My foot glued to the brake, I nudge my Land Rover to the very edge of an 85-degree drop in the middle of the Laurentian Mountains in the wilds of Southern Quebec. With a chuckle, an older British gentleman leans into my open window, motioning to the hill descent controls of my brand-new 2013 Land Rover LR2 as he instructs me in launching myself off this cliff. “Now, lad, when I give you the sign I want you to go over the edge and take your foot completely off the brake.”

I await his command—initially lurch forward—then experience the mastery of this vehicle’s technology as the car is lowered softly down the muddy slope onto the snow-covered clearing below as if by some sort of vertical conveyer belt. Of all the press drives an auto journalist can embark on, Land Rover always has something crazy to throw at you, and especially in this case, I’m more than inclined to accept.

On the freeway, the LR2 is a smooth beast, quickly picking up to 60 mph in just over 8 seconds flat. While I didn’t get the opportunity to flex its range up to the max speed, just north of 120 mph, the 2.0-liter CommandShift six-speed automatic transmission (sharing the same all-aluminum engine as the Range Rover Evoque) was a joy to handle, even more so when we headed into the uncharted routes Land Rover had painstakingly plotted for us. It’s also interesting to note that the 240-horse supercharged engine (250 lb.-ft. of torque) is only a four-cylinder, compared to the previous version’s 3.2-liter V6; this allows the LR2’s fuel economy rates to improve to 17 mpg/city and 24 mpg/highway (from 15 mpg and 22 mpg, respectively).

When taken off-road, the Grass/Gravel/Snow Terrain Response setting, combined with bringing the vehicle down into first and second gear, allowed me to maneuver in the icy, snow-covered rocky terrain. The current climate was an almost “perfect storm” of conditions, with consecutive bouts of rain and snow which made getting out of some deep pits a nice challenge but also covered the pearly white LR2 densely with mud.

The grained leather seats were extremely comfortable for cruising along at high speeds and cushioned the extremes of off-road, but I didn’t get to really appreciate the well laid out interior until I was literally unable to continue driving: our fleet was being ferried across a river. (This isn’t to say the LR2 can’t swim in shallow enough waters—another component had us up to our necks.) The stadium 60/40 seating allows for more than enough passenger stretch-out, while for the driver, the heated steering wheel (and obligatory heated seats) was truly the highlight in the cold Canadian winter. If I could change something, it would be additional choices of navigation voices—the female voice was rather bossy (though lacking the expected British twinge). The LR2 is a fine addition to the compact SUV market and, while not as large or elaborate as its Range Rover cousins, just as capable and enjoyable to drive. With a plethora of options and upgrades such as the Meridian sound system, hitch-assist and the Haldex Four-Wheel Drive system, this vehicle is extremely well equipped at an attractive price.

2013 Land Rover LR2 is now available from $37,250.