Dirty Luxury with the Freelander 2

LandRover’s Freelander 2 is a much improved version of the original model. Although British Bulldog tough in the looks department, it had some serious flaws which, to their credit, Land Rover paid attention to with the Freelander 2. It’s a handsome looking beast and although the exterior is a few years old you’d be ok in thinking it’s new. The family traits of square shoulders, rugged good looks and bright eyes are apparent in the resemblance to its Land Rover and Range Rover brethren. With four models to choose from, the base TD4, XS, SE and HSE, Land Rover Australia (LRA) are covering the bases and giving the opposition something to think about. There’ll be even more clout with confirmation of an update to the car made public in late August and probably due to hit Aussie shores in early 2013.

A Wheel Thing’s test vehicle is the SD4 SE, second highest in the range and fitted with a touchscreen multi media display, including sat-nav, gorgeous Almond grained leather, a beautiful leather clad and stitched steering wheel and black highlights contrasting nicely, a silky smooth six speed auto and the uprated 140kW version of the nuggety 2.2L diesel as found in the TD4 (120kW). Ignition is via a somewhat gadgety “insert key into slot and press start button” (changing to a more user friendly wireless setup in the update) and a safety lockout is in place, with the driver needing to ensure a foot is on the brake. The dash is clear and easy to read whilst the steering wheel’s styling contrasts somewhat, with its angular, squared off look competing against the fluidity of the rest of the car’s styling. The centre console is a little busy to look at, with the radio section possibly the biggest detractor. A small monochrome screen sits a few inches under the five inch multimedia interface and under that are the somewhat oversized station select buttons. At the foot of  the vertical slab is the Terrain Select dial, allowing the driver to choose a computer program for mud, gravel, snow etc. Sandwiched between the two is the climate control.

Although the Freelander is fully equipped with multiple active and passive safety systems, including driver’s knee airbag, there is no padding of the centre console at knee height; rather, the hard plastic knocks knees. Seating is comfortable, as one would expect, with the supple leather complemented by just the right feel in the padding. Electric movement? Natch. Electric lumbar? Of course sir. Captain’s arm rest? Why, certainly sir. Rear seating is ample for two, a little tight for three, not surprising given the girth of the Freelander isn’t as big as its siblings. Rear cargo space with the seats down is good at 1670 litres and gets compressed to 755 with the pews up.

On the road is where the pugnacious Freelander shines, with direct steering providing response and feedback through the tiller, beautiful ride quality, a quietly underspoken diesel that responds quickly (140kW @ 3500rpm, 420Nm @ 1750rpm) to a prod of the loud pedal and there’s good allround vision. Oddly though, there’s a crash from the front suspension as it’s seemingly limited in travel. I say odd as the thump noise comes from the nose being lifted and staying up as the suspension heads down, regardless of speedbumps or potholes when taken off road.  The Land Rover lineage is noticeable when getting dirty, with the marvellous Hill Descent Control and Land Rovers legendary off road performance combining to ease any nerves on a downhill run. It can get wet too, with a wading depth of up to half a metre and the Terrain Response dial gives the driver control of how the system deals with the road. The dial itself will be deleted as part of the revamp.

With the range kicking off at around $50, 500 D/A (base model, manual) in New South Wales and around $63000 for the SE4, it is a little pricey compared to some, but you do get a sweet ride, a luxury office space and the chance to get dirty comfortably plus Land Rover’s legendary reputation. It’s well built, still looks great and is big enough for a family of four. And yes, I’d happily park one in my driveway.

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