MOTORS REVIEW: Land Rover Freelander 2

DESIGNER STUBBLE – Freelander wears it well
Land Rover Freelander 2Land Rover Freelander 2
Land Rover Freelander 2

WITH violent winds lashing the UK and rain beating at your windscreen each time you drive to the shops it has felt like a trawlerman’s life this winter.

When I booked a drive in Land Rover’s Freelander 2 more than two months ago I anticipated that it might be called upon to tackle ice and snow and, as such, would be the ideal car for this time of year.

This time last year I was forced to nervously drive a Porsche Carrera on summer tyres across the borough in six inches of snow... not something I want to repeat.

Land Rover don’t do half measures when it comes to four-wheel-drive and where many SUVs now put huge stock in their car-like drivability, there remains something reassuringly heavy-duty and rugged about the Freelander 2.

Styling tweaks as recent as last summer have helped to keep its shape looking fresh with a distinctive grille design first seen on the Range Rover Sport and distinctive Halogen lighting among its most significant new jewellery.

Land Rover’s biggest seller is now a fairly common site on UK roads.

After last year’s snow storms sales swelled by 36 per cent compared with the start of 2012, indicating that it remains a popular option in a sector where it battles the Ford Kuga, Toyota Rav4, Honda CR-V, BMW X3 and Audi Q5.

The unapologetically purposeful air that the Freelander 2 exudes is probably key to its continued success.

In the metal it is a car that sits four-square, its muscular proportions giving the impression that it can battle tough terrain and arrive at a destination wearing a layer of mud like designer stubble.

Prices start at £23,705 but my test car came in range-topping HSE Lux trim with power channelled from Land Rover’s SD4 turbodiesel engine via a six-speed automatic gearbox. The asking price? £39,815. At which point it is outgunned in terms of power and performance by its premium German rivals.

Delivering 187bhp and 309lb.ft. of torque, the SD4 can propel the Freelander 2 to 62mph in 9.2 seconds and on to 118mph.

Fuel economy stands at 40.4mpg, with CO2 emissions of 185g/km, both areas where Land Rover will be aiming to make improvements when a Freelander replacement arrives next year.

Step into the Freelander 2’s cabin and the switchgear and layout is distinctive Land Rover fayre. Bold controls that are ideal for use by gloved hands in winter are central to the centre console’s style.

A touchscreen infotainment system offering satnav, a DAB radio and Bluetooth handsfree telephone connectivity offers a more modern departure, however.

Overall, the interior feel reflects the Freelander 2’s exterior character, feeling robust and functional but with said infotainment and specification perks including full leather, cruise control and a reversing camera.

One great aspect of the Freelander 2 is the view down the road from the driver’s seat. The ability to see a vehicle’s extremities is essential when driving in tight off-road situations and the edges of the bonnet are visible from its lofty position.

Despite looking like a large hunk of car from the outside, the interior does not feel overwhelmingly spacious, even with the added daylight allowed into my test car by a panoramic sunroof.

Rear legroom is reasonable and the Freelander’s relative width results in decent shoulder space, but the cabin is not an airy space.

Even the impressive-sounding 755-litre boot looks deceptively shallow.

Out on the road, the Freelander 2 proves to be a comfortable family vehicle. The ride is cosseting and the engine refined unless revved hard.

It does feel as though the engine needs to be revved hard to deliver a decent slug of performance, however, the six-speed automatic gearbox seemingly resisting fuel-sapping down-shifts and slugs of acceleration until provoked by a purposeful input from the driver’s right foot.

Given the agility of Land Rover’s much larger Range Rover models, the Freelander 2’s lack of agility was also a little disappointing.

Steering which feels a little vague and slow-witted is matched to a chassis which delivers a degree of pitch and roll through corners.

Once up and running the gearbox’s shifts are quick and smooth and the aforementioned ride contributes to comfortable progress.

My hopes of making use of Land Rover’s trick Terrain Response system, which adjusts gear-shifts and traction control perameters to deal with a variety of surfaces fell somewhat flat.

In the ice and snow of the past three winters, I am sure that the Freelander would have been all conquering, but the security of its four-wheel-drive system was enough to banish the rain and wind of recent months.

After time in the company of the Freelander 2 it is not hard to understand why it makes a popular, go-anywhere family car.

Its rugged, robust style and feel is hard to dislike and the reassurance of a fine driving position and trusted off-road ability are a massive lure.

In terms of outright interior space and frugality there are more cost effective purchases out there...but few that feel like they could take on the ravages of a Yorkshire winter with such aplomb.

First published JANUARY 31, 2014