As the entry-level Land Rover product in North America, the LR2 has an important role. It's the first step for many on what the company hopes will be a long and loyal journey through its product portfolio, running through Evoque to LR4, Range Rover and Sport models. So the littlest Landie has undergone a number of improvements and refinements for 2013 to bring it into line with its bigger siblings, including a responsive yet economical 2.0L turbo motor, a better equipped interior and more ability on-road as well as off.
These upgrades come after a 2011 facelift that started the vehicle's rise and played a part in the LR2's 30 awards won globally.
The car's problem was that it was built to perform off-road with the likes of LR4 and Defender - something it does remarkably well - yet had to compete with soft-roading crossover SUVs in the showroom that place more emphasis on comfort and luxury. So Land Rover took steps to level the muddy field, adding LED lighting, keyless ignition and a 7" infotainment screen with voice recognition plus the option of a 17-speaker Meridian sound system.
It still has good towing capacity - 3500 lb with the option of Hitch Assist and a rearview camera for one-man operation. There's an intelligent parking brake that adapts to the angle of a slope, as well as smart energy recuperation and Land Rover's legendary Terrain Response system.
The new four-cylinder motor delivers more power with better economy than the outgoing six and is 88 lb lighter. It's commendably smooth and suitably responsive on the freeway, yet able to provide plenty of torque to get you through the rough stuff when maneuvering off-road. This is another example where downsizing has paid huge dividends. You gain in every aspect, with no obvious penalties.
Perhaps our only complaint was the light steering feel, which didn't encourage sporty driving, although we soon got used to it. However, it made more sense once the car was in its element off-road.
The same applied to the six-speed auto that got the job done without calling attention to itself. There's a Sport mode for the street as well as a high-mounted breather to allow a wading depth of almost 20". Coupled with a Haldex full-time four-wheel drive, the LR2 is most at home on the rough stuff.
We took it across rivers, over frozen trails, through deep mud and into a sand quarry. At no point did we ever lose traction despite the stock all-terrain street tires. In fact, we were able to sail over obstacles and conditions that briefly halted the LR4 in our group.
The greatest off-road attribute is its intelligent all-wheel drive system that alters distribution of torque front to rear. In normal conditions it runs most of the power to the front wheels but is able to redirect almost everything to the rear if conditions dictate.
It works in harmony with the Terrain Response that adapts engine, transmission, center coupling, traction- and stability control systems to the demands of the terrain, maximizing traction. It will work in the General setting, allowing the car to calculate the best solution, or you can select from Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud and Ruts or Sand to allow Terrain Response to better understand the challenge.
Working seamlessly together, these remarkable systems allow all Land Rovers to achieve unimaginable feats. And this ability is in the DNA, dictating the LR2's 8.3" of ground clearance, its steep approach angles and impossible wheel articulation. If you need any sort of off-road ability, the LR2 has the competition beat.
Once you're out of the mud, the latest exterior upgrades lend the LR2 a greater air of sophistication. It includes new LED lighting, grille surround and trim finishes. However, it's the interior that's received the most attention. This included the aforementioned 7" screen in the new center console to access the audio functions and optional nav.
There's also a 5" display in the main instrument cluster to indicate information such as temp, fuel, gear, Terrain Response mode, etc. Then there are steering wheel switches to locate additional vehicle information as needed.
Every trim level of the LR2, from the basic model to the HSE and HSE Lux, will have electric-powered leather seats as standard as well as dual sunroofs to give the cabin an airy feel. It all adds up to a more appealing vehicle that sacrifices none of its versatility in the pursuit of a wider audience.
2013 Land Rover LR2
Engine 1999cc transverse in-line four-cylinder 16v turbocharged with direct injection
Drivetrain Aisin AWF21 six-speed automatic, full-time four-wheel drive with Haldex rear differential
Brakes 12.5" rotors f, 12" r with ABS, EBD, EBA
Suspension Macpherson strut with lower control arm, anti-roll bar f, struts with lateral and longitudinal links, anti-roll bar r
Wheels & Tires 18x7" wheels, 235/60 R18 all-terrain tires
Power 240hp @ 5500rpm
Torque 250 lb-ft @ 3200rpm
Top Speed 124mph
Weight 3913 lb
Wading depth 19.7"
Towing capacity 3500 lb
MSRP $37250 (inc dest and delivery)