- The Washington Times - Friday, August 21, 2009

The 2009 Land Rover LR2 combines the advantages of a premium sedan along with the attributes and capability of a serious SUV.

It is driven by a 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine, delivering both impressive performance and economy. The inline motor makes 230 horsepower and delivers 234 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with Land Rover’s CommandShift that provides manual sequential gear changes when desired, along with a driver-selectable sport mode for a more spirited on-road performance.

Motive energy reaches the ground (or pavement) via a permanent all-wheel-drive system. Off-roading becomes easier, thanks to Land Rover’s innovative Terrain Response system, featuring specific modes for General Driving, Grass/Gravel /Snow, Mud/Ruts and Sand.

The LR2 HSE starts off at $36,150, which includes a $775 destination and delivery charge. My test 2009 LR2 HSE’s exterior was finished in Baltic Blue-Metallic with a black leather interior featuring charcoal and aluminum accents, as well as polished wood trim features.

I was able to experience driving this year’s LR2 HSE mini-safari wagon in heavy traffic, on open freeways, over gravel roads, through streams and mud holes and over rocks and logs. But perhaps best and the most fun of all was ripping up and down monstrous sand dunes in California’s Pismo Beach recreational area - drifting every which way with sand flying and nary a care in the world.

The Terrain Response is a handy tool when combined with the permanent four-wheel-drive system when you want - or need - to go where there are no roads.

There’s plenty of features and equipment in the value laden LR2: power to accelerate quickly but docile enough manners to cruise slowly, a smooth ride quality, comfortable interior surroundings and sufficient ground clearance coupled with ample approach and departure angles, ramp breakover angle and wading depth to tackle serious off-road adventures.

For campers, there’s an available tent that encloses the rear hatch. Other optional accessories are ready and available to equip the LR2 to suit your personal tastes and requirements. Bottom-line, the Land Rover LR2 is an adventure module of the first order in a manageable size for both urban and suburban safaris. The LR2 offers smart looks blended with rugged capability and durability.

Significant improvements for the 2009 model year include a more aggressive mesh grille, painted front and rear bumper, side sill enhancements, dual exhaust tips and several additions to the color palette for both the inside and outside. Lenses covering side turn-signal repeater lamps are now clear instead of amber colored, and a darker matte-gray finish surrounds the lighting elements in the tail lamps.

Three major optional equipment packages are available for personalizing the LR2: first is a Technology Package priced at $3,500 that comes with a DVD-based Navigation System, Dolby Pro Logic II 7.1 Surround Sound System, Sirius satellite radio, rear seat audio controls and a personal telephone integration system with Bluetooth connectivity.

Next is a Lighting Package with Bi-Xenon headlights, an adaptive front lighting system, approach and puddle lights, and memory driver seat and mirrors - all for $1,050. A Cold Climate Package gives you a heated windshield, heated front row seats with two heating levels and heated windshield washer jets for $700. Yet another option is the Narvik Black exterior finish, which will set you back $400.

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