An all-new model for 2008, the Land Rover LR2 takes over the company’s entry-level position, a spot previously held by the Freelander, last seen for 2005.

The LR2 is powered by a 3.2-litre inline six-cylinder engine, developed by Volvo and also used in the S80, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that includes a Sport mode and a manual mode called Command Shift. The permanent all-wheel drive system is front-wheel biased, and uses a “pre-charge” to the electronically-actuated centre coupling for instant torque transfer when required. The Haldex system detects traction loss at just 15 degrees of slip.

The system also includes Land Rover’s “Terrain Response”, which allows the driver to switch between four pre-set dynamic systems: “General” for most on- and off-road situations; “Grass/Gravel/Snow” for firm but slippery footing; “Mud & Ruts”, which allows some wheel spin to get through guck; and “Sand”, for loose, dry sand and dirt. To get over just about everything, the LR2 features a departure angle of 32 degrees, an approach angle of 29 degrees, and a ramp breakover angle of 21.5 degrees; it can also handle water up to 500 mm (19.7 in.).

The LR2 comes in a single SE trim line and includes 18-inch alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, seven airbags (including driver’s knee), automatic headlights with washers, front and rear fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, rear park distance control, rear privacy glass, cargo cover, heated leather seats with six-way driver and four-way passenger power adjustment, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated windshield and washer jets, cruise control, leather-wrapped wheel, six-CD stereo with nine speakers and auxiliary jack, panoramic dual-panel sunroof, trip computer, 60/40 folding rear seat, and auto-dimming rearview mirror.

Available options include navigation system, 440-watt surround-sound stereo with 14 speakers and rear-seat controls, Bluetooth telephone integration, and lighting package with adaptive bi-Xenon headlamps, memory system and puddle lights.

While the Freelander didn’t do all that well for Land Rover, the LR2 is poised to make a splash in the marketplace: it’s a handsome vehicle, it handles itself very well on off-road courses, the upscale interior seats five in comfort, and despite its wilderness ability, it’s extremely smooth and quiet. The controls are still too complicated and the key-plus-starter-button system is more work than it needs to be, but overall, Land Rover has put forth a very nice contender to do battle with the likes of its rivals from Hummer and Jeep.

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