Motoring Review - The Land Rover Freelander 2

The Land Rover Freelander 2 aims to redefine the compact 4x4 market with a blend of quality and capability that the opposition are powerless to match. Jonathan Crouch reports

Recommending a compact 4x4 isn’t an easy task. A good many buyers won’t look beyond Land Rover’s Freelander. In the past, this meant buying a car that was rather average, later rising to class competitive at best. No longer. The Freelander 2 has established its brand as the premium choice, no matter which 4x4 sector you’re shopping in.

The shape is instantly familiar. The MK1 Freelander was a vehicle that just got better and better looking throughout its lifetime and the second generation car has upped the ante again. Whilst it retains its chunky good looks, Land Rover has imbued it with a far more premium look and feel, which is just as well as the entry level price has increased to well over the �20,000 mark.

These days, all Freelanders come with TD4_e diesel power – and the brand’s eco-friendly Stop/Start system to drive down its operating costs. Such technology is becoming increasingly widespread in production cars and Land Rover’s take on it couldn’t be easier to use. The idea of a car’s engine cutting out and restarting again as it sees fit might be disconcerting for some but in the Freelander, the driver retains some control. When the vehicle is stationary and the gearbox is in neutral, releasing the clutch stops the engine.

When it’s time to pull away, simply depress the clutch and it restarts. It means that the TD4_e Freelander becomes a zero emissions vehicle while other cars are still chugging away at the traffic lights or waiting for a traffic jam to move. The Stop/Start system is turned on automatically when the ignition is turned on but can be deactivated by the driver at the flick of a switch.

The fact that we’re headlining this Freelander test with talk about emissions rather than off-roading says a lot about the world we now live in – and the current market. But of course, there is much more to the car than that. Let’s talk about Land Rover’s excellent Terrain Response system, standard on all but the entry level model. This allows the driver to select what sort of off-road conditions the car is experiencing via a rotary knob on the dashboard, and the car’s electronics then work out how best to dole out power and maximise traction, turning the Freelander 2 into a far more capable off-road tool.

There’s still no low range transfer case, which may scrub the Freelander 2 from the shortlists of those who want something really rough and ready, but this car comes up with a number of other ways to get you out of a tight spot. A full-time intelligent 4x4 system is based around a sophisticated Haldex centre differential which helps keep economy manageable on road, while a sophisticated Gradient Release Control system is a logical extension of the old Hill Descent Control system for descending steep and slippery slopes.

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Although the shape may be familiar, you get more Freelander for your money in second generation form. It’s 50mm longer, 109mm wider and 32mm taller than the first generation version but the wheels have been moved further towards each corner, freeing up another 105mm in the car’s wheelbase, making rear seat accommodation a whole lot better. Weight has crept up a whopping 250kg to around 1,770kg in the process but a parallel improvement in safety, refinement and quality is a transaction most customers will be willing to accept.

Under the bonnet lies a four cylinder common-rail diesel engine which puts out 160PS. The TD4_e modifications have seen it re-mapped for optimum efficiency but this has been achieved without cutting power or torque. A gear shift indicator has also been installed which prompts the driver to select the most appropriate gear to maximise economy and lower emissions. Finally, the Freelander’s tyres are special low rolling resistance items which reduce friction on the road surface. Some may question how these will impact on the standard Freelander’s impressive off-road traction but it’s the car’s economy figure that will be of most interest to buyers and the tyres contribute significantly to it.

Owners can now expect to get 41.3mpg on the combined cycle, a respectable saving over the 37.7mpg showing the Freelander2 TD4 achieved when it was first launched. At the same time, emissions are pitched at 179g/km (used to be 194g/km). This may not promote it to the ranks of the most efficient family vehicles on the market but does make it a respectable performer.

Big, clever, good looking and built in the UK, this is one car that we can all get behind and be proud of. There may be elements of France, America and Sweden in this car’s makeup but it could only have ever been produced using the expertise of home-grown talent. Overall, the Freelander continues to redefine exactly what a compact 4x4 should be.

Facts at a Glance

Car: Land Rover Freelander range                                                Prices: �21,295–�32,595 – on the road                                          Insurance Groups: 11-13                                                               CO2 Emissions: 179g/km                                                          Performance: Max Speed 112mph/0-60mph 10.9s                              Fuel Consumption: (combined) 41.3mpg                                     Standard Safety Features: seven airbags, anti lock brakes, ESP            Will it fit in your garage? 4500mm long, 2180mm wide, 1740mm high

Available from: Gordon Lamb’s flagship Land Rover dealership at 2 Discovery Way, Whittington Moor Chesterfield, S41 9EG

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