Pros: Excellent off-road capability; competitive base MSRP; peppy acceleration

Cons: Virtually zero upgradable extras; poor fuel economy; cramped interior

Originally unveiled in 1997, the LR2 began life as the Land Rover Freelander. When Land Rover introduced the second-generation Freelander in 2006, it was rebadged as the LR2 in the U.S. to line up with the third-generation Land Rover Discovery, which had been rebadged as the LR3.

The second-generation LR2 has a sleeker body design and a new engine. In place of the previously offered Land Rover V6, there is a 3.2-liter inline-6-cylinder engine, licensed from Volvo. New, too, is a six-speed automatic transmission in place of the outgoing five-speed automatic.

Distinguishing itself from the rest of the Land Rover brand's offerings, the LR2 has unibody construction. Other Land Rovers (LR4, Range Rover Sport and Range Rover) have body-on-frame construction. The LR2 stood as the only unibody Land Rover vehicle until 2012 with the introduction of the Range Rover Evoque, which shares the LR2's underpinnings.

Comfort & Utility

The LR2 is Land Rover's entry-level vehicle, yet it still features European luxury appointments. The LR2's available seat styles are differentiated by trim level: a six/four-way seat is standard, and an eight/six-way electrically adjusted seat is included with the LUX option package. At the top of the option range, the LUX package offers Windsor leather upholstery in ebony, almond, ivory or tan and premium matching carpet mats. The LR2 also has dual-zone climate control and a panoramic sunroof, along with 18-inch or 10-spoke, 19-inch "sparkle finish" wheels.

Technology

The LR2, like its Land Rover stablemates, has highly sophisticated four-wheel-drive technology represented by an alphabet's worth of acronyms. These technical systems not only improve the LR2's traction capabilities but also its safety. The LR2 features Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Electronic Traction Control (ETC), Hill Descent Control (HDC), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Corner Brake Control (CBC), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Roll Stability Control (RSC), Engine Drag Control (EDC) and Gradient Release Control (GRC). Two tech options are DVD satellite navigation and Bluetooth connectivity.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The Volvo-sourced inline-6 engine in the LR2 produces 230 horsepower and 234 lb-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with Land Rover's CommandShift technology. The LR2 will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds and has a top speed of 124 mph. Its fuel economy rating is 15 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway.

Safety

The LR2 provides good visibility at all four corners. Narrow yet strong A-pillars ensure that forward visibility is not compromised and also ensure exceptional strength in case of a rollover. The LR2 has seven airbags, all standard equipment: two curtain, two front, two torso and a driver's knee airbag.

The engine of the LR2 is transversely mounted (width-wise rather than lengthwise). This frees up interior space and is intended to make the vehicle safer in a crash.

Driving Impressions

The LR2 is more similar in driving feel to European compact SUVs than it is to other Land Rover products past or present. Drivers who expect the road-owning sensation provided by the LR4 or the Range Rover will be disappointed. Our advice is to forget its brand name and take the LR2 at face value. You'll be pleased by its light, peppy, quiet and comfortable driving characteristics.

The permanent four-wheel-drive system zaps in-town fuel economy but does give the driver a sense of always being in control. Rutty roads don't toss the LR2 about, which isn't true of some other compact SUVs. Nor is the LR2 prone to the shimmies when catching the wake of large trucks on the freeway.

The LR2 isn't the flashiest or sportiest European compact SUV on the road, but it absolutely feels dependable and hardy. Customers looking for a quiet, capable compact luxury SUV should be impressed by the LR2's understated charm.

Other Cars to Consider

Acura RDX - Starting at $32,895, the RDX and the LR2 are surprisingly similar in interior quality and driving feel. The RDX, however, doesn't have standard all-wheel drive; it costs a few thousand extra to add Acura's SH-AWD system to the RDX.

Audi Q5 - Starting at $35,600, the Q5 has standard full-time all-wheel drive, plus a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with an automatic transmission. Be forewarned, however, that the automatic may be one of the worst-shifting units on the market.

BMW X3 - The X3's interior is far nicer-looking than the LR2's, but to get the most from your X3 interior, you need to shell out thousands in upgrades. What begins as a reasonably priced compact SUV, starting at $37,100, quickly becomes much more expensive.

AutoTrader Recommendations

In the case of the LR2, optional upgrades don't add much other than higher-quality leather, so stick to the basics. The LR2 is only offered with one engine, transmission, and drive system choice, so why bother? The base model, at nearly $36,000, is just that good.

author photo

Nick Jaynes developed a passion for writing about cars working his way through Journalism School as a Volvo mechanic. When he's not writing, Nick can be seen hosting the popular automotive web-show DownForce Motoring. In his free-time, Nick collects vintage cars, trucks, and motorcycles.

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