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2009 Land Rover LR2 HSE

Land Rover is a funny brand. Its flagship Range Rover doesn't sell in astounding numbers, but the company surely rakes in a healthy profit each time a Master of the Manor purchases one, and its customers are incredibly loyal. The LR3 is a very nice SUV, and the Range Rover Sport might be the coolest-looking sporty SUV around.

But the LR2 is more of a question mark in Land Rover's lineup. It's the least expensive model the company offers in the U.S., so you might think that it fits the volume-seller role. Except it sold barely half the volume of the top-dog Range Rover Sport in the first nine months of 2008 (4660 LR2 sales vs. 8804 RRS sales). OK, well, maybe it exists because it offers fuel economy far superior to its bigger brethren. Nope, the LR2 offers only 17 mpg combined, says the EPA, only 2 or 3 mpg better than its siblings.

These are all reasons that I was baffled by the fact that our fully loaded LR2 probably costs well over $40K. Don't get me wrong: I actually like small SUVs in the vein of the Honda CR-V and the Ford Escape. I'd just have a hard time justifying spending $40,000-plus for a fancier version of one.

But what do I know? There must be growth in this segment; otherwise we wouldn't be bracing for the stateside arrivals of the Audi Q5, the Mercedes-Benz GLK, and the revised BMW X3. Maybe it's a status thing ... Lexus sure sells a ton of RXs, but I'd just as soon buy a real workhorse SUV or a C-class for the price of the tiny Land Rover.

Not that I despise the LR2. Its handling is decent for this type of vehicle, despite lots of body roll. Performance off the line is pretty good, too, although the 3.2-liter I-6 doesn't have all that much passing power. It's acceptably comfortable, and I've seen numerous reports that the LR2 is very impressive off-road.

I still just have to wonder: why?

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

There is enough Land Rover flavor here to satisfy those who are shut out of the LR3 due to its higher price, but it's not like the LR2 is cheap. This 2009 model came to us without an as-tested price, but I suspect it's at least $40,000, since our vehicle was loaded for bear with all manner of luxury equipment. That's a lot of money for a modestly sized, modestly powered crossover SUV, but if you really have to have a Land Rover, here's your cheapest way to do it.

Plusses include the handsome, square-jawed exterior; the comfortable, upright seats; the supple ride quality; the decent steering feel; and the absolutely divine headlights, which on high beam are akin to having stadium klieg lights strapped to the front of the vehicle. With them, I was able to pick out a couple of deer on the side of the road that were about to step into my path. Whoa! The brakes worked very well.

Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor

Unfortunately, when I was able to get my hands on the LR2 keys, I was temporarily disabled and unable to drive, so I was relegated to the passenger seat. The first thing I noticed is that the LR2 has quite a high step-in height which made it especially difficult for me and my bum leg to get up into the seat. The large interior door handle, though, gave me a sturdy place to put my hand in order to get the boost I needed.

Another negative is the relatively shallow rear cargo area that was unable to swallow my wheelchair lying flat. We were forced to stand it upright and lean it against the rear seats in order to get the hatch closed.

Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor

2009 Land Rover LR2 HSE

Base Price (with destination): $36,150Price as tested: $43,600

Options: -Cold Climate Package-Lighting Package-Satin Silver Trim-Styling Pack-Technology Package

Fuel Economy: 15 / 22 / 17 mpg (city/hwy/combined)

Engine: Size: 3.2L in-line 6HP: 230 HP @ 6,300 rpmTorque: 234 lb-ft @ 3,200 rpm

Safety Ratings (in stars, 1-5): -Frontal Crash Driver: Unavailable-Frontal Crash Passenger: Unavailable-Side Crash Front Seat: Unavailable-Side Crash Rear Seat: Unavailable-Rollover: Unavailable

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Weight: 4,255 lb

Wheel/Tire Info: - 18" Aluminum Alloy(size)- 235/60R18 radials