All-terraint aptitude

Sharing platform pieces with the new Volvo S80 and utilizing the Swede's 3.2-liter inline-six and six-speed automatic, the LR2 is unlike other Rovers in that it's car-based and, under most circumstances, functions as a front-drive CUV. But that's not to say it's not a legitimate Land Rover; after all, it boasts the most ground clearance (8.3 inches), the best approach/departure angles (29.0/32.0 degrees), and the most formidable off-road system. Dubbed Terrain Response, the LR2's Haldex-based all-wheel drive meshes the transmission, throttle, stability control, and hill descent to optimize momentum through just about every landscape imaginable. At Dumont, with T.R. set to Sand-General Driving, Grass/Gravel/Snow, and Mud and Ruts are the other settings-the LR2 eats through sand like Kobayashi does Nathan's Famous hot dogs, devouring dune after dune, seemingly toying with the others. Love the outdoors and off-roading? The LR2 is in a class by itself.

Compared with its predecessor, the frail and frumpy Freelander, the LR2 plays the rough part well. It looks rugged, almost like a mini-LR3, a theme that carries over inside, evidenced by a strikingly similar dash, instrument panel, and steering wheel. Further, behind that wheel, the feel is much the same-the seating position is high, visibility all around is excellent, and the cabin is roomier than expected.

As in the X3 and the RDX, the LR2's ride is firm, yet the Land Rover manages to dull the impacts. Editorial assistant LaPalme notes, "Suspension is more boatlike than the others, with a slight bobbing feel when rolling over seams and bumps." Through winding roads, the LR2 continues to impress, offering light, pure steering sensation, respectable lateral acceleration (0.76 g), and stellar braking (60 to 0 in 126 feet). The Rover does exhibit a fair amount of body roll-at 69.5 inches tall, it possesses the highest center of gravity-but once settled in a turn, it feels composed, mildly protesting with moderate understeer.

Saddled with over 4300 pounds and a tall final drive (2.59:1), the LR2 is the slowest to 60 (9.0 seconds) and the quarter mile (16.8 at 82.5 mph) and sometimes feels weak trudging up steep grades. Still, wearing a price tag undercut only by the Acura's and armed with 60 years of off-road expertise, a rugged faade befitting an Indiana Jones rig, and refined, laudable road manners, the LR2 easily secures the second spot.