2011 Land Rover LR2 & LR4 | first drive

Posted on May 3, 2011 by
Land Rover Oman Drive - Omani kids

Welcome to Oman

Oman is a fantastic driving destination. It is safe, has scenic roads snaking the country side – both tar and gravel surfaced. Offers amazing driving experience in the deep Wahiba sands and Empty quarters. People are warm and friendly.

When an invitation from for a drive event in Oman arrived on my desk, I was not going to say no. Our wheels were the 2011 LR2 and LR4 vehicles and the drive was Muscat – Wahiba – Tiwi, in Hajar mountain range and back to urban land in the Omani capital. I was grinning…

In Muscat, keys to a 5.0 liter V8 2011 were handed over after what was a mundane, but a must do for any well organized event, safety briefing. Some of the other journalists on this event had to make do with the smaller LR2 to start their journeys.

Land Rover Oman DriveCareful navigation through Muscat traffic without losing any cars on way out of the city was painfully slow for a fairly large convoy of Land Rover vehicles. The city traffic does not give much of an opportunity to test the power of 370 ponies under the hood; neither does it give half decent excuse to check out 510 Nm of torque from this LR4. Patience…….

Once out of the city, the straight, scenic Omani roads gave an opportunity to floor the pedal. As the foot travelled that small linear path pushing the accelerator pedal down, a resurgence of power from the front of the LR4 gradually eased me against the seat backrest. Smooth and abundant power to tackle legally allowed speeding and overtaking needs on the road gave a sense of confidence. Chemistry between the LR4 and me was instant.

Land Rover Oman DriveThin traffic in the Omani countryside gave an opportunity to closely look around me. I am not a fan of Land Rover interior layout, which comes across as too boxy and busy. While a lot of cars out there have smooth flowing lines across the dashboard and central console, Land Rover has stuck to its straight line approach. That to me does not appeal.

I also find the number of buttons on the dashboard intimidating. It could have been much cleaner using some smart technology and different design approach. The pull down arm rest on driver and passenger seats is well, not really needed, and can be done away with in favor of more space and less clutter.

Overall, the LR4 is spacious inside. Quality of materials used is in line with what one expects from a premium brand. Fit and finish left a bit to desire though. There was nothing that particularly disappointed, but the sense of contentment was not there either. It’s like having a full meal in a good restaurant, yet walk away with a thought – something was missing from that.Land Rover Oman Drive

Our journey on the silky black top soon came to an end and the convoy ventured into where the Land Rover really belongs – off road. A gravel track took us along parts of the path of hurricane Gonu, which had created havoc in Oman a few years ago.

Marks of devastation caused by this horrendous hurricane were still visible. However, changed landscape, uprooted trees and damaged shanty houses had done little damage to the Omani spirits and more than once, a bunch of curious Omani kids would come close to the convoy, waive and give a warm smile.

Wading through water puddles, we drove through the Hajar mountain range on our way to Wahiba sands. A desert camp there was to be our abode for next 24hours.

Hajar mountain range did not pose much of a challenge to LR4’s abilities. Sometimes I sit back and wonder if it was the car or smart routing that gets the credit. Most of the time, I find myself saying, bit of both, but the LR4 certainly qualifies for benefit of doubt.

The 2011 LR4 felt sure footed on the rough driving surface, partly because of recent upgrades to its suspension system. The engineers at Solihull, England have made modifications to the suspension systems, with changes to roll centers, anti roll bars and suspension knuckles amongst other components. Two additional features – the hill start assist and gradient acceleration control systems have also been added for 2011.Land Rover Oman Drive

While hill start assist keeps the brakes on in a hill climb situation even after driver has moved their foot towards the accelerator pedal, thus keeping the vehicle from rolling back, the gradient acceleration control system is the more interesting of the two.  It’s a safety feature designed to assist the driver in severe decent situations irrespective of the direction of travel. So you could be tackling a steep slope in drive or going rearwards in reverse. When the driver does not have hill decent control system engaged, this system restricts speed to 5km/h giving driver some time to regain control of the vehicle.

Fortunately, or otherwise, no instance presented a challenge enough for this system to be deployed. But it was reassuring to know that a smart technology backup was available, should the need arise.

The 6 speed ZF HP28 automatic transmission does a good job on gear selection at low speeds thus optimizing torque utilization.

By the time we stopped for a break, the LR4 had enough mud on it and its new silver on green badge, a change from previous year’s gold on green, was hardly to be seen. I was a satisfied soul. The LR4 deserves to be treated this way, and takes it in its stride effortlessly.

The day ended with a short sandy drive to the beautiful camp site in the Wahiba area. Nightfall hid the magnanimous dunes from us, only to be revealed the next day.

Land Rover team must have been up really early to get all the vehicles washed, fuelled and parked right outside the camp. A herd of local camels approached us as we got into our allocated cars, as if to inquire of our intent and determination to ride through the Wahiba sands.

Land Rover Oman DriveBeing my first time in Wahiba sands where the dunes could be as high as a 4 story building, nervousness was natural. LR2 was to be my ride. Oooopss…..the inner voice said.

