2007 Land Rover LR2

The LR2 deals with high-speed corners well, without need for constant steering adjustments through the apex. Steering feedback is good, bearing in mind that this is no Porsche Cayman rival, and the LR2's body control is reasonably tight. The X3 still has the edge, but the LR2 could well be the best-handling Land Rover of all time.

But the one thing a Land Rover must always do better than the rest is to go off-road. On-road, the LR2 is effectively a front-wheel-drive vehicle, with just enough power going to the rear wheels that there isn't a driveline shunt if grip conditions suddenly demand more power to the rear. For more serious off-roading, the LR2 has Land Rover's Terrain Response, which can be set for grass, gravel, snow, or sand. This, says Land Rover, more than compensates for the lack of a low-range transfer case.

It mostly does. We took to the dunes with the LR2 and were able to stay unstuck even over some epic crests. We missed a low range only when running in wet, soft sand. With 8.3 inches of clearance under the front axle, an approach angle of 29 degrees, a departure angle of 32 degrees, and a wading depth of nearly 20 inches, the LR2 is more than capable of dealing with the sort of grief an owner is likely to inflict on a $35,000 car.

Actually, Land Rover says that the LR2 will cost just under $35,000 when it goes on sale in April. Land Rover won't be offering a cheapo, entry-level car, as it believes this lowers the overall residual values for the model. Instead, the base LR2 will be specified with equipment that Land Rover thinks most people would order anyway, so leather, a panoramic sunroof, a nine-speaker Alpine stereo, MP3 input, auto headlamps, and seven air bags will be standard.

Who'll buy it? Land Rover's guessing that LR2 buyers will be a bit older than the forty-two-year-old average for the company. It reckons those people will be trading down from larger SUVs as the requirement for kid-and-cargo carrying space in their lives declines. Interestingly, they also suspect that some people put off by the LR3's jump up the price scale might now rejoin the Land Rover family with the LR2. They won't be disappointed.

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