Ever since they first appeared, way back in 1948, Land Rovers have been renowned for their ruggedness and off-road prowess. But perhaps what's most impressive about the 2015 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.
LR2 is Land Rover's entry-level SUV, but you still get plenty of styling and luxury. Built with unibody construction, LR2 seats five, and sits below the Land Rover LR4 and the upscale Range Rover products. Very popular in the UK, relatively few LR2s are sold in the U.S. The LR2 is being phased out to make way for the upcoming Land Rover Discovery Sport.
New Black Pack and Silver Pack option groups are available for 2015, including upgraded 19-inch wheels, hard-disc navigation, and special exterior/interior design elements. A new audio upgrade is offered: an 825-watt 17-speaker Meridian surround-sound system, packaged with SiriusXM and HD radio.
Beneath the LR2 hood is a fuel-efficient 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with high-pressure direct fuel injection and variable valve timing, lifted from the Range Rover Evoque. Output is rated at 240 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque (derived at low engine speed), driving a 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is EPA-estimated at 17/24 mpg City/Highway.
Three models are available, LR2, HSE, and HSE LUX. Even the basic LR2 is abundantly equipped, boasting such features as grained leather seat upholstery, power front seats, a 380-watt Meridian sound system, and a dual-panel panoramic sunroof. The front section of the sunroof opens and slides over the glass panel that sits above the second row. The HSE LUX edition adds such extras as Windsor leather-covered seats with double contrast stitching.
The LR2 boasts an intelligent all-wheel drive system by Haldex. Terrain Response technology allows the driver to choose between four settings based upon the driving conditions faced (General Driving, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud & Ruts, and Sand). All-terrain tires ride on 18-inch alloy wheels.
Off-road, the Land Rover LR2 handles practically anything, from impossibly steep descents, to river crossings and mud deep enough to drown a small dog. Powertrain components are protected from water intrusion up to a depth of 19.7 inches, using such devices as a remote transmission breather.
Hill Descent Control works with the antilock braking system to automatically restrict speed when easing down a steep grade. Gradient Release Control ensures that when you release the brake on an extremely steep hill, brake-line pressure is released progressively, not abruptly, as your foot eases off the pedal.
When the going becomes less rough, the LR2 keeps going. The ride feels firm and poised, and this British-brand SUV (actually built in India) exudes more agility and engagement than you would expect from a machine that made its name from scaling mountains. In sport mode, the transmission is programmed to hold lower gears longer and to downshift more readily, to improve acceleration.
No one-trick pony, the LR2 Is a compact SUV that can do it all, but 2015 is its final season.
The LR2 is undeniably Land Rover, perhaps 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 its relatively average price tag suggests.
Headlights feature the latest xenon and LED technology, set off with a graphic design in the front running lights. The grille and fog lamp bezels sport a bright finish with subtle paint detailing the grille surround, insert bars and fender vent.
At the side, the LR2 presents narrow A-pillars, 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. A choice of 19-inch wheels is available.
At the back of the Land Rover LR2, the taillights receive the same treatment as the front, with a slightly more modern design. The whole rear end looks very Range Rover.
The LR2 looks tasteful and sophisticated and catches your attention without shouting look at me.
Slip 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. Leather-wrapped seats offer good support and feel comfortable even during long, arduous driving.
The seating position feels unusually high, which is great when off-roading, as it allows superior vision to spot any concealed roots or rocks. When on normal roads, however, it felt like we needed to drop the seat down an inch or so, but that just wasn't an option. Tall drivers might find it annoying.
The LR2 infotainment system has a 7-inch touch screen on the console, using capacitive technology that promises improved scrolling on the main navigation screen (if so equipped). From here you can control the Meridian audio system and the optional navigation. A QWERTY keyboard permits phonebook searching. SiriusXM satellite radio incorporates such features as artist memory seek, learn/game memory seek, and instant replay.
If you opt for an upper model, you will be granted a rearview camera that incorporates Hitch Assist to help with backing up if towing a boat or trailer, showing the exact location of the tow ball.
The imaginatively named Say What You See voice activation effectively allows you to say what you want the car to do: increase temperature, etc.
Below the screen is a horde of buttons and dials. The font used for wording the buttons looks a little big, bland and boring, like something from a Kindergarten's Learn to Read book.
Buttons behind the gearshift lever have replaced the original Terrain Response dial, and the handbrake is an intelligent electric brake button. It qualifies as intelligent, apparently, because it adjusts brake force according to the slope and brake temperature.
Passive Start is standard on the LR2, 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 up the engine.
The steering wheel is soft to touch, and the buttons are intuitive and easily reached with your fingertips. A 5-inch instrument cluster is behind, displaying information such as temperature and fuel levels, gear position and Terrain Response mode. All of this sits 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's right there matching expectations in the $40,000 price range, if not exceeding them.
The LR2 drives like any Land Rover should. It's capable of conquering practically any obstacle off-road, and more than competent at engaging the driver on tarmac-covered, twisting canyon curves.
The high-efficiency turbocharged engine suffers zero lag, as power is delivered linearly throughout the rev range. Acceleration to 60 mph comes in a solid 8.2 seconds, made possible by 240 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 17/24 mpg City/Highway, or 20 mpg Combined. Premium gasoline is needed.
The engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that works well. It doesn't unnecessarily jump out of gear, or select a gear that's not desired. And if you move 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 might 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. 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 8.3 inches at the front axle and 10.5 inches at the rear, 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. We crossed a 200-yard river full of ice-boulders during our test drive of the LR2 near Montreal. It was effortless, and at times I could have sworn we were deeper than 19.7 inches, although perhaps that was merely perception.
Deep mud, steep climbs and intense 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 impressive Haldex full-time 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, anti-lock 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 is competitive when you consider everything you get for the cash. If you are in the market for a premium compact SUV that can handle anything you throw at it, including a sporty drive on mountainous roads, consider the Land Rover LR2.
Alex Lloyd filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the Land Rover LR2 near Montreal.