Land Rover LR2
Big In The Most Important Way
*Because it's a Land Rover, you expect it to drive over anything. Move the big dial to a picture of the car under a snowflake, next to a little cactus or on top of a wavy line punctuated with a triangular pine tree. Just pick the terrain; apparently Land Rover will take care of the rest. We didn't get to drive in any of these settings but that's ok. It's just as happy playing the city slicker role. En route to a local club, 12 speakers pumped sound through a Dolby ProLogic II 7.1 surround sound system. When you get a taste of this audio glory, you wish that little silver terrain button interfaced with the big touch-screen display.

As a smaller, lighter crossover-type, the LR2 bridges a gap in that it's not an all-out SUV. The styling is subtle, the lines softer, and the room-well, it's less roomy. Still, the suspension and cornering abilities are better than what you might expect. While it lacks the in-your-face Land Rover identity, it manages to reduce Land Rover's premium entry fee ($36,150 for the base LR2). The $3,500 Technology Package is the way to make this car go all the way. The next step on Land Rover's end is putting that trick touch-screen display to better use than navigation alone. -Amanda Savercool

From The Hip
+ Land Rover cache at a more affordable price
- A little more cash than your typical crossover

2008 Land Rover LR2
*Layout
Longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive
*Engine
3.2-liter V6, dohc, 24-valve
*Transmission
Six-speed automatic
*Performance
Peak Power: 230 hp @ 6300 rpm
Peak Torque: 234 lb-ft @ 3400 rpm
0-60 mph: 8.4 sec.
Top Speed: 124 mph
Economy: 16 city/23 hwy

Price as Tested: $40,700

Porsche Cayenne GTS
The Do-It-Yourselfer's Choice
*Somewhere in a box in my garage there's a cartoon I cut out of the New Yorker showing the starting line of the classic tortoise-and-hare race. The hare is tall and lean and towers above the tortoise. The gag line is that the tortoise is looking up and grinning; emblazoned on its shell is the word Turbo. Obviously, it takes something additional to get a box moving. One only has to make a run through the Nordstrom's parking lot to see how successful the approach has been: boxes with blowers from the U.K. and Germany are plentiful. The Cayenne has never been accepted by the purists and never will be-it isn't a sports car no matter how much lipstick is applied. But the Cayenne has been good at keeping Porsche sales up, as it outsells the rest of the product line. So why not view the box on its own terms?

Porsche brought the naturally aspirated Cayenne GTS out to bridge the gap between the S and Turbo models. The GTS checks in about $12,000 above the S's base MSRP to just under $70K; throw in a few options and it gets dangerously close to the Turbo's $94,000 base. But it's most definitely worth pursuing with regard to appearance and performance. The standard wheel/tire package has been upgraded to 10x21-inch alloys with 295/35 tires that are not your standard off-road or winter fare. These gumballs are more in line with what comes on a GT3. The suspension has been noticeably beefed up, and there's more grunt in the form of 405 hp from the 4.8-liter V8, with a decent torque figure of 369 lb-ft. The Turbo's aggressive front end has been brought over and the GTS benefits from the large nostrils that feed the flow of air.

So what is it like to push and push hard? The GTS has one no extra cost option that literally does transform it from a soccer-mom special to a back-road burner-a six-speed manual transmission. Granted, only one in 30 GTSs are delivered with the do-it-yourself 'box, but it's the fact that they bothered at all for the small group of enthusiasts who would consider a Porsche Cayenne with a manual. It's a tiresome bore for stop-and-go commuting but excels over the slushbox in every other category. The wind-up through the revs matches the exhaust notes and meshes in a way one would not expect. Heel-toeing while gear jamming seems an unfamiliar concept in a Cayenne, but on the right road it is agile and exhilarating, so much so that it's easy to overlook what model Porsche is making those moves. -Kerry Morse

From The Hip
+ Porsche suspension, big brakes, manual transmission
- It's still a box

2008 Porsche Cayenne GTS
*Layout
Longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive
*Engine
4.8-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve
*Transmission
Six-speed manual
*Performance
Peak Power: 405 hp @ 6500 rpm
Peak Torque: 369 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm
0-60 mph: 5.7 sec.
Top Speed: 157 mph
Economy: 11 city/17 hwy

Price as Tested: $90,190

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