The 2013 Land Rover LR2 is an important vehicle in the luxury SUV builder's lineup. While the LR2 might not be quite as sexy as the somewhat smaller Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, nor as prestigious as the Land Rover Range Rover or Range Rover Sport, what it does offer prospective buyers is an affordable gateway into the British brand. It also doesn't hurt that the compact Land Rover's conservative styling conceals substantial practicality as well as a surprising level of all-terrain capability, giving it a multi-purpose role that attracts a wide range of SUV shoppers.
We were given the chance to spend the day with the 2013 Land Rover LR2, which has benefited from a nip, a tuck, and a significant upgrade under the hood for the current model year. Piloting the LR2 on rural roads, urban streets, and even rugged off-road trails gave us a fairly complete picture of how good a job Land Rover has done in updating their core compact SUV.
The 2013 Land Rover LR2 doesn't stray too far from the squared-off exterior appearance that has long defined the model. Short front and rear overhangs are a must for any off-road-ready SUV, which help to keep the LR2's looks clean, and a healthy 8.3 inches of ground clearance adds solidity to the truck's design. New headlights up front are the biggest departure from the 2012 model, along with LED tail lights, new rims (18 and 19-inches), and the addition of more bright work to the front fascia. The changes help to bring the LR2 more in line with its line-up mates, but they don't exactly smolder with the same sultry intensity that has helped to make the Evoque such an eye-catching addition to the brand's lineup - and that's just fine, considering the demographic Land Rover is going after with the compact SUV.
Inside, the Land Rover LR2 features a very simple and straightforward dashboard that at times comes across as a bit plain, with open space dominating the passenger side of the car. The driver is treated to legible instrumentation and easy-to-use switches and controls for the HVAC and entertainment system. We didn't have much cause to test out the new voice command system or stereo, but the seven-inch touchscreen worked well as we moved through the vehicle's navigation features.
The over-sized lock/unlock buttons on the center stack gave off a more low-rent feel than would be expected for a Land Rover, and the move from a rotary dial to a set of buttons for interacting with the Terrain Response system was a bit of a disappointment, but other than that the SUV's cabin was well appointed. Plainness isn't necessarily a bad thing in a premium people mover, especially one that leans towards the utilitarian rather than sporty side of the spectrum like the LR2 does.
Motoring out onto the highway in the 2013 Land Rover LR2 reveals that the decision to abandon last year's six-cylinder mill for a more efficient 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbo was an inspired one. The new motor - essentially one of Ford's EcoBoost designs by another name, generates 240 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque - which translates into a nice little bump in output over the outgoing engine. Lighter than the six-cylinder that it replaces, the EcoBoost motor will offer fuel mileage that is very close to the Evoque which shares the same drivetrain (18-mpg city and 28-mpg highway).
Although the six-speed automatic transmission paired with the turbocharged engine was a bit abrupt at times while downshifting, the Land Rover LR2's programming had us keeping up with the traffic around us without issue. The vehicle felt well planted thanks to the grip of its full-time four-wheel drive system, which sends most of the engine's torque to the front wheels unless slippage is detected.
How does the 2013 Land Rover LR2's Haldex front-biased four-wheel drive system perform when the asphalt disappears and the SUV is faced with mud, rocks, and the occasional downed tree? Quite well, thank you very much. We hammered the LR2 through a series of increasingly snow-covered and mud-slicked trails that snaked through the western Quebec landscape just outside of Montreal and were incapable of getting the truck stuck.
In case you might be inclined to think that the Land Rover Experience personnel hooked us up with a few sweetheart passages through the forest, think again: we blew not one, but two tires in our LR2 tester during the course of the day, with our left front having a sizable gash torn into the sidewall due to the presence of an unseen sharp rock. Such was the Land Rover's dedication to getting us out of the woods in one piece that our only indication that the tire had gone down was a low pressure warning on the dash - the LR2 continued to soldier forward on its almost-bare rim without complaint, taking us through several more rough sections of trail before we finally arrived at a level area suitable for slapping on the spare. A big part of the Land Rover LR2's ability to eat up water crossings and mud pits can be attributed to its Terrain Response system, which adjusts throttle response, transmission settings, traction control, and four-wheel drive parameters for up to four distinct driver-selectable profiles.
All-Around Compact Luxury
The 2013 Land Rover LR2 starts at an MSRP of $37,250, which makes it thousands less than its Range Rover Evoque stable mate and cheaper than other options like the BMW X3. The Land Rover LR2 certainly isn't competing with other compact Euro crossovers from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or Audi, based largely on their lack of trail capability and their focus on driving dynamics (an attribute that can best be described as 'staid' in the LR2).
Rather, the most affordable Land Rover makes a play for luxury-seekers who are more concerned with overall utility than slalom speeds, and its upright looks and newfound fuel efficiency play well into the family segment. Will many LR2 owners punish the SUV like we did this past weekend while driving it through the woods? Unlikely, but awesome capability remains a key aspect of the Land Rover brand story and one the strongest components of the company's unique personality. In any case, it's not necessary to beat on the LR2 in order to enjoy its more practical and comfortable aspects, but it's great to know that if you ever have to, that capability is waiting underneath its squared-off metal skin like a sleeping mountain goat.