Enjoy a rocky ride off-road in the LR2

 

(PATRICK CASTILLO)   

 

Take one Land Rover and put it in the heart of the Hajar mountains and this car will do everything it says it will, which means smooth off-road driving with added luxury.

From the days of The Defender, the company has marketed its cars as perfect four-wheel drives and with the advent of the LR2, this continues even today.

Smaller and less rugged than its siblings, it doesn’t have the look of a mean machine, but looks can be deceiving – this car thrives when put on uneven terrain. It takes everything in its stride and no matter how steep the hill, tackles it with force.

A number of features, including the downhill assist, makes the Land Rover an attractive proposition for those who hanker to get out of the city on a regular basis. But all this technology under the bonnet has not compromised its exterior aesthetic.

Granted, it is not the most attractive car to ever grace the roads, and it doesn’t have the finesse of the Range Rover Sport, but it certainly sits above the LR3 when it comes to design.

With big wheel arches, solid headlamps and chunky grills it looks like a practical car. But its balanced proportions avoid the on-stilts persona that blights so many of today’s small SUVs.

The brand’s luxury-in-the-wilderness design makes it look like a motor that can give as good as it gets, yet put it on the city roads  and the overpowering lion is replaced by the agile impala that takes quick lane changes and turns in its stride.

The lion, however, is never far away and the roar emitting from the engine can be overpowering. If I didn’t know it was a petrol engine, I would have thought I was driving a diesel. You certainly know the LR2 is coming, so those who like their music loud will love it. Noise when accelerating is understandable, enjoyable even, but when it is still there at a cruising speed of 100kph it does get a little irritating.

For a car that prides itself on its off-road ability, the 3.2-litre engine is smaller than one would expect, but is adequate for its five-seat capacity. The permanent four-wheel drive model also helps in the city, providing more grip when you have to make that sharp right turn. Plus, the six-speed automatic transmission makes it more responsive and it has no problem kicking up a level to accelerate off the slip road onto the highway even when you’re already in top gear.

Still, determined off-roaders may cross this off their list as it  doesn’t have any low-range gears, making it less fun than some of its counterparts, namely the Jeep Wrangler.

Inside the car, comfortable leather seats await and a bright beige interior is carried throughout, bar the walnut strip across the dashboard. This has been a feature of Rover for as long as I can remember, perhaps harking back to its English heritage, but in the 21st century it’s time to get up-to-date. However, the armrest, automatic lights, cruise control and radio controls are all contained neatly on the steering wheel, making it for a very easy drive.

Although the LR2 is a utility player adults consigned to the back seat will not be pleased. Unless you fold the seats forward, the LR2’s boot won’t store enough gear for a family weekend getaway to a hotel, let alone a desert camping trip complete with tents, equipment and food.

Driving at night is hindered by the terrible UV-protected back windscreen. Yes, UV shields are important, especially in the UAE, but its designers must have been able to produce something better than this. The sound system, on the other hand, is quite something and resembles a computer rather than a radio.
 
With a capacity for 10 stored radio stations, plus the usual CD player, long journeys needn’t be boring. It all looks very hi-tech, but is actually easy to use. The clever design people have also introduced a little gadget that automatically reduces the volume when you are in reverse, enabling you to hear the rear-parking sensor. It also has front and side sensors for added assurance when pulling out of the tight car park.

As the fourth car Land Rover has launched in as many years, the brand is undergoing something of an overhaul. But with only one  top-of-the-range model coming to Dubai, individual customer specifications cannot be accommodated. And the LR2 has stiff competition. With the likes of BMW X3 and Nissan X-Trail in the same compact range, the LR2 looks very different to its sleek, polished rivals. But what this car has is the power to do what it sets out to. Even though the X3 is quick off the mark and also in permanent four-wheel drive mode, I would like to see how it would fare off-road.

The Land Rover thrives in this environment and is the reason why it stands out. Although it is uninspiring to look at, it does perform well in both the city and off-road and if you want to follow in the footsteps of premiership footballers the world over, then this car is for you.
 
 
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