Land Rovers are known for their ruggedness and off-road prowess. But perhaps what's most impressive about the 2013 Land Rover LR2 is just how well it behaves when mud becomes tarmac, the roads twist and turn and the driver demands sportiness, rather than its famous aptitude for traversing boulders.
The LR2 is Land Rover's entry level SUV. It seats five, and sits below the Land Rover LR4 and the premium Range Rover products. Despite the LR2 being an entry-level machine, you still get plenty of styling and luxury. Naturally, what Land Rover deems entry is, for many manufacturers, classed as a premium vehicle.
The 2013 LR2 receives subtle tweaks to the exterior, primarily with regards to head and taillights. The 2013 Land Rover LR2 interior is freshened, more technology is added.
Also, the 3.2-liter naturally aspirated motor on the 2012 LR2 has been replaced on the 2013 LR2 by a more powerful and fuel efficient 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, lifted directly from the Range Rover Evoque. Fuel economy has been improved by two miles per gallon to an EPA-rated 17/24 mpg City/Highway. Power has been increased to 240 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque (up 10 hp and 16 lb-ft).
Pricing starts at $37,250 and three models are available (LR2, HSE, HSE LUX) with the price raising a couple of grand with each jump.
The LR2 boasts an all-wheel drive system by Haldex, and features Terrain Response that allows the driver to choose between four settings based upon the driving conditions faced (General Driving, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud & Ruts, and Sand).
Off-road, the car handles practically anything you can throw at it, from impossibly steep descents, river crossings and mud deep enough to drown a small dog.
When the going becomes less rough, the LR2 keeps going. The ride feels firm and poised, and the car exudes more agility and engagement than you would expect from a machine that made its name from scaling mountains.
The Land Rover LR2 is not just a one-trick pony. It's a compact SUV that can do it all.
The LR2 is undeniably Land Rover. In fact, it isn't far behind the Range Rovers in the looks department. Neighbors would be forgiven for thinking you received a promotion at work and bought yourself a Range Rover Sport.
We think the LR2 is better looking than the bigger LR4, which appears boxy and slightly awkward. The LR2 remains more elegant and curved. Proportionally, it works and definitely looks more expensive than the relatively average price tag suggests.
The most noticeable difference between the previous LR2 and the 2013 LR2 is the head and taillights. The headlights have been revamped with the latest xenon and LED technology, set off with a new design graphic in the front running lights. The grille and fog lamp bezels now sport a bright finish with subtle paint detailing changes to the grille surround, insert bars and fender vent.
At the side, the LR2 presents narrow A-posts, in an attempt to improve vision for the driver. Below is a thin aluminum-look engine vent, right next to the protruding fenders and the 18-inch standard alloy wheels. Two options of 19-inch wheels are available.
At the back of the car, the taillights receive the same treatment as the front, with a slightly more modern redesign. The whole rear end looks very Range Rover.
Three new colors have been added for 2013: Aintree Green, Havana and Mauritius Blue. The blue, in particular, is stunning. It is quite light and bright and stands out amongst the rest, even against a cloudy, dull looking backdrop.
The LR2 looks tasteful and sophisticated. It catches your attention, but in a way that does not scream look at me. It's resemblance to the big Range Rovers make it a great buy for those wishing they could afford the Range Rover, but simply cannot stretch that far. It really is not that much of an external compromise.
Step behind the wheel of the LR2 and you feel like you are getting what you paid for. Materials feel about right for a $40,000 car, and comfort is excellent.
The dual sunroof bathes you with light, making the cabin feel airy and roomy. The leather wrapped seats offer good support and feel comfortable during long, arduous driving. The seating position does feel unusually high, however. Even when lowering with the power seat adjustment, it still felt like I was sat on a child's booster seat.
This position was great when off-roading, as it allowed superior vision to spot any concealed roots or rocks. When on normal roads it felt like I needed to drop it down an inch or so, but it just wasn't an option. I'm only 5-foot, 7 inches, so a 6-footer might find this more annoying. For me, it was odd, but livable.
The center console has a brand new 7-inch touch screen. From here you can control the Meridian audio system and the optional navigation. If you opt for the nav you will be granted a rearview camera that has Hitch Assist to help with backing up, showing the exact location of the tow ball.
The imaginatively named Say What You See voice activation is a new feature that effectively allows you to say what you want the car to do: increase temperature, etc.
Below the screen are a horde of buttons and dials. The font used when wording the buttons looks a little big, bland and boring, like something from a Kindergarten's “Learn to Read” book.
Buttons behind the gear lever now replace the original Terrain Response dial, and the handbrake is an intelligent electric brake button. It is intelligent, apparently, because it adjusts brake force according to the slope and brake temperature.
