2012 Land Rover LR2 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
February 6, 2012

More street-friendly than other Land Rover utes, the 2012 LR2 has some of the SUV hallmarks in a much more city-friendly size.

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.

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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.

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2012 Land Rover LR2

Styling

There's lots of classic Land Rover reverb in the LR2's design.

It hasn't found the need to change much since its 2008 debut, and the Land Rover LR2 could be one of those vehicles that soldiers into the sunset without a body panel reshaped. It's an SUV, after all, and the unadorned, understated, boxy looks that look entirely appropriate on the LR2 aren't the kind of lines than need perpetual tweaking--or fixing.

The LR2 looks like more of an off-roader than it may actually be, and that's by design. Land Rover's lifted cues from the classic Range Rover and from its Discovery/LR4 utes, grafting them on a smaller, stubbier two-box shape, and finding a happy place between all those hard points. The LR2's resolutely angular, a hardline standout (along with the Mercedes GLK) in a class of vehicles where soft, insubstantial shapes are the way to win over new customers. Think Q5, think XC60. Here it works, too, where the Benz ute is a little too linear, a bit too five years ago. Spotters will need to know that base LR2s wear black bumpers, while HSE versions have body-color guards and a rear spoiler.

The LR2's cabin is a dead ringer for those in older Range Rovers--but it's less convincing, missing most of the lavish wood trim and elegant chrome touches of the new interiors of the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. A small strip of wood on the dash livens it up a bit. The dash sits lower than it might in an off-road vehicle, but the vertical motif that's worked its way into every Land Rover over the past decade gives this interior some lift, in the upright door pulls and the ribs that define the driver and passenger areas. New instruments are fitted for 2011.

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2012 Land Rover LR2

Performance

Civil road manners are the LR2's most notable departure from the Land Rover norm, but it's still capable of some medium-duty off-roading.

The LR2 is far from the most capable Land Rover off-road, but on the pavement it's the best of the brand. Along with the 2012 Evoque derived from its platform, the LR2 gives Land Rover a vehicle with accessible trail-riding capability and good interstate road manners.

The powertrain has more in common with Volvo vehicles than with any other Land Rover. The 3.2-liter in-line six is a new powerplant that was developed for the LR2, and its Volvo XC60 kin, and it's also found in the Volvo S80 as well. it's an exceptionally smooth piece--in-line sixes tend to be that way--and coupled to a responsive six-speed automatic, it can push the LR2 to 60 mph in about 8.4 seconds, according to Land Rover. It doesn't feel quick pulling away from stoplights, though there's a sport-shift mode folded into its electronics. It's more responsive at highway speeds, where the touchy throttle isn't as noticeable, but it also has enough low-end torque for relatively smooth off-roading.

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.

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 means it doesn't need a costly air suspension to keep jounces and bounces to a minimum.

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2012 Land Rover LR2

Comfort & Quality

It's lacking in small-item storage, but cargo and people room in the 2012 Land Rover LR2 is ample.

It's no Range Rover, but the Land Rover LR2 isn't strictly peasant fare. The cabin's put together well, and roomy enough for four adults and a significant amount of luggage, though the same adults will hunt for a place to stash their phones and other carry-ons.

Less a "small" Land Rover in reality than in concept, the LR2 has firm, supportive seats in the front and in the back row, but there's not much lateral support even in the front buckets. Head room is no problem, even with the optional sunroof, though front-seaters will find the wide console trims knee room a bit.

The back seat is wide enough for three children or two adults to ride comfortably. Leg room beats out competition like the Acura RDX, and the seats themselves have good backrest support. The cushions sit high for visibility, but it's not difficult to climb into the LR2 thanks to a low step-in height and tall doors.

There's no third-row seat--the Land Rover LR4 owns that niche. So instead, behind the LR2's second row, there's enough space for a long weekend's worth of luggage. With the rear seat in use, the LR2 has 27 cubic feet of storage space; when that seat's folded flat, it makes 59 cubic feet of cargo room available. In raw numbers it's average, but the space is tall and useful. For comparison, it can hold more behind the seat than the Mercedes-Benz GLK (23.3 cubic feet), but it's a few cubes short of the component-sharing Volvo XC60's 30.8 cubic feet.

Storage is a bit lean in the cabin, too. Two cupholders in the center console sit a little too far back to fall to hand; the glove box is kind of small. Happily, most of the cabin is covered in good-quality materials, and the in-line six-cylinder is smooth and quiet.

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2012 Land Rover LR2

Safety

Some of the higher-tech safety features found on other luxury crossovers are missing from the Land Rover LR2's equipment list.

It's difficult to peg the crashworthiness of the Land Rover LR2, since official tests haven't been run.

Neither the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)  nor the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has put the LR2 through their crash-test paces. We're giving the LR2 credit here for the generally higher level of safety experienced with crossovers--especially one related structurally to Volvos--and to the usual list of mandatory safety gear.

Every LR2 includes dual front, side, and curtain airbags, with an additional driver-side knee airbag. Also standard are anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control with rollover protection. The LR2's all-wheel-drive system also incorporates electronic controls that can improve traction in tandem with stability control, aside from the inherent benefit of AWD itself.

Rear parking sensors are standard as well on the LR2, but many of the other high-tech safety features found on the latest BMWs and Benzes are absent--features like a rearview camera, blind-spot warning and lane-departure systems.

Visibility is mostly good from the driver's seat. The driving position is somewhat low, compared to other Land Rover vehicles, and wide rear roof pillars can block some of the view. In the 2011 model year, the LR2 adopted larger side mirrors to help drivers stay on the lookout for potential trouble.

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2012 Land Rover LR2

Features

Luxury abounds inside, but the high-end options can send the Land Rover LR2's sticker price soaring.

Land Rover leaves no backside uncoddled, even in its least expensive vehicle, the LR2. Just as it has since its introduction in the 2008 model year, the LR2 gets many of the same luxury features and options you'll find in the uber-expensive Range Rover, with the predictable effect on the pint-sized LR2's sticker price.

The standard-equipment list for the LR2 includes all the luxury-crossover usuals, like power windows, locks and mirrors; leather upholsterly; automatic climate control; xenon headlamps; and an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary port.

Some of the options will strike drivers as necessary--features like satellite radio and a USB port. Others are a la carte, and are priced accordingly. There's a panoramic sunroof that doesn't rob too much headroom, and a navigation system with a large LCD display and more intuitive operation than, say, the units in sister brand Jaguar's vehicles. Other options include Bluetooth; a CD changer (yes, hanging in there); a heated windshield and heated mirrors; 19-inch wheels; and a garage door opener.

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2012 Land Rover LR2

Fuel Economy

The Land Rover LR2 scores gas-mileage numbers at the bottom of its class.

The Land Rover LR2 looks the part of a rugged SUV--and it plays the part in its poor gas mileage, too.

Like many of the newly introduced luxury crossovers, the LR2 posts mediocre fuel economy numbers. The EPA rates the LR2 at 15/22 mpg, lower than the Mercedes-Benz GLK and Audi Q5, and pretty well off the mark set by the Volvo XC60--a vehicle that shares the LR2's architecture and powertrain, but one which comes in a front-drive model with less weight and therefore better efficiency.

The latest BMW X3, with turbocharging, benefits from an eight-speed automatic to generate EPA figures of 19/27 mpg. For comparison, even the bigger, much less expensive, seven-seat Kia Sorento gets an 18/24-mpg score from the EPA.

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