The baby Land Rover is not a literal baby. Its inline 6 cylinder 3.2 liter petrol engine packs in 317Nm of torque and nearly 230 ponies. It is equipped with twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder with cam profile switching and variable valve timing. The i6 also has a variable length inlet tract which adapts to optimize both high end power and low end torque.

These technologies combine to deliver 80% of maximum torque across a wide rev range, of which, 256Nm is available between 1400rpm and 6400rpm. Considering that this kid weighs about 1700 kilos in comparison to its elder sibling at just over 2500 kilos, there was a good possibility of taking on the Wahiba sands with a bit of care and confidence – my trump cards.Land Rover Oman Drive

Unfortunately, in addition to the automotive journalistic fraternity, PR guys at Land Rover, keeping with the brand personality, had also included journalists from non automotive media in the same group.

Driving in the solid, rough mountain terrain and driving in sand dunes is two different ball games. While the convoy waded through waters, climbed mountains and drove through wadis with ease the previous day, this changed as soon as we hit the first dune, which was about the height of a 1 story building.

A route marshal in a lead car showed us the approach for this dune. First few cars went through without signs of any trouble and then the inevitable happened. LR’s started getting stuck due to driver errors. After repeated futile attempts, the route marshals decided to alter the track a bit and got these fellow drivers going again. I knew this was going to be a long day…

Land Rover Oman DriveClearance was given to climb the dune and I floored the LR just to realize that too much power was being delivered to the wheels and the vehicle was beginning to dig into the sand. Sense prevailed. Ease out the throttle, get into manual shift mode and drop a gear, keep the momentum going, play on the steering and voila! The dune was behind me in no time. The baby Land Rover and I were connected. Hereon it was going to be easy….the inner voice spoke again, only to bring a grin on my face.

As with all Land Rovers, the LR2 is rigorously tested worldwide in temperatures ranging from -40°C to +50C°, up to 95% humidity and altitudes of up to 4,000m. For 2011, Land Rover has made some cosmetic changes to the exterior and interior of the LR2 and its engine has been tweaked to meet stringent European emission norms.

2011 LR2 | Land Rover Oman DriveAlthough small in appearance, the LR2 gets injected with off road technologies that are offered in other Land Rover vehicles. Sitting near the gear shift lever is a four wheel drive control knob with four pre-set selection options – general driving, slippery conditions such as grass, gravel, or snow, mud and ruts and sand. Flick the knob, select the terrain, and you are set to go.

The concoction of technologies injected in this Land Rover includes stability and traction control system, hill decent system, brake force distribution and roll stability control. There are 7 air bags in all to keep the occupants safe inside its shell.

A high, commanding driving position is a clear advantage in the desert. Good visibility of the terrain around is necessary and the LR2 gets brownie points for this. The seats are comfortable and electrically adjustable.

2011 LR2 | Land Rover Oman Drive | Wahiba sandsSnaking and sliding through the Wahiba sands for a good part of the day, without getting stuck, was a fantastic experience. A steep drop from a huge dune would be end of driving in the desert. This is where technologies like the hill decent control came in play (see picture in the gallery). Coming down a large dune in a controlled manner was a child’s play in this baby Land Rover.

Second part of our drive took us back into the mountains en route to Muscat. Rough surface there posed no challenge to the LR2 and its smaller wheelbase made it easy to maneuver through the snaking hilly roads. That there was sufficient power on taps to tackle any inclines was already assured based on the desert drive earlier in the day. The ride did feel a little less comfortable than that in the LR4 from previous day, but then should one be comparing?

2011 LR4 | Land Rover Oman Drive Our drive across the Hajar mountain range brought us closer to beautiful Omani coastline. Thereon, it was a race on flat and solid blacktop. No problems here. To say the least, it was a comfortable ride back to Muscat on well coated Omani roads. Tackling city traffic was a breeze given the dimensions of my ride.

Until next time…… drive safe.

3 Responses to 2011 Land Rover LR2 & LR4 | first drive

  1. Rowland Reply

    February 22, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Guys I am desparate
    I bought a LR2 as I wanted something more economical, and was advised it would be good off terrain.
    On rough roads in OMAN,  it was great. its huge torque makes going uphill slowly perfect. However it has insufficient ground clearance.
    Sand driving is another matter. I get stuck where even semi 4*4 cars manage. All other marks performed admirably.
    LR2  just digs itself in with it high spinning wheels. I try and stop this by going manual and dropping down a gear, then run our of power.
    I really do not know what to do. Living in UAE and having a car that is poor in sand makes off road driving very stressful. 
    ANYONE got any advise.

    • Guest Reply

      August 15, 2013 at 5:24 pm

      Just google Carnity, for all your queries related to cars in UAE.. hope it helps.. Lot of people there to share knowledge about such stuff… good luck!

    • Pankaj Dev Reply

      September 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      Rowland, how many LR2s do you see around you when in dunes? There has to be a reason, right? Need less to say, FJ, LC, Wrangler are the types that rule the sand.
      A lot also depends on driver skills and experience, which I am assuming you have aplenty.
      Are you hooked up with some off roads clubs in Dubai/Abu Dhabi? There usually is a person or two who run workshops frequented by club members and can help you with mods, if that solves your problem.

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