Sometimes a smaller compromise can fulfill greater expectations.
Take the 2014 LR2, for example – the baby Land Rover.
It?s not quite the Mini-me model of the lineup, but rather a respectably sized five-seater compact sport utility vehicle that allows entry to the Land Rover lineup for just under $40K in Canada.
It may be the entry-level vehicle of the brand but it?s not exactly a ?stripper? either, coming standard with automatic climate control, a heated windshield with heated washer jets and power-washed headlamps, fog lamps, heated leather seats, a dual-panel panoramic sunroof, an 11-speaker 380-watt Meridian sound system and other built-in luxuries and amenities.
And, although technically considered a crossover, courtesy of its unibody construction, when you take into account its storied Land Rover roots and seriously off-roadable Terrain Response four-wheel drive system, the LR2 seems to be in a different league than trail-limited ?soft-roaders? and ?sport cute? competitors.
The Land Rover LR2 was extensively reworked last year.
Modifications included a revised exterior design, upgraded interior treatment, an enhanced navigation system and other technical tweaks. Most importantly, last year?s 2013 LR2 replaced the old 3.2-litre naturally-aspirated six-cylinder engine with a new lightweight, turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder motor making 240 hp (up 10 hp) and 250 lb/ft of torque (up 16 lb/ft).
The new engine is also nearly 40 kg lighter with a few fuel efficiency tricks up its sleeve – variable valve timing, high-pressure direct fuel injection and Land Rover’s Intelligent Power System Management (IPSM) which features Smart Regenerative Charging.
With this innovative IPSM technology reducing parasitic drag, the alternator usually recharges the battery only when the vehicle is decelerating, recovering kinetic energy that would normally be wasted instead of constantly leeching power from the engine.
All these factors contribute to an improved but somewhat optimistic 12/8.4L/100km (city/hwy) fuel economy rating. As usual, my real world mix of highway and city driving averaged out to a more realistic rating, in this case, 14.6L/100km (comb).
There?s nothing to complain about power-wise.
The turbo four-banger, related to Ford?s EcoBoost engine, pulls admirably across a broad power band with satisfactory response. That get-up-and-go is translated through an Aisin AWF21 six-speed automatic transmission with a sport mode and CommandShift system for manual gear selection.
An intelligent full-time all-wheel drive system normally puts power to the road via the front wheels for best fuel economy but the front-rear torque split can adapt continuously to suit changing conditions. Land Rover?s Terrain Response system allows drivers a choice of four mode settings that can be selected via buttons on the centre console:
? General Driving for most on-road driving conditions
? Grass/Gravel/Snow for slippery conditions, on-road or off-road
? Mud and Ruts
Those settings adapt transmission shift patterns to selected mode conditions, a performance versatility enhanced by a slate of dynamic technologies that includes four-wheel ventilated ABS disc braking, Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Corner Brake Control (CBC), Electronic Traction Control (ETC), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Roll Stability Control (RSC), Hill Descent Control (HDC) and a Gradient Release Control system (GRC).
New for this year, the 2014 Land Rover LR2 fine-tunes some features with an improved Sirius Satellite Radio system, a modified infotainment system and with an upgraded 825-watt Meridian Surround Sound system featuring 16 speakers and subwoofer, available on some of the upscale trims.
Those trim levels include the base LR2 ($39,990), LR2 SE ($44,590), LR2 HSE ($46,990) and, as tested here, the LR2 HSE LUX ($48,190).
Regardless of trim level choice, the LR2 makes the most of compact cabin dimensions with adequate room for five, along with comfortable upright seating.
The seating position is high – Land Rover refers to it as a Command Driving Position – good for maneuvering through either traffic or trails. The second row Stadium Seating sits even higher.
It might take a little getting used to, but passengers will probably enjoy the airy ambiance of the big-windowed and panoramic double-sunroof cabin, the vantage point and excellent touring visibility.
For the last few years, the LR2, with its boxy and traditional Range Rover-inspired styling has provided a refuge for conservative customers who are not quite ready for the modern swagger of the next-step-up Evoque.
But the LR2?s future lifespan may be limited, with Land Rover making strong hints about a Discovery-branded lineup of new modern crossovers destined to debut within the next few years.
For now, however, the 2014 Land Rover LR2 remains the gateway entry into the still unique cachet of the Land Rover brand family, offering customers a potent blend of compact crossover utility in a package that hints at Range Rover-styled design and premium qualities, backed by rough-and-tumble traits and very real off-road abilities.
Land Rover LR2 HSE LUX 2014 at a glance
BODY STYLE: entry-luxury compact five-passenger crossover
DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, four-wheel-drive.
ENGINE: 2.0-litre 16-valve turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder engine (240 hp, 250 lb/ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: 12/8.4L/100km (city/hwy)
CARGO: 756 litres behind second row; 1,668 litres behind first row
TOW RATING: 2,000 kg
PRICES: LR2 HSE LUX $48,190; As tested $52,040 includes Navigation ($2,000), Sirius Satellite Radio ($450), Grand Black Lacquer Finish ($380)