Given Detroit's winter weather to date, I had hoped March would roar in like a lion and dump some snow to try out our freshly minted 2009 Land Rover LR2 HSE. Unfortunately, March came in with a "baaaaah." Seems like we'll just have to trust Land Rover's claim that the LR2 can ford 20-inches of water, a claim I'm not likely to attempt without waders, a nearby winch, and permission from Land Rover's PR department. The claim, however, points to something Land Rover wants to promote with this crossover; that it's tough.
We had reason to question the overall toughness of the LR2 given that it's based on a highly modified Ford/Volvo car platform. Also harming the truck's manliness is the lack of a proper "Low" range for the full-time four-wheel drive. Every other Land Rover model has a proper transfer case.
In practice, this matter not because the LR2 is truly the first Land Rover to be designed primarily for on-road driving. So it is on-road that we drew our impressions.
The 2009 Land Rover LR2 HSE rides well and darts around corners without any sickening body roll. The 230-hp inline 6-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission feel strong, but the LR2 isn't particularly quick. We estimate zero-to-sixty comes up in around nine seconds. When hustling, the engine doesn't sound refined, but this isn't a vehicle that will spend much time hustling. Cruising is more its speed, and at a cruise, things are much more subdued, but blindfolded you'll never mistake the LR2 for Lexus RX. The LR2's city mileage of 16 isn't terribly Lexus-like either...
The view from the driver's chair is proper Land Rover: well above traffic and with low window sills. It's commanding, for sure. The interior provides good room and comfort front and back, but there are areas that didn't seem to get enough attention and look too inexpensive for the Land Rover brand. The black, untextured panels at the tops of the front doors stand out. Curiously, the optional NAV system on our premium HSE didn't include a reverse camera system (it's not an option), nor did it double as an audio system readout. Weirder still was that the tuning knob on the radio moved the tuner from preset to preset, requiring the use of buttons to scan the spectrum. Very odd.
The 2009 Land Rover LR2 is a capable and affordable offering for the storied British (now Indian-owned) brand. Light off-roading isn't out of the question thanks to the LR2's Terrain Response system, which uses a console switch to alter suspension and powertrain calibrations to suit a variety of on- and off-road conditions. Electronic enhancements also include ABS, traction control, electronic stability control, and hill-decent control. The LR2's carefully calibrated steering and the longish travel of the accelerator pedal would also be a definite aid when negotiating muddy, rutted roads or tougher off-road trails.
If you're considering a mid-size SUV or crossover, you owe the 2009 Land Rover LR2 a look. It certainly stands out from the regulars (Acura RDX, BMW X3, Infiniti EX35) and shows that Ford Motor Company took good care of this brand when they owned it. Too bad they couldn't get it to make any money.
Read our full Bottom Line review here for more information.