Land of the free

The Freelander2 is the fourth and some might say the most important of all the new Land Rovers to be launched in as many years. Will it succeed, ask Danny Cobbs and our panel of testers...

Sussex Life

WHERE its siblings - the Range Rover and RR Sport - have a very niche and defined market, the Freelander has always been built and designed for the masses. Much is expected of this latest addition to Land Rover's stable. For all its faults - and there were many - the previous model did sell more than 453,000 cars in its nine-year life cycle but that's still a hard act to follow, by any standards. There is one other important factor which needs to be taken into account when talking about Land Rover's latest product:

When the original Freelander was launched nearly a decade ago it was the very first car of its type. Unlike the Toyota RAV4, the other 'compact' making a name for itself at the time, the Freelander created a new genre by offering a true 4x4 capability in a car not much bigger than a family hatchback. This opened up a completely new market segment and set a benchmark for other manufacturers to follow.

The Americans dubbed it a sports utility vehicle and consequently the term SUV was born. This time around, things are different. Before, it didn't have to worry about the competition because there simply wasn't any. Now, the competition is breathing down its neck.

Survival of the fittestTo out-perform the new crop of pretenders such as the Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota's RAV4 and Honda's much acclaimed latest version of the CR-V, the Freelander2 will near enough have to redefine the market it once created. And it does. Despite being a completely new vehicle it still retains certain definable characteristics from the previous model. These should make it instantly recognisable as a Freelander, but there's more than a touch of iconic modern-day Range Rover styling about this one.

There's an air of coolness and sophistication about it, but not in a way that would alienate the Freelander's previously loyal customers. A stepped roofline borrowed from the Discovery and the classic Land Rover clamshell bonnet all add to its evolution. It's grown in every aspect: There's a 109mm increase in width and the roof has been raised by 32mm. Land Rover also added an extra 50mm to its length and pushed all the wheels further towards each corner. This makes passenger space - especially in the rear - much better. Scratch away its swollen surface and the Freelander2 offers everything its bigger brothers can. It's been fitted with a modified version of Land Rover's much-acclaimed All Terrain Response System which, at the turn of a dial, figures out the best gearing for given surface conditions.

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Inside, the difference between old and new is as staggering. Fundamentally, Land Rover has managed to capture the desirability and premium feel found in the Range Rover and RR Sport. They've taken the tired, old Freelander and breathed new life into it. It does cost more; the entry level price has jumped from �16,000 to around �21,000. However, given the parallel improvements in safety, refinement and quality this is a premium most customers will be willing to pay.

Land Rover Freelander2 TD4

Engine Size: 2179cc 4-cylinder, 16 valvesPower: 160 PS @ 4,000 rpm Torque: 295 lbs/ft @ 2,000 rpm Fuel Consumption: 37.7 mpgTop Speed: 112 mph0 - 60: 10.9 seconds Price From: �23,935

Karyn Kelly from Haywards Heath Drives: Lexus RX300My first impressions were how ruggedly handsome this car looked - but more your fit sportsman type than a macho muscle man! Although spacious inside, with a boot built for shopping, the Freelander doesn't feel cumbersome to drive or park. Well groomed, with luxurious leather upholstery, well equipped with safety features and gadgets, and well mannered, with an easy gearbox and smooth, quiet ride, this car is good enough to take home to mother!

Emma Myers from Cuckfield Drives: Seat LeonI had my reservations about driving such a big car, yet the reality was it really wasn't that big. Sitting behind the steering wheel I could see for what seemed like miles and miles ahead but when it came to parking, it felt not much bigger than my Seat. I loved the leather interior and it had loads of cubby holes for my kids to put their toys in. The boot area is, as expected, huge and with all the seats down it had as much space as a small van.

Tamara Fulton from Brighton Drives: Toyota MR2I would really like to write about the engine and how well it handled, but not knowing too much on this particular subject I'm going to stick to the girlie stuff. I was greeted by a cabin full of sumptuous leather, always a good sign. And there was bags of room. The front seats could move electrically in every way and the rear ones seemed to have been designed for the largest of adults. The real test came when I took it shopping and driving it through Brighton Lanes it wiggled its way around and felt very much at home. I liked the Freelander and was only sorry to give it back.

Would you like to be one of our testers? (Please be aware, there is a queue!)Contact us via email: or write to us at: 28 Teville Road, Worthing, West Sussex, BN11 1UG or tel: 01903 703730 Please supply a copy of your full driving licence. Participants must be 25 or over

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