2014 Land Rover LR2 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Davis Adams Davis Adams Contributor
April 8, 2014

The LR2 is most at home on city streets–though it's capable of playing in the dirt–and its turbocharged engine makes it all the more fun.

The Range Rover may be responsible for building the brand's identity, but the it's the LR2 that's designed to meet the growing demand for small- to mid-size crossovers on the market today. It's built with solid towing capability, good ground clearance and all-wheel drive, but it's also more at home on the streets than its badging might suggest.

The LR2 is essentially the vehicle that's a little happier to play in the mud than the fashion-forward Range Rover Evoque, but not quite and off-road ready as the larger Land Rover LR4. That doesn't mean that you won't find it dancing through dirt roads from time to time–or even some moderately-difficult off-road trails–but it's more likely that you'll find it resting in a compact parking spot at the local grocery store.

In balance, the LR2 sits more with the German luxury crossovers--the Q5, the GLK--than it does with Japanese hardware like the Acura RDX. It feels more substantial, and sits more upright, and gas mileage is improved, though still not a breakout in the class. 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.

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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.

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. While the Range Rover lineup of utes veers off into a styling ether all its own, the LR2 stands by the formal design and all-out SUV cues of the past. In its niche, it's a good thing: the LR2 still reads "sport-ute," something that can be said of the Mercedes GLK, but not nearly as much of the competition from Audi, BMW, or Cadillac. It's a rugged-looking shape, but one that benefits this year from a more carlike cockpit, a new interior with a big LCD touchscreen, softer-touch materials, and a big cutback in the confusion of buttons and switches that riddled the old cabin.

The LR2 is sold in just one drivetrain configuration in the U.S. but the former in-line six-cylinder has been sent packing in favor of the same 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo four found in the Evoque. It's less smooth, but way more entertaining--the flat, steady progress gives way to peaky power channeled well through a six-speed automatic. Getting to 60 mph is slightly less arduous, but it's nearly as quiet, since the engine brings some new underbody structure with it--a notable upgrade from the Evoque. The LR2 doesn't get other running-gear changes, but the lighter engine lifts weight from the steering. The ride and handling are pleasant and comfortable, even 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.

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2014 Land Rover LR2

Styling

The cockpit's a fine place to work, and the LR2 telegraphs all things Land Rover at a first glance.

The Land Rover LR2 hasn't changed much since it debuted in 2008, though it find a few minor updates to its trim and grille last year. With its iconic, yet conservative looks, it's the kind of car that could remain unchanged for the foreseeable future without ever looking too old. It's angular and handsome, and distinctive in a segment filled with increasingly curvaceous mid-size luxury crossovers.

Those looking for a fashion statement now have the Range Rover Evoque to lean on, leaving the LR2 to its vaguely more off-road worthy character–including its boxy, rugged exterior that draws so many to the Land Rover brand in the first place.

Inside, the LR2 does a more convincing job of meeting the crossovers on equal ground. It's given up some of the clutter of small switches, and some of the more rigid lines and shapes, for a more carlike interface that also comes off more refined and more richly finished than before. The addition of LCD panels on the dash and between the newly styled gauges brings some of the techno-friendly panache of the Range Rover to the cockpit, and the swap-out of Terrain Response knobs for a set of switches like those in the Evoque pare down the visual confusion for the driver.

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2014 Land Rover LR2

Performance

The LR2 has more ruggedness than it might imply--and the turbocharged four's a better on-road drivetrain.

The LR2 may not be our go-to Land Rover if we're heading into the desert, but it does offer the kind of packaging most drivers really want today. It isn't too large, but it does offer the kind of all-weather, relatively nimble and quick experience that feels empowering behind the wheel, without feeling overpowering on the road.

A lighter engine 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.

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.

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2014 Land Rover LR2

Comfort & Quality

Front-seaters get the best chairs in the Land Rover LR2, but the back bench is good for big-adult comfort.

