The LR2 is based on the same unibody chassis architecture as the Volvo XC90 and uses a variant of its transverse-mounted straight-six, replacing the outdated and generally less-than-stellar Freelander.

The aforementioned 3.0-liter six spools out a smooth 230 horsepower--less than the class average, but enough. It's backed by a six-speed automatic with standard drive, Sport drive, and manumatic modes that make the most of the powerplant.

While the LR2 doesn't offer a low range, it has full-time all-wheel drive, excellent ground clearance, aggressive approach and departure angles, Hill Descent control, and Land Rover's remarkable Terrain Response. In short, the LR2 packs more off-road capability than most any other crossover. A super-stiff structure, full of high-strength steel, seven standard airbags, Traction, Corner Brake, and Roll Stability controls plus ABS, makes for what should prove an exceptionally safe package. Our tester came loaded with dual sunroofs, leather interior, navigation system, and all the usual power goodies. Unlike some previous Land Rover offerings, this one has good on-road dynamics, too.

The LR2 costs as much as many larger, three-row crossovers that have even more creature features. This is the main factor that kept it from earning the prize in this year's competition.

Relax, Roverites: While the LR2 won't hop rocks with an old Defender 90, it's still a doer in the dirt--and now, a joy to drive on-road as well.



2008 Land Rover LR2 SE
Base price range $34,700
Price as tested $40,050 (SE)
Vehicle layout Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.0L/230-hp/234-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve I-6
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 4307 lb (58/42%)
Wheelbase 104.7 in
Length x width x height 177.1 x 75.1 x 68.5 in
0-60 mph 9.1 sec
Quarter mile 16.8 sec @ 82.8 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 129 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.72 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 29.5 sec @ 0.53 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 16/23 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.05 lb/mile
Ratings
Engineering ****
Design ****
Interior/Functionality ***
Performance ***
On-Road Refinement ****
Off-Road Ability ***+
Value ***
Bottom Line Casts a wide net of capability in an attractive, compact package.