It's not the first Land Rover we'd choose to take on a Kalahari safari, but the LR2 presents most drivers with the SUV package they really want: quick and fairly nimble, not too large, with enough all-weather traction to let them tout the brand without living daily with a gargantuan off-road specialist.
The LR2's good urban and interstate manners translated easily into the Range Rover Evoque, which shares some of its body structure. But until now, the Evoque actually had the more lively, economical engine--a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 240 horsepower. It's an engine that came to Land Rover when it belonged to the Ford empire, and in the Evoque it's a good fit, if somewhat noisy.
In the LR2, the same engine evolves into a more refined piece with better output (10 more horsepower, 16 pound-feet more torque) and quicker acceleration--and it puts almost 100 pounds less a burden on the front end. It's still paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, but 0-60 mph times drop a few tenths to around the 8.2-second mark. It feels noticeably more perky too--the turbo four has slight lag, but when it's on boost it's an energetic teammate with the automatic, where the former six flatly and smoothly revved through its powerband.
The lighter engine also relieves the front end, and though the LR2 doesn't switch to the electric power steering found in the Evoque, it certainly feels more lively than before, thanks to that weight loss. On the road, the LR2 feels at home turning easily into parking spaces, tight city streets, and narrow country roads alike. The steering isn't quick or particularly communicative, but it corners without the heavy body roll of larger, heftier, and more trucklike SUVs. It rides quite comfortably, too--the bias toward on-road driving and moderately sized 18-inch wheels and tires means it doesn't need a costly air suspension to keep jounces and bounces to a minimum.That said, it's far from the best choice for anything more than a muddy path to the weekend cabin. The LR2 lacks a true four-wheel-drive system--there's no low range, which qualifies the Haldex system as all-wheel drive by most definitions--but its traction system has been engineered with many electronic assistants to endow the LR2 with more than reasonable all-terrain ability. It won't be running the Paris-Dakar Rally any time soon, but the LR2 can ford through nearly 20 inches of water and it has 8.3 inches of ground clearance, with approach and departure angles of 29 and 32 degrees, respectively. It can also tow up to 3,500 pounds.