The Land Rover PR department has the easiest job in the world. The Range Rover is the best in its class, as are the Discovery, Range Rover Sport, and Evoque. Even the crumbling anachronism that is the Defender is excused just about every one of its many faults foibles because of its immense character and charm.
Which just leaves Cinderella. You see the Land Rover Freelander 2 is getting old. The original made its debut in 1997, with the second generation coming along nine years later. This makes it, in automotive terms, a national institution. Which might explain why, despite being seven years old and being due for replacement in the next couple of years, people still love em. And why do they still love em? Read on
Everyone knows what the Freelander looks like. Its an unremarkable design, remarkable only for exuding a premium look with very few lines. The Freelanders deceptive simplicity might be one of its greatest strengths, managing to be classless and exclusive, which is a very nice trick to be able to carry off.
Jazzed-up front and rear lights bring it slap-bang into the 21the front grille and wing vents add (almost-over-the-top-but-not-quite) bling. Combined with a bright metallic colour like the Mauritius Blue of our test car, and youve got something that anyone would be proud to be seen in.
Its much the same story inside the Freelander. Judicious upgrades over the years have ensured that it continues to reflect the new Land Rover, the leather n brushed steel Bauhaus-meets-Solihull that lies at the heart of LRs renaissance.
And it works well. The Freelander is comfortable, quiet, ergonomic, and if you miss the lovely rotary gear-knob of the newer models you are reassured by the presence of a Terrain Response switch panel that this is still a real Land Rover, capable of conquering hearts and continents with equal aplomb.
Rear seat legroom isnt amazing, and the boot isnt huge, but both are easily big enough for you to be able to live with them without concern.
You can excuse the fact that the Freelander leans a bit in the corners because the ride is so fabulous. Sure, it gets a bit floaty at times, but the overall feel is that of a luxury car not an SUV. Its quiet too, even at motorway cruising speeds and wieldy in the city, making it less of a handful in Tescos car-park that you might think.
When you leave the tarmac you can rely on the full gamut of Land Rovers electronic trickery to stop you getting into – and to pull you out of – trouble.
That means Terrain Response System, Hill Descent Control, Gradient Release Control, full-time four-wheel-drive, and Anti-Lock Brakes.
It might all sound terribly complicated but it isnt; even Mark Thatcher could drive a modern Land Rover off road and not get stuck. It works seamlessly and intelligently leaving you free to sit back, tickle the throttle, and feel ever so slightly superior.
Our car, being an almost top-of-the-range HSE, had the 190bhp version of the 2.2-litre turbo-charged diesel engine, an option only available for those choosing GS-spec and above. The basic 150bhp version is the only choice for those buying a poverty spec S.
Its a decent enough engine, providing plenty of oomph for overtaking and high-speed cruising. The top speed of 118mph is enough for anyone who doesnt spend their days criss-crossing Europe and while the 0-62mph time of 9.5 seconds doesnt sound terrifically quick, the 0-60mph time of 8.7 does; blame that barn-door shape for taking almost a second to gain 2mph.
While the engine might be smooth and powerful and refined it does like a drink. I managed just over 30mpg, which isnt terribly good really when the official fuel consumption figures suggest that just over 40mpg should be possible. You can blame the fact that the auto gearbox – the only choice that is if you want the more powerful engine – doesnt have Stop/Start for at least some of this, as the manual gearbox is quite a bit more economical.
Value for Money
An HSE SD4 Freelander like ours, with a smattering of carefully chosen options, is knocking on the door of 40,000. Thats quite a lot of money for what is, after all, yesterdays hero.
Just for fun, I specd-up a four-door Evoque, my favourite Land Rover/Range Rover model. By being parsimonious with the optional extras, but without losing anything Id really miss, I came up with a price that was only a long weekend in Paris more expensive than the Freelander.
That either makes the Evoque a bargain, or the Freelander too expensive
(In the interests of fairness, I must point out that prices do start at just under 24,000 for a two-wheel-drive manual. But who wants a two-wheel-drive Land Rover?)
Land Rover has a problem with the Freelander. There is no doubting the overall competence of the car, both on- and off-road. Its reasonably quick, passably economical, and good fun. Its also very refined, stuffed with toys, and would slide into just about anyones life very nicely.
The trouble is that the Evoque is all these things and more. It is even faster, handles better, looks sublime, drives beautifully, and makes you feel good every time you get into it.
My wife suggests that he two arent really competition, arguing that country folk would buy the Freelander for its greater practicality, leaving the Evoque to sophisticated city dwellers for whom a little bit of practicality can be sacrificed in the name of good taste.
And, you know what? Not for the first time, she might be right.
What the press think
Reviews of the Freelander are pretty positive. It’s a model praised mainly for its chunky good looks, tough build quality and strong residual values – influenced by just how popular these cars still are. It’s expensive though, and as we’ve found ourselves, real-world fuel economy isn’t spectacular. Still, it’s a great all-rounder.
For more information check out our full summary of the Land Rover Freelander 2 alongside reviews, stats, photos and videos!