words - Philip Lord
Respectable off-road and towing ability combined with luxury appointment are hallmarks of Land Rover's Freelander 2 range, found Philip Lord testing the TD4 SE variant

Free landering

There are not many compact/medium luxury SUV diesels in the $50 to $60K segment on the market that offer the flexibility to slither their way out of a wet building site, carve through narrow carparks during the week, and then haul your family and your boat to the weekend get away, but the Land Rover Freelander 2 makes a compelling case.

The Freelander is a hard one to categorise, as there are few contenders in its size in the price range. The very recent arrivals to the class, the $59,990 Audi Q5 and $57,950 Volvo XC60 come close in size and price, while the long-standing competitor the $61,830 BMW X3 2.0d is only marginally more expensive but is smaller.

The Freelander 2 arrived here in 2007, as a five-door wagon with two trim and engine options, and with more room, power and weight than the model it replaced.
The engine choices are a 3.2lt inline six-cylinder petrol and a 2.2lt turbo-diesel four.

The Freelander isn't lacking on the features front. Standard for the turbo-diesel $52,490 SE and $58,550 HSE models includes leather seats (electric adjustment at the front) 17in alloys, six-CD in-dash stacker, dual zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, remote central locking with keyless push-button start, seven airbags, traction and stability control, and rear park distance control.

The HSE adds Bi-xenon headlights, electric fold and memory side mirrors, 18in alloy wheels, driver's seat memory, front park distance control, auto-dimming rearview mirror and premium nine-speaker sound system. A tow bar and wiring is standard ? you only need to purchase a tongue and ball at $178.

Extras are kept simple on Freelander with the major option being an $8350 Technology package on HSE, consisting of a DVD Sat Nav, Bluetooth connectivity and Bi-xenon Adaptive headlights. Metallic paint is $1700 on SE and $1800 on HSE, and the sunroof $3300 on SE ($3490 on HSE).

The Freelander 2 is much bigger than its predecessor, Land Rover saying it comes close to matching the Range Rover Classic in internal dimensions. At 2005mm, the Freelander 2's body is wider than Range Rover Sport and only 29mm narrower than Vogue. Helping the Freelander's ability to nose into city street car spaces is the relatively short 4500mm body.

Occupants not only get plenty of elbow room but more space to put their gear. The seats-up cargo space has improved from 546 to 755 litres. The dash layout is really simple and easy to operate, despite the numerous functions to shoehorn onto the dash.

There are loads of cavernous trays, pockets and cupholders to put stuff into, Land Rover catching on to the fact people like plenty of good interior storage space way back with the Discovery I.

The four-cylinder 2.2lt turbo-diesel features up-to-the-minute advanced features such as in-cylinder swirl, the latest third-generation common rail fuel injection, a new Garrett variable-nozzle turbocharger, a double-walled cylinder block and sump-mounted balance shafts.

The engine feeds power through an adaptive six-speed auto ? which has a manual mode - and a Haldex clutch on-demand 4WD system.
For day-to-day driving, the smooth if not silent 2.2lt turbo-diesel operates well, with only slight turbo lag down low and a strong mid-range. This is one of the better turbo-diesel engines around for its flexibility and smoothness, but it's not quick. You'd buy a BMW X3 3.0d if you wanted performance, but then you have to pay for it.

The Freelander is not built to handle steep, slow off-road work, but it is still surprising how much off-road the Freelander will eat up.

Terrain Response, a sophisticated group of settings for off-road conditions originally devised for Discovery 3, has been adapted for Freelander, so you can tune the engine and traction system to best handle the particular terrain you're driving on.
While Terrain Response is good, as are Freelander's off-road angles, underbody clearance, underbody protection and 500mm wading depth (with air intake positioned well behind the left guard-mounted vent), you can't expect it to cope with slow-speed tracks as well as an off-roader with better tyres, tougher underpinnings and low-range reduction gearing. Freelander 2 also does not have proper recovery points to snatch recover should it get bogged.

More room and added features makes Freelander 2 around 200kg heavier than before and it has an identical aerodynamic figure of Cd 0.39. That does not mean that the Freelander is not as involving to drive as the last model ? if anything, its better.

Steering feels a little too light but everything else about the Freelander 2 suggests it will make a dynamic tourer that also doesn't sell short on comfort. Its long-travel suspension allows it to soak-up large bumps on secondary roads very well, and the body appears to be rigid. No shaking or rattling in the Freelander, although most manufacturers put body rigidity high on the priority list these days.

Towing a trailer weighing 1532kg Tare and with a TBM of 110kg, the Freelander's rear suspension dropped 22mm. This did not prove to be a problem for steering or stability on test.

Land Rover claims the Freelander 2 TD4 is capable of a combined fuel economy figure of 7.5lt/100k. With a 1500kg trailer behind, towing in hilly terrain, the Freelander averaged 14.7lt/100k.

Despite the occasional squirm when cruising at 100kmh with a trailer tucked in behind, the Freelander generally felt well planted on the road.

Performance off the mark and on level ground was very good when hitched up, with well-chosen shift points and smooth gearchanges. Even with 1500kg behind, the Freelander is able to hold top gear at 100kmh. Hill climbing performance is another thing, though, as the Freelander often needs to kick-down a gear - or even two ? and still speed drops to 90kmh or lower from 100kmh on long freeway hills.

Engine breaking on downhill runs was not especially good either, with the Freelander needing a light brake application to keep speed from creeping up on gradients where many diesels could rely on engine braking alone.

Servicing the Freelander is required every 12,000km or six months, but Land Rover makes an exception for what it calls “arduous operating conditions”, which includes towing a trailer.

Land Rover does not specify the service intervals for such conditions but says to contact the dealer for a (presumably abbreviated) service interval.

If you are happy to tow a trailer to keep your tools in during the working week - you wouldn't want to throw much gear into the leather-lined interior ? and swap the work trailer for a boat trailer after work, then the Freelander has the power, comfort, space and a touch of hard-nosed off-road ability to mix it up as workday hack and weekend warrior.

For more information, visit www.landrover.com.au

Engine: In-line turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Max. power: 118kW at 4000rpm
Max. torque: 400Nm at 2000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Length: 4500mm
Width: 2005mm
Height: 1820mm
Wheelbase: 2660mm
Ground clearance 220mm
Kerb mass: 1820kg
Gross Vehicle Mass: 2505kg
Gross Combined Mass: 4505kg
Fuel: 68lt
Roof load: 75kg
Towing: 750kg unbraked; 2000kg braked
TBM maximum: 250kg (150kg at GVM)


To comment on this article click here Published : Thursday, 30 April 2009

Prices and specifications supplied are for the market in Australia only and were correct at time of first publication. boatsales.com.au makes no warranty as to the accuracy of specifications or prices. Please check with manufacturer or local dealer for current pricing and specifications.

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