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Land Rover SUV Helps Off-Roaders Take Off

Land Rover enters the compact luxury sport utility vehicle market with the new L2 model.

The niche for small, expensive SUVs now has three players, with the Land Rover L2 joining the BMW X3 and Acura RDX to create a competitive market.

With sales essentially flat for 2007, Land Rover could be considered one of the bright spots in the big Ford Motor Co.’s pantheon, which continues to bleed market share as well as money. Land Rover seems to have accomplished this end by a steady output of new models, the L2 being the latest.

There are three things we like about the L2 that set it apart from its competitors.

First off, it delivers a full helping of Land Rover’s renowned off-road capabilities. Secondly, it is a chip off Land Rover’s current school of exterior design, which features an upright truck-like design in a taut contemporary package. And finally, some of the Land Rover’s Range Rover huge snob appeal may extend to the smaller, much less expensive L2 model.

It’s pretty simple to determine if you’re at the center of the target market for the Land Rover L2. The question is whether you’re an avid off-roader. If so, then the L2 is the only player in this segment for your needs. It is equipped with Land Rover technology that’s a definite asset when the going gets steep and tough.

Perhaps the most interesting component for off-road prowess is Land Rover’s Terrain Response System, which modifies the response of engine, transmission and differential to optimize responsiveness and improve traction and control under a wide variety of conditions. The system offers a different response for general on-road driving, another for slippery conditions, a setting for mud and ruts and a final mode for sand.

The L2 also offers good ground clearance to assist the driver in crossing tree limbs and stepping over large ruts. Additionally, the Gradient Release Control improves driver control when releasing the brakes on steep and slippery slopes.

On the other hand, if your driving is limited to the pavement and if you are an aggressive driver, the Land Rover L2 may not be the best choice.

Floor the accelerator and the L2 posts a leisurely 8.4 seconds to reach 60 mph from a dead stop and is significantly slower than the snappy Acura RDX.

When I tested the midsize Land Rover L3 recently, I thought it set a new low in terms of road feel. It offered almost no communication with what was happening with the front tires. Although the L2 is built on a different chassis, it also suffers from the same unresponsive handling.

On the other hand, if you’re a relaxed driver, the L2 offers a ride quality that soaks up the bumps and is relatively quiet at cruising speeds.

The L2 offers a comfortable, well-appointed cabin with particularly good seats. Land Rover claims best-in-class internal cargo capacity of 58.9 cubic feet.

Safety features have become commonplace in the luxury segment and the L2 offers a full range of all of the necessary air bags.

Many consumers have grasped the rollover threat that is part of the SUV legacy. But prospective buyers of the compact Land Rover should be aware that the L2 offers as standard equipment roll stability control, a relatively new technology that can prevent rollovers through the combination of vehicle sensors and components that control throttle and the all-wheel-drive system.

As one might expect in a Land Rover product, our test vehicle came loaded with a lot of equipment at its $40,000 sticker price. Standard equipment and several options packages gave us bi-xenon headlamps, adaptive front lighting, rain-sensing windshield wipers and rear park distance control.

Additional items included two-part panoramic sunroof and a full-color touch-screen DVD satellite navigation system. The Premium Audio System offered Dolby Pro Logic II 7.1 Surround Sound.


Cordell Koland is an automotive journalist based in California’s central coast. He can be reached at cordellkoland@mac.com.

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