We were less than impressed when we first got into this baby Land Rover, which a few years back replaced the Freelander. That's because it didn't seem to live up to the manufacturer's rugged reputation. Inside, the dash and console materials looked and felt cheap. But after a week behind the wheel, we grudgingly came over to this Rover.
Appearance: The LR2 is less boxy than its larger siblings, the Range Rover and LR3. Maybe that's due in part to its smaller size or its rounded wheel wells and slightly more sculpted front end. Still, it doesn't sacrifice the distinctive ready-to-go-off-road look of all Land Rovers.
Performance: With AWD and a host of "controls" — traction, roll, dynamic — the LR2 corners well. Of course, there is some body lean, which is to be expected with a tall SUV. Because our commutes seldom take us far from familiar terrain, we didn't have much of a chance to really test its off-road cred. Then again, maybe most LR2 owners are like us — people whose toughest road challenge will be standing water from summer downpours. Still, we were impressed with the dial-operated Terrain Response, even though we had no use for the "snow" mode. Lyra found the 3.2-liter inline six to be "surprisingly peppy," while Peter wasn't sure peppy is the adjective he'd use. Lyra liked the six-speed transmission's manual mode, which she found light — a nudge is all you need — and useful for when you want to a little more control. Peter found the steering touch to be a bit too light for his taste.
Interior: We didn't like the key fob you insert into a slot on the dash before you push the start button. Either give us one or the other. Plus, why do some carmakers insist on mismatched-sized cup holders? Peter thought the electronics controls could have been clearer to use, but Lyra found them easy. Peter would have liked the audio player incorporated into the nav screen. One other audio issue: The AM band on our tester didn't work. We both felt let down by the trim — cheap plastic on the door handles and floor console, plus poorly finished edges on the wood laminate and a glove box lid that didn't fit snugly. Also, the plastic handles flexed when closing the door. The bolstered leather seats were comfortable and firm. Lyra liked the off-white color, even as she wondered how easy it is to keep clean. The ride, which seemed to transmit most bumps, seemed better in the driver's seat. The front seats had enough head and legroom. Lyra found the rear spacious, while Peter found it adequate.
Our 3 favorites
Turn the dial: The Terrain Response adjusts the AWD, suspension and other systems to meet road needs.
Nice touch: The height of the armrests is adjustable.
Circle this: A tight turning radius is always a plus, whether going off-road or in city U-turns.
Let me control: Manual mode shifts easily with only a nudge.
Hope I'll never need this: The driver's side knee air bag is a cool idea.
Or this: A full-size spare under the rear cargo deck.
The bottom line: The LR2 is refined enough for those who want a little adventure with their brand cachet, but maybe not be enough for the die-hard off-roader.