✔ Still the benchmark for go-anywhere capability in its class. ✖ Thirsty diesel is not as efficient as rivals playing catch-up.
☀ ☀ ☀
It has been quite a few years since I had spent some time in the Freelander. Over the past year, the fuss has focused on the new Range Rover and Range Rover Sport – both outstandingly brilliant. But Land Rover had not forgotten its core products that for decades have helped mould our beautiful British countryside.
The still-popular and recently refreshed Freelander 2 received 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 class-leading Freelander 2 move closer to the bigger Discovery in terms of both 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 with more Germanic origins in terms of cabin ambiance, yet boasts enough hard street cred to fend off the more flaccid competition – of which there are plenty. 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. On the black stuff, the only irritant is a small amount of wind and tyre noise. Characteristically, the diesel engine is a little chatty when cold, but stops talking once warmed up.
Many 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 dialed in to improve off-road performance.
Not unlike a spacious, high-rise tailgated hatch, the Freelander 2 boasts plenty of room for the average size family. However, the car’s go-anywhere appeal will continue to attract buyers with an active or rural lifestyle.
The Freelander 2 arguably sets the benchmark for mid-sized SUVs, with go-anywhere capability buried deep in its DNA. VERY highly recommended and – from the 112 cars I’ve driven this year – it’s in my top five. Treat yourself before it’s gone forever.
Fast Facts Price as tested: £37,215 * Top speed: 118mph * 0-62mph: 8.7secs * Economy: 40.4mpg (combined), 32.6mpg ave. over the 524 miles tested * CO2: 185g/km (EU5) * Kerb weight: 1,805kg * Engine: 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder Turbo-diesel * Drive: All wheels * Power: 190PS @ 3,500rpm * Torque: 420Nm @ 1,750rpm * Gearbox: Aisin AWF21 6-Speed auto. Capacities: Obstacle clearance up to 210mm, wading depth to max 500mm, off-road approach / departure angles 31˚ & 34˚.