It’s here! Lisa Curtiss takes the much hyped Freelander 2 for a rather sandy desert spin in Morocco and adds one to her letter to Santa, promising of course to be a very good girl…
Ok boys, the Range Rover and Disco may be traditionally your domain, but I bet you won’t just leave this latest Landy to the ladies.
You may have relegated the Freelander to Waitrose shopper, posh kiddie carrier and general all round girly mobile but think on, this brand spanking new one’s got more balls than Manchester United, more grunt than a kennel of ravenous Rotties truffling over a plate ofWall’s bangers and STILL have enough pulling power to tow a barge, over land that is! If the considerable enthusiasm shown by the press posse at the launch test drive is anything to go by (rather startling in itself considering it can take little short of a rumour of a jet engined MPV to get this hardened batch of cynics fired up) Freelander 2 is, quite frankly, pretty fabulous and heaps better than the outgoing model (having owned one as my last car I can certainly concur).
Not only in looks inside and out but in performance, ride, ride, handling and economy. Its new ‘butch’ exterior and glossy but practical interior follows the style of the other new models and an all new 2.2-litre common-rail turbo fourcylinder TD4 diesel engine provides a hefty 43 per cent power increase on the outgoing 2.0-litre diesel. It’s around three seconds quicker 0-60 too, putting out a respectable 10.9 secs and maximum torque has leapt from 400Nm (295lb ft) to 260 Nm (191lb ft). If that’s not enticing enough, with the fuel economy that sees it drink less than many MPVs and cars half its size at 37.7 mpg, any potential threat of it being tagged as a gas guzzling, ozone zapping Chelsea Tractor would be simply ludicrous.
We were taken to Morocco for the test drive and over a few action packed days threw the cars over some teeth rattlingly tough terrain. When not tortoise and donkey dodging on twisty hillside passes with enough rocks to cobble an entire county and keeping a cautious eye on kamikaze local goats leaping from trees, we were indulging in some hair raising, thrilling and totally bonkers fast steep sand dune scaling – all effort free and well within the car’s capability – all of which I have to admit, was rather impressive. Its ‘intelligent’ four-wheel-drive system adjusts itself depending on both where and how it is driven. Under normal road conditions, the bulk of power is directed through the front wheels (to save fuel), but in the most extreme off-road conditions it adapts to drive most of the power through the rear wheels or to specific wheels depending on what’s required.
A host of other electronic driver aids also help including Electronic Traction Control and ABS, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) which has different settings on and off-road, and Hill Descent Control (HDC) which is linked to a new Gradient Release Control which ensures that the brakes are released progressively after stopping on steep slopes. Trust me, this is no Barbie-a-beel. It delivers – excuse free! The excellent terrain response system coupled with the car’s improved maneuverability and visibility enables off-road virgins to safely negotiate their way off piste and those crazy tarmac allergic people to really push hard and have some fun.
The ride is comfortably firm, whilst ironing out enough of the worst offending surface debris to enable any passengers to enjoy a civilised flask of tea on the move should they so wish. On tarmac (ah, sadly where many will spend their lives, never feeling the spring of grass under their tyres, mud on their windscreen, sand in their hair….) whilst the outgoing models could leave you feeling less than secure cornering at any speed, with it’s ultra stiff body giving minimal flex, this grips with more conviction and the steering’s less skittish. The suspension is fully independent and uses the most modern stability control systems, including Roll Stability Control (RSC), a new and sophisticated technology that helps mitigate the risk of roll-over.
It drives as it should, for the money, considering its pedigree coming from the company which brought us the king of the road, the Range Rover. Road and engine noise is thoughtfully reduced to enable you to make the most of its MP3 port if any conversation gets tedious. Now you can finally enjoy the fruits of hours of frustrating labour figuring out just how to download the tracks you actually want and not the latest hits from some tinnitus inducingly loud and vigorous 12 piece Hungarian brass ensemble. It’s more responsive through the gears but I have to say if I were honest, and if I could.
On sale: Manual from December 2006,Auto from March 2007 // Price from: £30,395
- Price: £30,395
- Engine: 2,179cc, 4 cyl, transverse inline, 16v
- Max Power: 160bhp at 4,000
- Max Torque: 400lb ft at 2000
- Combined Consumption:37.7mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 194g/km (F)
- 0-62mph: 10.9sec
- Max speed: 181mph
2.2-litre TD4 diesel engine, 16″ alloy wheels, Land Rover tyre repair system, locking wheel nuts, six-speed manual transmission, halogen headlamps, heated exterior mirrors, air conditioning,manual six-way adjustable driver’s seat, CD player, six speakers. 18″ 12-spoke alloy wheels, exterior mirror memory function, climate control with automatic recirculation and humidity sensing, front and rear carpet mats, Dolby ‘pro-logic 2’ 7.1 surround sound, 14 speakers, leather seat facings, leather steering wheel, driver’s seat memory function
Pretty perfect package – style, true on/off road capability, kudos, promises to be the best in its class
Having to wait for auto box. Outgoing models suffered from reliability problems, hoping as advised this will not be an issue with Freelander 2
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