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Land Rover's place in history stems from a single vehicle, the Range Rover. That it's been able to stretch that into a brand, where HUMMER failed, is something of a major marketing achievement. And on the product side, it's done an admirable job dividing the sexy, five-star affairs--the Range Rover, Sport, and the new Evoque--from the mud-plugging standard bearers, including the compact luxury crossover, the 2012 Land Rover LR2.
It's peasant fare, to be sure, compared to the Range Rovers--even the Evoque, which gets some of its DNA from the LR2, even. But the LR2 plugs away happily with its mission of blending a little more of the traditional Land Rover traits into a smaller, more efficient shape. There's no hardcore, off-road-ready two-speed transfer case, but the rugged-looking LR2 lives up to a lot of the macho promise baked into its crisply folded sheetmetal and its no-nonsense, only faintly luxurious interior.
The LR2 comes in just one configuration, as a six-cylinder-powered, all-wheel-drive ute with good ground clearance, acceptable straight-line acceleration, and above-average handling. The six-cylinder engine is an unusual in-line powerplant: it's a smooth piece of work, if not a terribly powerful one. Joined at the crank to a six-speed automatic, the engine will help the LR2 dart to 60 mph in about eight and a half seconds, off the quick pace of the latest X3 or the front-drive Acura RDX but amply quick for almost every task, royal or plebeian. It's also comfortable as it rounds off the worst road warts, and even feels a little frisky when pressed into corners, with more sensation in its steering than its brawnier cousins.
Trail riders won't admire the lack of a true low range, but the LR2's traction systems are quite sophisticated, and let casual off-pavement drivers choose the right traction mode for the conditions at hand. In our experience, it's more than sufficient for the way these utes are used, anyway.
In balance, the LR2 sits more with the German luxury crossovers--the Q5, the GLK--than it does with whizzy Japanese machines like the RDX and the CX-7. It feels more substantial, sits more upright, and drinks a lot more gas, one of its more serious downfalls. It provides more back-seat space than the Japanese crossovers, and its cargo space is above the mean for the class, but there's no third-row seat--that's the province of the bigger LR4.
Despite its more traditional role in the Land Rover family, the LR2 reeks of its upscale heritage. It's not nearly as quick as the latest BMW X3 nor as efficient, and it's probably just as off-road-capable than the Benz GLK, not more so. But like those two utes and above all the other contenders, there's some real upper crust in the LR2's folded fenders and in its green-and-silver badge.
- Nimble enough in urban driving
- An ideal crossover size
- Good second-row space
- Retains some off-road capability
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- Low fuel economy
- Rearward visibility is diminished
- Not as softly shaped as other crossovers