2013 Land Rover LR2 First Drive
Artist Formerly Known as Freelander Gets Some New Gear
Despite its extensive off-road capability, the Land Rover LR2 has began to fall off the map in the last few years as new competitors entered the market loaded with fresh style and the latest technology. In the meantime before the all-new model came due, the LR2 needed a proper freshening. With the 2013 Land Rover LR2, a proper freshening is just what Land Rover provided.
The Brits must not think there's anything wrong with the LR2's exterior, because the sheetmetal remains almost the same. Exterior updates are limited to new HID headlights, LED taillights, and a few tweaks to the front and rear fascias. A more significant update to the sheetmetal would have been welcome, but nobody can blame Land Rover for spending the money on replacing the older and far more profitable Range Rover instead.
Changes under the skin are far more substantial. Under the hood, the 3.2-liter I-6 makes way for the Evoque's 240-hp, 250-lb-ft, 2.0-liter turbo-four. The engine swap not only increases output by 10 hp and 16 lb-ft, but also increases fuel economy by a couple of mpg in the city and on the highway. (Final EPA numbers are not yet available.) The new engine improves towing capacity to 4400 pounds. Fortunately the LR2 didn't inherit the Evoque's overly aggressive throttle tip-in, a complaint of ours that was also addressed on the 2013 Evoque. A six-speed automatic remains the only transmission offered.
Where the 2013 refresh is most apparent is inside the cabin. The 2013 LR2 gets a new gauge cluster with a center LED display, an updated steering wheel, and a completely revamped center stack and center console. The former dispenses with the sea of buttons design that characterized the old one in favor of a much cleaner layout anchored by a 7-inch touch screen, while the latter offers more storage space by replacing the handbrake with an electronic parking brake and the Terrain Response knob with a simple button-based selector. The overall effect is a cleaner, more modern design.
On the road, the 2013 LR2 is surprisingly smooth and quiet for an SUV -- and if you really want to drown out the noise, you can crank the up volume on the optional 825-watt (!) Meridian sound system. A storm rolled in as we made our way from Montreal to Mont-Tremblant, providing us the opportunity to see how well the LR2 handled snowy pavement. The answer: quite well, even on twisty back roads. Only when it hit the occasional patch of ice did the SUV become at all unsettled, and that has more to do with ice's inherent slickness than the car. Even though the LR2 uses a Haldex setup that's biased towards the front wheels, the all-wheel system gets the job done without fuss or unpredictability. After all, Land Rover does know a thing or two about this sort of thing.
Of course, there was an obligatory off-road section on the drive. Thanks to the storm, it was a bit snowier and muddier than Land Rover may have anticipated, but with Terrain Response in Snow (and, one section, Mud) mode, the LR2 didn't have any problems keeping up with the leading LR4 as it made its way through the forest trail. Like the LR4, the LR2 is also equipped with hill descent control, a feature that came in handy on the steep downhill sections of this expedition. We wouldn't take it onto anything that would challenge the LR4 or a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, but the LR2 will definitely be able to tackle just about any casual off-roading trail.
There is one complaint to lodge, and that's with the LR2's steering. It's completely devoid of feel or feedback to the point that asking if it's actually connected to the steering rack doesn't seem unreasonable. For suburban duty, it's not a big deal, but the lack of feedback increases the sketchiness factor of an off-road expedition by a not-insignificant amount.
Overall, Land Rover has done enough to keep the LR2 putting along in an increasingly crowded segment until an all-new model is ready, without making its price-leading offering substantially more expensive. In fact, at $37,250 to start, the 2013 LR2 is just $700 more than the 2012 - and still noticeably cheaper than a BMW X3. Its styling may be starting to get stale, but anyone that's looking for a luxury compact SUV that needs to go to places few other than a Land Rover can will find the 2013 LR2 to be a suitable companion.