By Wayne Gorrett
Arguably the benchmark mid-sized SUV,
with go-anywhere capability buried deep in its DNA.
☀ ☀ ☀
Sheepishly, I confess it had been quite a few years since I had enjoyed a drive in a Freelander. Earlier this year the fuss was over the newly-launched Range Rover and the still-new Evoque. But Land Rover had not forgotten its core products that for decades have helped mould our beautiful British countryside. The still-popular Freelander 2 had been refreshed for model year 13 with subtle detail changes both inside and out and some useful updates transposed from other models in the Land Rover range.
The steady, calculated shift of the whole Land Rover range upwards in terms of quality and market position culminated in a new dashboard on this latest version. The passing of time has also seen the Freelander 2 move closer to the bigger Discovery in terms of perceived and actual quality.
All the leather furniture and plush carpeting is welcome, but its raw go-anywhere capability rightly remains as the core value of the Freelander 2. The familiar engine range incorporates an eco-friendly stop-start system while the ‘terrain response’ now uses the Evoque’s push button system.
The Freelander 2 is considerably more competitive and feels closer to something Germanic in terms of cabin ambience, yet boasts enough hard street cred to fend off the more ‘softer’ competition. The upgraded cabin is a significant improvement and helps to raise the quality feel of the car. Still deliberately below Range Rover standards, the overall Freelander 2 package is better than ever.
The less fussy dashboard is much easier to understand and an improvement in the material quality is welcome too. The infotainment display screen is mounted high on the dashboard and shares its touchscreen facility and graphics with other models in the range. The rest of the controls are clearly labelled and require much less getting used to than before.
For a car with the potential to throw you around on rough terrain, the Freelander’s seats are pleasingly supportive – especially should you decide to venture off-road. Back on the road, the only irritant is a small amount of wind and tyre noise. The diesel engines can clatter a little when cold, but characteristically disappears once warmed up.
Those 4x4s worthy of the classification are rarely famous for their on-road abilities, which are often developed as a compromise. Not so the Freelander 2, which boasts high ground clearance and resists pitch and roll very well when on tarmac. Grip levels are exceptional due to the car’s intelligent permanent all-wheel drive system and the inclusion of a ‘lite’ version of the Discovery’s Terrain Response Control means different conditions such as mud, gravel and sand can be dialled in to improve off-road performance.
More of a spacious, high-rise tailgated hatch, the car boasts plenty of room for the average size family. The optional rear audio system will be a boon on long journeys and the car’s go-anywhere appeal will continue to attract buyers with an active or rural lifestyle, or indeed both.