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2007 Land Rover LR2

GAYDON, ENGLAND—The mood of Land Rover staffers at their design studio here is buoyant these days after regular reports of record sales far ahead of target dates.

GAYDON, ENGLAND—The mood of Land Rover staffers at their design studio here is buoyant these days after regular reports of record sales far ahead of target dates.

 

Worldwide sales hit 180,000 units in 2005, while this year is shaping up to be significantly better, Land Rover says.

 

That helps explain the brand's eagerness to show off the new LR2. The luxury marque's entry-level SUV replaces the less-than-loved Freelander, which hasn't been sold in North America since 2005.

 

The compact will arrive in Canadian showrooms by the middle of next year.

 

The LR2 name will be used only in North America and the Middle East, where many shoppers took a pass on Freelander, feeling it was underpowered, less than capable and out-of-date.

 

Elsewhere, the Freelander name will be retained.

 

Land Rover has been vigorously revamping its lineup.

 

In 2002, the flagship Range Rover was redesigned, then enhanced for 2006. Two years ago, the LR3 bowed to replace the long-in-the-tooth Discovery.

 

Last year brought the Range Rover Sport. Despite prices of more than $100,000, the firm is selling every one it can build.

 

With the LR2, the Gaydon designers have carried what is becoming a classic Land Rover look downmarket to adorn their entry-level SUV.

 

But, unlike the Freelander, which relied on its pedigree to sell, rather than any real off-road ability, the new LR2 will carry all the authentic powertrain and mechanical systems (including the Terrain Response suspension system) that other Land Rovers feature.

 

LR2 boasts a five-door body; a new 3.2-litre, 230 hp, inline-six; a six-speed automatic transmission with Command Shift; and full-time all-wheel drive.

 

You also get more interior room, rear passenger stadium seating and lots of amenities.

 

In its development, the rig was put through extensive testing at the firm's Gaydon test track.

 

This included high-speed driving, crashing across broken paved surfaces and sudden lane changes to test stability.

 

The proving ground also has an extensive off-road area laced with grades of more than 30 per cent, long, water-filled sloughs, boulder-filled ravines and lots of nasty potholed dirt tracks. I saw an LR2 tow a trailer loaded with about a tonne of sandbags through such obstacles.

 

Land Rover sells to dozens of countries, including Australia, where extensive trailer use is common. We in North America tend to prefer pickup trucks.

 

It's that attention to local markets that makes a world brand like Land Rover successful.

 

For that reason, the LR2 will also be available in right- or left-hand drive and with a new diesel engine, which, unfortunately, isn't coming to Canada and the U.S.

 

 

No one at the company wanted this to be a cheap Land Rover and, as such, the LR2 could (if loaded) possibly cost as much or more than a base V6 LR3.

 

How that will work out in the market remains to be seen. LR2 pricing will be announced later.

 



Howard J. Elmer, a freelance journalist powersports@sympatico.ca), prepared this report based on travel provided by the auto maker.

 


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