Anyyone with knowledge of vehicle development will testify that it's all about tradeoffs.
Want great fuel economy? Figure on low performance. Seeking precise handling? Forget about a cushy ride. Covet a low price? Don't expect many extras.
The trick is to bring the two poles as close together as possible, which is what Land Rover has done with the 2013 LR2 sport utility vehicle.
As almost anyone with a nodding acquaintanceship with motor vehicles knows, Land Rover owns one of the world's greatest reputations for off-road adventures. For many decades, dating back to early in the last century, its machines traversed muddy theaters of war and trackless terrain in countries all over the planet.
Despite that, the British company fell on hard times and foreign owners, and eventually wound up as part of Tata Motors of India, manufacturer of the world's cheapest automobile, the Nano, which sells for around $3,000.
However, Tata showed great restraint in not messing with the Brit's proud traditions. In fact, Land Rover produced a unique vehicle, the Range Rover Evoque, which combined attributes of a sports car with those of a sport utility vehicle, including substantial off-road competence. It has been a resounding sales success.
Now it has delivered the redesigned 2013 LR2, its entry-level SUV, with many of the same capabilities -- even some of the sports car handling.
That's apparent the first time you take the wheel. The LR2 has a quick throttle tip-in, which means that it responds as soon as you press the accelerator pedal. Though it's a turbocharged engine, there's no hesitation.
Then, surprisingly for an SUV that stands nearly five feet nine inches tall, it has quick, responsive steering that also delivers a solid on-center feel and straight-line tracking.
In many respects, except for the boxy SUV look, the LR2 comes out of the same garage as the trendy Evoque. Both use the same engine --the 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo that was developed with Ford Motor Co., Land Rover's previous owner.
They also use the same six-speed automatic transmission, which has a manual shift mode, as well as a full-time all-wheel drive system that features Land Rover's Terrain Response system. It calibrates the transmission and drive system for four conditions: general driving; grass and gravel; snow, mud and ruts, and sand.
Despite the Evoque's off-road prowess, the LR2 is more oriented toward mucking around in the boondocks. It has nearly 8.3 inches of ground clearance and can ford water up to 19.7 inches deep.
However, like the Evoque, it is more of a compromise than its Land Rover brethren. There is no low range for the all-wheel drive, which could come in handy in the most difficult off-road conditions. Still, it's likely competent enough for the vast majority of owners.
On the road, the LR2's drive system is biased toward the front wheels, with the possibility of automatically transferring almost all of the power to the rear wheels if the conditions demand it.
Despite a hefty price, the LR2 looks like a bargain next to the Evoque. The base price of the tested LR2 was $37,250, compared to $43,995 for a previously tested Evoque. With a load of options that included an HSE Luxury package, navigation system and 19-inch alloy wheels, the tester checked in at $47,100. That compared to the similarly equipped Evoque, which had a bottom line sticker of $58,670.
Of course, the two machines appeal to different audiences. But from a practical standpoint for outdoorsy types, the LR2 would be the choice. It's five inches longer, with the same interior space but split differently: 24 cubic feet for cargo versus the Evoque's 20.
However, it's slightly heavier and a bit thirstier. Its city/highway fuel consumption is rated by the EPA at 17/24 miles to the gallon compared to the Evoque's 18/28.
Overall, the LR2 comes across as a compact luxury SUV in the modern idiom, with little of the British quirkiness that characterized Land Rover's earlier effort, the Freelander.
Despite its overall goodness, there are a few quibbles. It slavishly follows the current luxury vehicle trend by using a flimsy sunroof shade that is full of holes and admits too much heat and light. Sunshades should be opaque. And, as is almost always the case, the center-rear seating position, despite its seatbelt for an extra passenger, is built more for punishment than comfort.
Model: 2013 Land Rover LR2 four-door sport utility vehicle.
Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 240 horsepower.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
Overall length: 14 feet 9 inches.
EPA passenger/cargo volume: 100/24 cubic feet.
Weight: 3,913 pounds.
Towing capability: 3,500 pounds (with braked trailer).
EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/24/20 mpg.
Base price, including destination charge: $37,250.
Price as tested: $47,100.
Contact Frank Aukofer at driveways6(at)gmail.com.