The 2014 LR2 definitely isn't a Range Rover, but that doesn't mean that it deserves the bottom spot in the parking deck, either. It's right-sized for city-dwellers, and its cabin now feels a little more deserving of its Land Rover badge.

Happily, most of the cabin is covered in good-quality materials, and the now-standard turbo four actually behaves as quietly as the former in-line six in most driving modes. Credit there goes to extra bracing under the engine itself, which keeps vibrations quelled and damps out some of the noise we've thought takes some of the appealing edge off the related Range Rover Evoque.

The console also now houses a new LCD display for audio and navigation, and the old rotary knob for the LR2's all-wheel-drive system has been replaced with a much smaller set of buttons--which leaves enough room for a lidded storage bin.

Four adults will fit very well in the LR2, especially those two that ride in front. The supple, just-firm-enough front seats just need a little more lateral support to make it into the highest tier--the world can learn a lot from Volvo here. Head room is ample all around, even with the dual sunroofs, and the revised center console design has liberated more knee room for those in front.

The back seat is wide enough for three children or two adults to ride comfortably. Leg room beats out many competitors, 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.

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2014 Land Rover LR2

Safety

It lacks some safety technology--and any crash-test scores--but the LR2 now has a rearview camera.

Neither of the agencies that crash-test cars and assess their safety have rated the LR2 yet, but comes with all the necessary safety features we'd expect on a luxury crossover today–it just doesn't have many of the advanced features.

Many of the other high-tech safety features found on the latest BMWs and Benzes are absent--features like blind-spot warning and lane-departure systems--but LR2s with the optional navigation system also get a rearview camera with an assist mode that helps drivers connect a hitched vehicle.

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.

All LR2 crossover SUVs come standard with the usual airbags (including a driver knee airbag) and stability control, as well as all-wheel drive that's integrated with those safety systems to optimize traction and response to accidents. Rear parking sensors are standard as well, and this year, Bluetooth is included on all models--it's a worthwhile inclusion, we think, because of the prevalence of talking and driving.

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2014 Land Rover LR2

Features

The LR2's Range Rover-like features include Meridian audio, a revamped navigation system, and leather and wood trim.

The 2014 Land Rover LR2 is offered in three versions: the top-of-the-line HSE LUX, the HSE, and the base ute. Each gets the standard amenities you'd expect on a luxury crossover, but the LR2 is also pretty good at entertaining drivers, too.

There are only a handful of a la carte features. There's a navigation system with an improved LCD display and more intuitive operation than before; it displays the output from a rearview camera, both standard on the HSE model, and it now includes route planning for efficiency and lane guidance. The HSE also adds heated front seats and steering wheel, and premium leather and carpeting.

An AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with hard-drive music storage, satellite radio pre-wiring and a USB port is included, and last year the LR2 switched over to Meridian audio systems. The base unit is a 380-watt system with 11 speakers, with the upgraded version moving to 17 speakers and 825 watts of output. It's controlled via dash buttons, via steering-wheel buttons, and via a new 7-inch touchscreen integrated well into the dash. Voice controls can run some secondary systems as well. A separate 5-inch screen between the gauges displays more of the same information.

Each version comes with the usual power windows, locks, and mirrors; power front seats; automatic climate control; dual sunroofs; and leather upholstery. Keyless pushbutton start and Bluetooth are now standard as well.

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2014 Land Rover LR2

Fuel Economy

The LR2's gas mileage has gotten better since its switch to turbocharging--it's now in the ballpark with other compact luxury utes.

Land Rover is working to improve its fuel economy ratings, and the LR2 is the beginning of that trend. We just wish you could opt for Land Rover's diesel powertrains that are reserved for foreign markets.

Last year, the LR2 adopted the Evoque's 2.0-liter, 240-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder and an eight-speed automatic. It's good for a bump to 17 miles per gallon city, 24 miles per gallon highway, according to the EPA, or a combined rating of 20 mpg. That puts it closer to the competition, even to the much more powerful BMW X3.

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