The Land Rover LR2 had acquitted itself nicely on the muddy, rutted trail leading to the small pond.

I paused on the edge, then released the brake and started down the bank into the water. It was deep enough to come up past the door sills, but wasn't close to the LR2's 19.7-inch wading limit.

The compact SUV crossed the 30-foot stretch of water without breaking a sweat, then climbed up the opposite bank. The crossing struck me as a fun way to wash the mud off the LR2's brakes and handsome alloy wheels.

The LR2 is the least expensive of the English automaker's Land Rover and Range Rover models. But with a base price of $36,400, the significantly revised 2013 LR2 is still not something most owners would take off road for an afternoon of rock hopping, tree grazing, and pond wading.

But Land Rover's machinery is built to do this kind of thing. Though most of its customers don't take their luxury SUVs off road, they like to know they are capable of it. They also like knowing how that off-road prowess translates into snowy-road competence. And they probably also like the adventurous image and the sort of cocktail conversation that off-road capability engenders. Though the LR2 has not been completely redesigned for 2013, it had undergone notable revisions, including a new engine, some fresh sheet metal, and a new, cleaner interior design.

The new engine reminds us that Land Rover was owned by Ford before its purchase by India's Tata Motors several years ago. The engine, which Land Rover buys from Ford, is the same two-liter EcoBoost 4 the domestic automaker uses in vehicles like the Taurus and Fusion. Land Rover also employs it in its Range Rover Evoque.

This engine extracts 240 horsepower from its mere two liters through the munificence of a turbocharger and a direct fuel injection system. It is more efficient than the 3.2-liter inline six it replaces, affording more horsepower and better fuel economy. (It has EPA mileage ratings of 17 city and 24 highway.)

This engine furnishes quite adequate power in a vehicle weighing a little under two tons. Zero to sixty is accomplished in about eight seconds.

Land Rover's suspension designers managed to make the LR2's considerable off-road capabilities with pleasant on-road manners. The vehicle handles well for a serious off-roader and provides a supple ride.

The LR2's seats are comfortable, supportive, and leather-trimmed, even in the base car. The driving position is high, providing excellent visibility.

Techy bits abound in the LR2. It is fitted with an electric parking brake that adjusts braking force according to the steepness of the slope the vehicle is parked on. The system even takes brake temperature into consideration. If the brakes are hot when you park, the system checks periodically to make sure there is sufficient clamping force as they cool.

The LR2 also employs a sophisticated six-speed automatic transmission and an ingenious all-wheel drive system that sends virtually all the power to the front wheels during normal driving to maximize fuel economy, but that can instantly send it all to the rear wheels if needed in low-traction situations.

Traction, as well as comfort, are also enhanced by a technology called Terrain Response. This system adapts and coordinates the responses of the engine, gear box, center driveline coupling, and suspension to match the demands of the terrain. The driver can select from a variety of settings: general driving, grass/gravel/snow, sand, and mud and ruts. (I used the latter on the muddy trail and through the pond.)


2013 Land Rover LR2

Base price: $36,400.

As tested: $37,250 (including shipping).

Standard equipment: Two-liter engine, six-speed automatic transmission, and a generous array of amenities ranging from leather-trimmed seats to dual sunroofs.

Options: None.

Fuel economy: 17 city, 24 highway.

Handling: Good.

Engine performance: Perfectly adequate.

Ride comfort: Fine.

Styling: Satisfactorily macho.

Warranty: Four years, 50,000 miles bumper-to-bumper.

The Ben key: Four Bens, excellent; three Bens, good; two Bens, fair; one Ben, poor.EndText