Passive Start is now standard on the LR2 and this replaces the key docking system, meaning as long as you have the key on you, a press of the start button adjacent to the steering wheel is all you need to fire the engine.
The steering wheel is soft to touch and the buttons are intuitive and easily reached with your fingertips. A new five-inch instrument cluster is behind, displaying information such as temperature and fuel levels, gear position and Terrain Response mode, with all this sitting between the traditional dials.
The second row provides plenty of legroom (36.4 inches).
Cargo space is enough to manage a long off-roading adventure with the whole family: 26.7 cubic feet with the rear seats up, 58.9 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down.
Other than minor complaints about the buttons and high seating position, there really is not a whole lot to moan about with the LR2's interior. It is right there matching expectations in the $40,000 dollar price range, if not exceeding it.
The LR2 drives like any Land Rover should. It's capable of conquering practically any obstacle off-road, and more than competent of engaging the driver on the tarmac covered, twisting canyon curves.
For 2013, Land Rover ditched the 3.2-liter, naturally aspirated engine of old, replacing it with a more fuel-efficient and powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that first appeared in the Range Rover Evoque.
The high efficiency turbo provides zero lag, as power is delivered linearly throughout the rev range. 0-60 mph comes in a solid 8.2 seconds, made possible by 240-horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. Horsepower received a 10-hp boost over the 3.2-liter engine, with torque increasing by 16 lb-ft. The motor is also 88 pounds lighter than the outgoing engine which helps it achieve better fuel numbers and deliver more punch.
Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 17/24 mpg City/Highway, or 20 mpg Combined. Premium gasoline is recommended.
The engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic gearbox that works well. It doesn't unnecessarily jump out of gear, or select a gear not desired. And if you put the lever from Drive into Sport, the gears are held just a touch longer than usual.
On-road the LR2 feels agile and responsive. The ride is far firmer than you would imagine, and during hard cornering the machine is poised and well balanced. The vented disc brakes perform great and pedal feel is perfect, not too grabby, but still maintaining good initial bite. With just 2.6 turns lock-to-lock, the rack and pinion steering is responsive and direct. The column is adjustable for reach and rake, too.
A key contributor to the LR2's on-road prowess is the fully independent suspension, with four corner coil-spring struts. A unibody construction is used and reinforcements have been implemented to strengthen the body, such as high-strength steel in the door beams and dual-phase steel in the A-posts and lower sills.
When you take the LR2 off-road it is immediately in its element. You feel like no obstacle is too challenging, and for the most part, you are right. Minimum ground clearance is 8.26 inches, which is a little low when dealing with big boulders, but despite a few bangs and grinds, the LR2 soldiers on without complaint.
Wading depth is 19.7 inches making shallow water crossings a piece of cake. I crossed a 200-yard river full of ice-boulders during my time in Montreal driving the LR2. It was effortless, and at times I swear we were deeper than 19.7 inches, although perhaps that was merely perception.
Deep mud, steep climbs and descents provide only a minor grievance. Simply add a bit of additional power and the car blasts through like it's taking a Sunday morning stroll to pick up the latest copy of Outdoor magazine.
The reason the LR2 (and all Land Rovers) can handle such extreme conditions with grace is their immaculate Haldex four-wheel-drive system. The front-rear torque split is continuously variable through a hydraulically operated multi-plate wet clutch. The system can pre-engage at rest to reduce wheel-spin from standing starts, and then engage quickly when traction loss is detected. It will disengage swiftly to optimize the response of the stability control, too.
Under normal conditions, only a small amount of torque is fed to the rear wheels, but when the roads get slippery, almost all torque can go to the rear if needed.
Another key to the LR2's performance is its Terrain Response system, which directs the engine management, transmission control, traction control, ABS brakes, stability control and center coupling.
By selecting among four modes (General Driving, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud & Ruts, and Sand) you customize the Terrain Response for the specific conditions you might face.
If you come to a steep downhill section, Hill Descent Control restricts speed by utilizing the anti-lock brakes to improve driver control. It really is easy to use and intuitive. Simply press the Hill Descent button, select the amount of control you require from the system (based upon the steepness of the slope), begin your descent and release the brake. The system then takes over 100-percent allowing you to focus entirely on steering the car.
With the typical capability we come to expect from Land Rover, the LR2 is an ideal car for any off-road adventure. It's spacious, comfortable and looks great. Plus, it drives almost as well on-road as it does off. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 17/24 mpg. The price tag really is competitive when you consider everything you get for the cash. If you are in the market for a compact SUV that can handle anything you throw at it, including a sporty drive on mountainous roads, then you'd be crazy not to consider the 2013 Land Rover LR2.
Alex Lloyd filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the Land Rover LR2 near Montreal. Alex won the 2007 Indy Lights Championship.