Land Rover is determined to prove that even a 4×4 can have a green conscience. So here comes the Freelander TD4_e. The underscore in the name may be a bit selfconsciously techy, but the e shows that this is the eco model, with higher fuel economy and lower CO2
These benefits are achieved by a range of measures led by stop-start technology, that automatically switches off the engine when the car is stuck at a red light or stopped in traffic. The moment you depress the clutch, it instantly switches on again. Stop-start systems are nothing new, they first appeared in small Volkswagens 20 years ago, but didn’t really catch on back then. Recently the idea has resurfaced in the MINI and some BMW and Citroën models, and Fiat will soon have a stopstart 500. Some estimates suggest that all new cars will be stop-start by 2012.
But this is the first time that a 4×4 has had the facility, and in the Freelander the savings are significant. The TD4_e has a 2.2-litre engine and manual gearbox. Compared with the current non-eco model, it has an eight per cent reduction in CO2 emissions, down from the current standard manual model’s 194 to 179g/km. It has a 3.8 per cent fuel economy improvement, pushing average consumption from 37.7 to 42.2mpg.
A heavy-duty starter motor with tougher seals is fitted to cope with the significant increase in the number of engine starts. In a typical car, the engine is fired up about 35,000 times in 10 years of use. With stop-start technology, this can rise to 350,000 times. Other technical changes include new ring gear made from harder-grade steel, a stronger friction plate in the dual mass flywheel, and an upgraded battery. To help enhance economy, a nanny-ish dashboard indicator suggests when you should change up to a higher gear. To test the TD4_e we drove from Heathrow via the M4 motorway and heavy west London traffic to Battersea, where an off-road course was ingeniously devised by Land Rover through the iconic power station. This confirmed that eco model or not, this is a Freelander with its off-road capability intact.
Then it was a slow trek through heavy congestion to the City. Every time we stopped, the engine did too – the moment you select neutral and take your foot off the clutch. You only need to declutch again ready to engage gear, and the engine restarts instantly. It works smoothly and feels surprisingly normal.
As a fail-safe to protect the battery, the stopstart system doesn’t operate when you Terrain Response to go off-road, nor does it work when lots of power is needed to run the air conditioning in hot weather.
From May, this model will replace existing TD4 manual Freelanders, with no change in price. It is the first stage in a five year, £800 million programme that will eventually lead to a full hybrid Land Rover with a three-cylinder engine driving a generator. The target is a Range Rover type vehicle with 140g/km emissions, compared with 294g/km in the current V8 diesel.
RIVALS: AUDI Q5 2.0 TDI QUATTRO SE, BMW X3 xDRIVE20d SE, VW TIGUAN SE 2.0 TDI 4MOTION
- Engine: 2179cc, 4 cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max Power: 160bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 295lb ft at 2,000rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 2,000kg
- Combined Consumption: 42.2mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 179g/km (E)
- 0-62mph: 11.7secs
- Max speed: 112mph
- Insurance Group: 11