Review and photos by
Jil McIntosh, CanadianDriver.com
The old saying goes that familiarity breeds contempt. That may be so in some circumstances, but in my case, familiarity has bred content. I’d never really been on Land Rover’s radar, and so only viewed these chunky – and to my eye, clunky – vehicles at auto shows, or the few times I saw one on the road. Having spent some seat time in them, including the smallest of the bunch, the 2010 LR2, I’ve come to appreciate the brand, which combines rough-and-ready off-road ability with some seriously luxurious interior touches.
Whether I’d actually buy one might be more up in the air: they also have a well-earned reputation for gremlins, and indeed, my LR2 was the first Land Rover I’d driven where everything worked for the full week – rather ironic, given that it was also my least-expensive tester. Still, if you have faith in the warranty, this is a sweet machine among compact sport utility vehicles.
Overseas, the LR2 is known as the Freelander 2. In Canada, it comes only in the well-equipped HSE trim line, starting at $44,950. Mine was one of only fifty produced for 2010 as a Sport Limited Edition vehicle. My tester included all sorts of options, including exterior body kit, unique 19-inch “diamond-turned” wheels, two-tone leather seats, navigation system, Dolby surround-sound system, metallic trim, and any colour I wanted, providing it was either Lago Grey or my tester’s Santorini Black. The final tally was $53,170 before taxes and freight. It’s a lot of money, but then, that’s the nature of the brand.
It uses a 3.2-litre inline six-cylinder, producing 230 horsepower and 234 lb-ft of torque, mated strictly to a six-speed automatic that includes manual shift mode. These straight-line engines are typically very smooth, and the LR2 is no exception. It snaps sharply off the line, but with a portly curb weight of 1,930 kilograms (4,255 lbs), it gets a little flat as you go further up the speedometer. Once it hits its cruising altitude, though, it’s content to sail along easily, as it proved on a five-hour road trip. The official published figures are 14.1 L/100 km (20 mpg Imp) in the city and 9.1 (31) on the highway. Overall, with most of my driving on rural highways, I averaged 10.5 L/100 km (27 mpg Imp), with a recommendation for premium fuel.
While it still has off-road chops, the LR2 is the “little brother” to its more rough-and-ready LR3 and Range Rover siblings (although, when you’re up at the top end, I wonder how many people actually take their $100,000-plus Rovers very far off the beaten path). It includes a version of their Terrain Response control, which can be dialed in to one of four optimal settings for general driving, grass/gravel/snow, mud and ruts, and sand; it automatically adjusts the traction control, stability program, throttle response and other systems for optimal performance in each situation. Hill descent control is also included, but there’s no low range. The four-wheel system is biased toward the front wheels, but it takes only a slight touch of wheel slip to get some of that torque heading toward the rear.
The steering isn’t all that sharp, but it’s a pleasant driver nevertheless. It feels exceptionally well-planted, even on a couple of highway stretches that could have earned me some serious discussion time with the boys in blue. The ride is smooth, but never squishy, and despite its height, there’s very little leaning into the corners. The brakes bring it down from speed with confident pedal feel, albeit with a bit of nosedive on hard stops. It’s easy to spin it around tight parking lots, but while there’s a sonar warning when backing up, a back-up camera is not available, even when the navigation system is ordered.
The interior is handsome, and while naturally not as luxuriously finished as its more expensive siblings, the fit-and-finish is very good, and the materials are high-quality. I like the relative simplicity of the climate controls, which let you adjust the mode by simply hitting the appropriate button; when the system is left in automatic mode, the driver and passenger dial in their preferred temperatures. The stereo controls are a bit more finicky, but almost all of their functions can still be figured out without having to delve into the owner’s manual.
I have a major dislike of the ignition, however, which requires that you first insert the brick-shaped key into a slot in the dash, and then press a starter button. On top of that unnecessary two-step, you have to reach in and press the key in order to activate a tiny motor that pushes it back out when leaving the vehicle. It’s difficult to do, even with my small fingers, given that it’s deep in the dash and the attachment for a key ring is in the way. Beyond that, given the electrical gremlins I’ve experienced with other Land Rover models, I have my doubts about anything that requires an electric motor to hand me back my key.
Getting my other complaints about the interior out of the way, there is no holder for sunglasses, the lovely seats get very hard after about three hours on the road, and it has rain-sensing wipers, which are easily confused by drizzle, and should be replaced with the gold standard: variable intermittent wipers. No essential safety feature that works “most of the time” is acceptable in my books, although given that there seem to be a lot of people who prefer that the vehicle do the work of figuring out when it’s raining, I’m pretty much spitting into the wind on this one.
In the “on the fence” category are the armrests: I like that they can be moved up or down into almost any position, but it can be awkward to twist the little knobs that lock them into place. In the big-thumbs-up category, I have the cruise control, which is dead-simple and easy to use; the straightforward instrument cluster; the navigation system, again easy to figure out without training; and the cool chrome strips on the steering wheel that operate the horn, just because they look neat.
Rear-seat passengers get fairly decent legroom, and there’s a lot of space under the front seats for slipping feet to increase the comfort level. With the seats up, the cargo compartment is 90 cm long. Folding the rear seats is easy to do: first you flip up the cushion, and then pull down the seatback, which slips into place without having to remove the head restraint. This gets you a cargo length of 155 cm. The cargo area also includes tie-downs and a soft retractable cover.
It’s a crowded spot in the compact SUV segment, and for most people, Land Rover isn’t on the list: it’s pricey, and its reputation for reliability hasn’t earned it too many J.D. Power awards. Still, there’s pretty much a vehicle for everyone, and those who take the LR2 for a spin around the block might find themselves with quite the soft spot for it. It is, indeed, a vehicle where getting your butt into the seat and out on the road – or the off-road – makes all the difference in perception.
Pricing: 2010 Land Rover LR2 HSE Sport Limited Edition
Base price: $44,950
Options: $8,220 (Sport Limited Edition Package of limited-edition two-tone leather seats, ebony carpet mats, metallic-effect veneer, bright rear tread strip, body-colour mirrors and door handles, twin bright tailpipe finishers and 19-inch Limited Edition diamond-turned contrast wheels, $3,005; LUX Package of DVD navigation system, 440-watt subwoofer and 13-speaker Dolby ProLogic II 7.1 surround sound system, $2,915; Limited Edition style package of integrated exterior body kit, $2,300)
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $54,540
Crash test results
Jil McIntosh is a freelance writer, a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) and Assistant Editor for CanadianDriver.com. Her personal website can be found at http://www.JilMcIntosh.com
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