2013 Land Rover LR2: Brawn and Beauty
Quebec: winter of 2012
The news: The Land Rover LR2, a premium compact SUV, has been totally renovated for 2013.
A short history: In the 1990’s, the Rover Group tried to partner with Honda to build a compact SUV. But the companies had their differences, and Honda left to pursue building the CR-V. When BMW acquired the Rover Group in 1994, they infused cash into the SUV project. As a result, the original Freelander debuted in 1997 to directly compete with Honda’s effort. In comparison to the first generation, the second generation Freelander had a remodeled engine set on a different frame with more off-road capability.
Flash forward to 2006, when the first LR2 (replacing the Freelander in the US) launched in London to great applause. This complete redesign of the original Freelander 4 X 4 was a new direction for Land Rover into the small luxury SUV market. The LR2 didn’t compromise form for function—it still contained all of the off-road capabilities that were part of its DNA combined with on-road dynamics.
The drive: Starting out from Montreal, we drove up to Montebello, Quebec, spending hours on many acres of an off-road property complete with hills, ruts, ice and gravel. In other words, a perfect place to prove the capabilities of the LR2. Cousin to the Range Rover Evoque, the LR2 is nimble enough to navigate and at home dodging traffic on highways or climbing country roads.
The highly noted Haldex four-wheel drive system teams up with terrain response and a complex off-road driving system to help conquer any off-road instance (except maybe moose). On the LR2, there are four Terrain Response settings which the driver can choose: general driving, grass/gravel/snow for slippery conditions, on-road or off-road and mud/ruts and sand. The Hill Descent Control automatically restricts speed downhill using the anti-lock brake system and improves driver control on slippery descents.
The look: This 2013 LR2 has turned up the voltage with appointments that include silver and gloss black surrounds on the grille, a rear taillight spoiler, body colored door handles and 18-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels. Narrow front A-posts offer exceptional all-round visibility. The short front and rear overhangs are necessary for off-road performance by maximizing approach and departure angles. New body colors (including Aintree Green, Havana and Mauritius Blue) and edgy LED lighting creates a more upbeat look. The LR2 has 8.26 inches of minimum ground clearance and can wade through water up to 19.7 inches deep.
Inside: The LR2 borrows technologies from the Range Rover Evoque. For instance, the standard 7-inch color touch-screen comes with Meridian. The optional satellite navigation system has features including ECO Route planning, Dynamic Zoom and Visual Lane guidance. A new instrument cluster features a 5-inch screen that displays vehicle-related information such as temperature and fuel levels, gear positions and Terrain Response mode. And this year, buttons have replaced the original Terrain Response dial. Every LR2 comes dressed up with grained leather covered seats and large dual sunroofs with a front section that opens and slides back.
The heart: A 240hp 2-liter turbocharged engine replaces the 3.2-liter inline six, for increased horsepower, torque and efficiency with a mpg of 17-city and 24-highway.
Honorable mentions: Passive Start: as long as the key is somewhere inside the car, the engine starts at the touch of a button (great for those of us who are always losing things).
Rear view camera: the view from the back of the vehicle is displayed on the Infotainment screen with dynamic lines showing the boundaries of the vehicle and the predicted path as you travel in reverse. The system incorporates Hitch Assist, a graphic superimposed on the camera showing the position of the tow ball (the LR2 is rated to tow a 3500 lb. braked trailer).
“Say What You See” voice activation system that prompts the driver visually with the commands he or she needs to control the audio, satellite navigation and phone systems. Prompts are displayed in a step-by-step format on the screen.
Price range: LR2: $37,250; LR2 HSE: $39,750; LR2 HSE LUX: $42,350 (includes destination and delivery charges).