Land Rover Freelander – Review
By Liam Bird
It rains at the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power. It rains a lot. Every year since its inception in 2008 I’ve attended what’s slowly becoming known as the Goodwood of the North and every year I’ve got wet. Very wet. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a dry one.
Bearing this in mind, and with tickets booked for this years event, I gave some serious thought as to what car would provide the perfect means of transport for my journey north. I needed something that could cut it amongst the Cheshire set’s best; Something that would provide me with the right balance of performance and economy so as to not make the ninety minute schlep up the A49 either a chore, or an expensive folly; Something that, if necessary would provide me with a comfy seat in which to sit and watch the on-track action if the heavens truly opened.
And, because I’m really picky, something with four wheel drive. I have no intention of getting stuck in a quagmire car-park. With my criteria set I give Land Rover a call. Two days before Lord Cholmondeley is to swing open the gates of his Cheshire estate and let the racing cars in, a Freelander 2 is delivered to my door.
“More modern, premium feel”
It’s been a while since I last drove Land Rover’s entry level model. Since then it’s been given a bit of a makeover. Although you have to have more than just a passing interest to spot what’s been done to the outside. New headlamps and a flashy new grille are the most obvious external changes. They’ve revised the bumpers and added a little chrome here and there too. That’s really about it. All in all, it might not be as distinctive as its younger cousin, the Evoque. But the Freelander still retains its slightly imposing and chunky suburban off-roader appeal. These days you get some rather attractive diamond cut alloy wheels as standard as well.
It’s inside though where the most obvious changes have taken place. The Freelander now gets the centre console and Tonka-toy rubber switches that grace the previous generation Range-Rover. Plus, there’s a heated steering wheel too. There’s a new colour multimedia touch screen that controls the sat-nav, Bluetooth and DAB. If you’re lucky enough to be in a top-spec HSE model you’ll get electrically adjustable heated seats covered in Windsor leather and piano black trim, together with some pretty deep carpets. You’ll also notice that the Terrain Response dial is gone. Instead, two smaller buttons take its place. The changes are subtle, but they all add up to give the interior a more modern, more premium feel.
As expected the Freelander’s lofty driving position offers good views in all directions and helps you plan ahead. At nigh-on two tonnes, and with a diesel engine – there’s no longer a petrol option – and an automatic gearbox, this is no sports-car. So the slow-in approach to bends is the best course of action.
The steering feels a little vague and there’s a fair amount of body roll. Especially when compared to the likes of BMW’s X3. But the upsides are a surprisingly comfy ride which, over time, despite a little wind noise, proves to be quite relaxing. Plus, you just know that even if you were to have a little off-road excursion, or the going was to become suddenly all the more bumpy, gooey, flooded, snowy… you name it, with a quick press of a button to select either Mud and Ruts, Grass-Gravel- Snow or Sand, the Freelander would pull you out of trouble in a way few other 4x4s can. Should, heaven forbid, things get really serious, multiple airbags, and a Euro N-Cap 5 star safety rating adds reassurance too.
“British and dependable”
So, with my bags packed, my boots on, and my waterproofs stowed in the slightly stingy sized (well for this size of car at least) boot, I make my way north safe in the knowledge that the Freelander would deal equally well with the morning’s traffic, the dual carriage-way cruise and the estate roads and tracks that lead to Cholmondeley Castle. As I roll across the grass and claim my trackside spot, a scroll through the trip-computer reveals combined fuel figures of 36 mpg over a 60-mile trip; a little short of what I’ve been led to expect. The Freelander’s £39,805 price tag sets me thinking too – would a similar sized SUV from another manufacturer prove more economical in the long run?
Probably yes. But like Pageant of Power’s weather the Freelander still feels as British and as dependable as it always has.
Land Rover Freelander 2 SD4 HSE Lux
Engine: 2179cc 4Cyl 16V turbo-diesel
Transmission: 6 speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Power: 187bhp @ 3500pm
Torque: 309 lbft @ 1750rpm
0-62MPH: 9.5 Sec
Max Speed: 118mph
MPG: 40.4 combined