15.4.2013Land Rover Freelander 2 eD4 review
It's proof of a changing world when Land Rover, which built it world-wide reputation on four-wheel drive offers a model with front-drive only, but the company has been subjected to heavy lobbying for years and there are some potential buyers who want the look but don't need all-wheel drive or its extra fuel costs.
You can tell how unlikely Land Rover think it is that people will venture far afield in this 'go-anywhere' vehicle because a full-size spare wheel is a £185 optional extra. The Freelander has been over-shadowed by its flash sister, the Evoque, but for families the Freelander makes more sense and has more substance to its image.
Review by Russell Bray for NextGreenCar.com
Under pressure to meet the demand for cleaner, Euro-5 regulation exhaust emission meeting cars, the renowned 4x4 manufacturer has dispensed with tradition and introduced front-wheel drive only versions of its Freelander SUV. The 148bhp 2.2 litre four-cylinder engine is smooth with a strong surge of torque that is easy to 'surf' for relaxed but brisk performance. Overall though the car feels underpowered. All-wheel drive versions of the car are also available with a 188bhp version of the engine. The automatic start-stop system worked well and was unobtrusive. Acceleration to 62mph takes about 10.9 seconds, while top speed is higher than most owners will ever use at 112mph.
You may have read elsewhere that you cannot tell the difference between four-wheel drive versions of the Freelander and this front-drive only version. That is wrong. Even on a dry road the gutsy 320 lbs ft of torque of the diesel engine is enough to make the powered front wheels break traction; the issue is the same on damp surfaces or pulling out of a T-junction to join a fast moving line of traffic. Body roll in bends is a fact of life with an SUV but in this 2wd version cornering can start to feel a bit wayward and that's not what you want in a tall vehicle. Yes, we tackled a dry farm track without problem, but I reckon a muddy one would have taken more driver skill and care with the clutch and throttle than most SUV drivers have ever had to use.
You wouldn't mistake a Freelander for anything else and the latest facelift has sharpened up the chunky 'no-messing' style without losing the look that so many owners love. The Freelander feels a more honest vehicle than its fashion statement stablemate, the Evoque. Interior space is adequate for five, rather than generous, and there are rivals with better rear seat legroom as well as boot space, somewhat of a Land Rover failing. Despite being only front drive, the Freelander 2WD has the same underbody protection, sump guard and great ground clearance as the 4WD model. The Freelander is usefully smaller than a Discovery – this model is 4500mm in length and 2195mm wide.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The high, commanding driving position and good all-round vision, together with its basically squared-off shape, make the Freelander friendly and easy to use. Despite its rough/tough image clutch and brakes don't need any more effort than a car. The steering is surprisingly sweet and responsive. The new centre console is sleeker and much of the cabin looks better quality though there are still some cheap plastics for a car of this price.
At high-ish cruising speeds people used to cars might be disappointed at the Freelander's overall refinement. Braking performance is strong and the suspension well damped and adapt at absorbing bumps. Most of the switchgear is big, but not quite designed to be operated while wearing gloves as with Land Rovers of old. Drop the rear seats down, which increases boot space from 755 to 1670 litres volume and you can carry an adult's bike without needing to remove any wheels.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Reducing weight by removing the drive system to the rear wheels helps improve fuel consumption with official figures of 39.6mpg urban and 47mpg on the combined cycle, along with C02 emissions of 158g/km which are good figures for a big, bulky family vehicle. That said, Mazda's CX-5 is more parsimonious and BMW's X3 also beats the Freelander despite retaining four-wheel drive, and in the real world we managed an overall 'best' of 33mpg. The Freelander 2 is in car tax band G with annual tax of £175. The warranty is three years with unlimited mileage.
Getting rid of the weight of the drive to the rear wheels along with an automatic stop-start system that cuts off the fuel while stopped in traffic or waiting at junctions all helps to reduce the Freelander's thirst for diesel. A tall sixth gear in the manual gearbox means cruising at 70mph is a mere, fuel-sipping 1,900rpm and the car is obviously more streamlined than it looks.
At £10,000 more than the entry level S model you would expect the HSE version to come fully loaded yet metallic paint costs £550 extra. Standard equipment though includes power steering, alloy wheels, climate control, electric window and mirrors, a split and fold rear seat and an electric sunroof (£915 on other models). You also get a radio, CD player, MP3 and Bluetooth connectivity, but the satellite navigation system seems very old fashioned and not up with a Garmin or TomTom for a fraction of the price. You have to move even higher up the trim ladder if you want leather upholstery, electrically-adjustable seats, twin sun roofs and a top spec stereo.
Model tested: Land Rover Freelander 2 eD4
Body-style: Compact five door sports utility (SUV)
Engine/CO2: 2.2 litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel / 158 gCO2/km
Trim grades: S, GS, XS, Dynamic, HSE, HSE Lux
On-road price: From £23,500. Test model £36,685
Warranty: Three years/ Unlimited miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 STARS