under normal driving circumstances but is able to switch to a primary rear-drive configuration if conditions warrant the shift. Land Rover says the FWD preference minimizes rotational loses associated with RWD setups and therefore improves fuel economy.

Developed with Haldex, the system has a center coupling that is electronically controlled. This hydraulic system is pre-charged when at rest, allowing full AWD operation as soon as motion begins.

Terrain Response, now a Land Rover hallmark, provides optimal driving dynamics in a variety of situations. Four modes are available in the new LR2 models, that include general driving, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts and sand. Land Rover omitted the rocking crawl mode included in the larger — and arguably more capable — LR3.

A console-mounted rotary knob dictates Terrain Response operation. Dynamic stability control, electronic traction control, anti-lock brakes, hill descent control and gradient release control further enhance LR2 abilities in various circumstances, as needed.

With a base MSRP of $34,700, standard LR2 models arrive with keyless starting, a panoramic sunroof, one-touch opening and closing windows/sunroof, rain sensing windshield wipers, power headlight washers, leather upholstery, six-way power driver’s seat adjustment, four-way power front passenger’s seat adjustment, rear park distance control, cruise control, a nine-speaker audio system with automatic speed-sensitive volume control and dual-zone automatic climate control, with a pollen filter and humidity monitor.

Options are navigation, xenon HID adaptive front lighting headlights that swivel around corners, a heated windshield, heated washer jets, Bluetooth hands free technology, SIRIUS satellite radio and 12-speaker six-CD Alpine/Dolby Pro Logic audio system. Cargo capacity measures 58.9 cubic feet with the rear seat fold flat and 26.5 cubic feet with the rear bench in place.

Safety features include dual frontal air bags, front side-impact air bags, curtains covering both rows, a driver’s knee air bags, front seat-belt pre-tensioners, ultra high strength steel door beams and heavier door sills.

Disc brakes on the wheels with ABS combine with responsive steering, precise handling, active roll mitigation, cornering brake control and permanent AWD to avoid circumstances in which the passive features must be employed.

Short overhangs and a long wheelbase allow the type of off-road credentials that have come to be associated with Land Rover models.

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