Let’s be kind and say the first-generation Freelander did not have the most incident free of careers. In the end, it even became the punch line of a joke or two… The immediate success of the Land Rover Freelander 2 therefore says much about Land Rover’s inherent brand strength.
Not even its predecessor’s reputation for dodgy reliability has stopped the second-generation vehicle from scaling the sales charts… But to say the success has come entirely as a result of the badge on the grille would be both inaccurate and unfair. The Land Rover Freelander 2 is a mighty impressive product.
Land Rover Freelander 2 displays flagship finesseWith a price tag approaching “half a bar”, this HSE derivative is not cheap. Thankfully, it doesn’t look it. The Land Rover Freelander 2 is a handsome vehicle with all the requisite Range Rover details to help it pull off its premium positioning. There’s generous colour-coding, but Land Rover has applied detailing in black around the lower parts of the vehicle. Catching the eye first are massive (and very pretty) 18-inch alloy wheels that further bulk up the appearance. The ground clearance is a very impressive 210 mm. HSE specification also brings a sunroof, fog-lamps all-round and automatic lights and wipers.
The interior design is not entirely successful. In typical Land Rover fashion you sit fairly high (even with the seat adjusted to its lowest position) and look down at the facia, which is jam-packed full of buttons and switches. Owners will take a short while to get used to the locations of some of the controls.
A very neat touch-screen navigation system is also included. The driver’s seat offers electric adjustment (including height), and the steering wheel is adjustable for rake and reach. Featuring fold-down armrests for both front seats, the driving position is pure Land Rover – high and mighty.
The same goes for those seated in the rear. Land Rover’s trademark “stadium” seating arrangement, which sees the second row of seats placed slightly higher than the ones in front, is also to be found in the Freelander.
Remarkably, the higher placement and standard sunroof have not impacted rear headroom, which is excellent. Legroom is also impressive at the rear. If there is one packaging issue to highlight, it is the small boot. At least there’s a full-size spare under its floor.
Other standard items that form part of HSE specification include leather upholstery, seven airbags, climate control, a sound system with a six-disc CD shuttle and auxiliary plug-in support, cruise control, auto-levelling headlamps, front and rear park assist and electric windows all-round.
Grunt and sipPower comes from a 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine that delivers 118 kW and a very impressive 400 Nm from just 2 000 rpm. It is a refined engine that creates an impression of smoothness, which is further reinforced by a slick six-speed automatic transmission.
Even though the Land Rover Freelander 2 is quite a heavy machine (weighing near 2 tonnes), it is no slouch once it gets going, with impressive overtaking performance almost always a mere flex of the right foot away. It is not so fast off the mark, though, as there is a moment or two of turbo lag. With a fuel-consumption figure of around 8.5 litres/100 km, this particular Freelander model is also impressively economical.
As befits any real Land Rover, the Freelander 2 uses a full-time all-wheel drive system and a raft of off-road systems to help make the driver look like a real Camel Trophy expert. Land Rover’s Terrain Response system is fitted, and allows the driver to choose from a menu of settings (using a rotary dial) to tell the Freelander what the prevailing driving conditions are.
It’s a very effective system and boosts driver confidence a great deal as it is also so simple to operate. A hill-descent system further eases stress levels in the off-road environment. In short, if you want a premium compact SUV that can really strut its stuff in the rough, the Freelander is without equal.
The superb off-road ability has come at the expense of some on-road poise, though. The suspension set-up is on the soft side, which lends the Freelander a waft-like ride characteristic which is very nice on longer trips, but also brings some pitch and roll movements during normal, daily driving. The nose, for example, dips visibly when the brakes are applied hard, and there’s plenty of roll in the corners. All this is amplified by the high seating position.
VerdictThe Land Rover Freelander 2 2,2D HSE is a pricey product but represents one instance where the caveat “you get what you pay for” is meant in a positive sense. Although some would argue that the Land Rover badge is not quite as premium as BMW’s, this seriously depends on your point of view, especially in the SUV market.
This Freelander is a fantastic compact SUV, one that backs up its butch looks with real-world capability and an engine that delivers superb power and economy. Perhaps most importantly, it manages to create an impression of quality that its predecessor lacked. The cabin is beautifully crafted from mostly excellent materials, and even on the move remains a quiet, refined space of relaxation. Yes sir, it’s the real deal.
On-road ride comfort
We don’t like:
Engine: 2.2-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel
Power: 118 kW @ 4 000 rpm
Torque: 400 Nm @ 2 000 rpm
Transmission: six-speed automatic
Wheels: 18-inch alloy
Top speed: 181 km/h
0-100 km/h: 11.2 seconds
Fuel economy: 8.5 litres/100 km
Not nearly as capable off-road as the Freelander, but bests it for snob appeal in some circles. The BMW is excellent on tar, though, with superb dynamics and a very spacious cabin. Boasts a lengthy maintenance plan, too.
Significantly cheaper and delivers similar performance/economy. While reasonably good off-road, it also can’t match the Freelander in that respect. The interior is well-put together, but ultimately the Nissan doesn’t have the same badge appeal as the Land Rover.
If ultimate off-road ability and a premium badge are not that important, but spaciousness and value are, then consider Hyundai’s perennially underrated Santa Fe – it is economical, a fantastic cruiser, very practical and well built, too.