2014 Land Rover LR2. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos pictures by Lesley Wimbush
The LR2 has always been a sort-of neglected sibling of the Land Rover family. Until the arrival of the stylish Evoque, the LR2 was the only crossover in a lineup renowned for its rugged go-anywhere-ness – yet it’s a pretty capable little off-roader in its own right.
The entry-level, compact utility vehicle of this legendary off-road brand, the LR2 was first introduced back in 1997 as the Freelander, entering a rapidly growing segment of luxurious utility vehicles more suited to climbing High Street curbs than the Highlands. Built on a unibody, crossover platform, rather than a truck-based, body-on-frame, the LR2 also lacks the locking differentials of Land Rover’s dedicated offroaders. But with standard all-wheel-drive and a driver-selectable Terrain Response system, the LR2 is still capable enough on the trails. An extensive makeover for 2013 replaced the LR2′s 3.2L inline six-cylinder engine with a smaller, more efficient and yet more powerful 2.0L turbo-charged engine. Plus, its car-based construction, lighter components and smaller size means more maneuverability in urban traffic – and less money spent at the gas pumps.
Aside from being one of the great iconic off-roaders with a long legacy established through military service, Land Rover is the favoured marque of the horsey-set – as much a part of the scene as velvet caps and stirrup cups.
As such, it couldn’t have been more a more appropriate way for two horse-crazy gal pals to travel to La Belle Province for a horse show.
A charming resort town, Bromont is a lush green southwestern Quebec jewel framed by ski hills and fairways. It’s also home to the Bromont Olympic Equestrian Centre, a world class equestrian venue constructed to host the the 1975 Olympic Games. This weekend’s show, the Bromont CCI is the only Three-Star event of its kind in Canada.
Now if you don’t know what eventing is, picture it as a sort of triathlon for horses, or a combination au concours–race–rally-cross spread out over three days. It’s one of the most exciting displays of horsepower you’ll ever see – whether on four wheels – or four legs.
This particular event attracted top competitors from around the world, and the finalists go on to compete at the World Equestrian Games – which we just learned will be held right here at Bromont in 2018.
WEG is the equivalent of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Pebble Beach and the World Rally Championship all performed by the same team of horse and rider in an incredible feat of versatility.
The LR2 was certainly roomy enough for two people (it fits five) and all our assorted baggage and camera gear.
2014 Land Rover LR2 front seats, centre stack, cargo area. Click image to enlarge
Leather upholstered seats were cushy and comfortable for the long haul. If the cabin seemed plain and somewhat dated for a luxury marque – it’s a fair trade-off for acquiring the Land Rover’s cachet and versatility at an entry-level price of just over $40,000. However, it must be said that my tester featured the optional HSE Lux trim level bringing the total to $52,220. With a tow rating of 2,000 kg, the LR2 wouldn’t be my choice for pulling a loaded horse trailer, but it could certainly manage to get your boat or snowmobiles to the cottage.
2014 Land Rover LR2 dashboard. Click image to enlarge
Arriving after a six-hour road trip during which we averaged a highway fuel consumption of 8.8 L/100 km, we were delighted to be offered ring-side VIP parking – since the horse show’s new sponsors are Jaguar-Land Rover.
Almost immediately, we’re offered a tour of the site by event director Sue Ockendon, coincidentally in an almost identical LR2.
A no-nonsense Brit with decades of experience at the top level of equestrian sport, Ockendon continuously interrupts her narrative to call instructions to grounds-crews, answer questions from clip-board wielding officials, and solve numerous logistics issues via her constantly ringing cell phone. Chugging up and down over several acres of rolling green hills, we’re suitably awed by the cross-country course’s size and complexity – and delighted by jumps resembling massive “tables”, log cabins and whimsical clumps of giant toadstools.