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Land Rover Freelander 2 eD4 review (2011 onwards)
Summary - History is made - Land Rover builds a car without four-wheel-drive. It works, but the likely £750 saving isn't generous.
We like - Retains that rugged Land Rover image, roomy inside, good ride and handling
We don't like - Diesel refinement surpassed by rivals, lacks the modern interior feel of crossovers, price differentiation with four-wheel-drive version too small.
Towards the tail end of 2010 Land Rover's Freelander 2 received a makeover. New instruments, more colours, revisions to the grille and lights both front and rear.
All regular mid-term update stuff so far. It's mechanically where the really big changes happen. The single diesel with 160hp has been replaced by two versions of the 2.2, one with 150hp, the other, automatic only, with 190hp.
But of even greater significance is the introduction of afront-wheel-drive Freelander, built to match the crossover offerings of Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Kia. Cheaper, cleaner and more economical, cars like these are suddenly accounting for a quarter of SUV sales.
Concurrently, diesel Freelanders with a manual gearbox get a stop-start system to kill the engine when stationary, shaving a few further fractions off the fuel consumption. Provisionally the 4x2 Freelander will be £750 less than the equivalent 4x4.
This revised diesel may have 10% less power than the old one, but with more torque it is claimed to be just as quick. Land Rover states the same acceleration times for either two- or four-wheel-drive, though the 75kg weight saving should make the eD4 a bit livelier.
It certainly feels just fine on the road, pulling well through the gears and cruising happily at motorway speeds, though with some wind noise. The gearchange is firm but straightforward.
This engine may have the same capacity as before but it has been heavily revised in many areas to make it more efficient. And quieter, with components like an "injector sock" on top of the engine to cut down on injector noise.
Which only makes it more disappointing to report that this still feels like a diesel of the old school, noisy and rather rattly on acceleration, with vibration never fully isolated from the passengers. Rivals do it much better.
Ride and handling
Land Rover was keen to show us that this eD4 Freelander could still deal with the rough stuff. Which was why we were at its Land Rover Experience Centre at Les Comes near Barcelona.
After tackling a challenging course in the 4x4 Freelander, we took the 4x2 around exactly the same route. It wasn't as easy driving this manual car as it was the more powerful automatic 4x4, but, yes, we got round.
Good ground clearance, the correct approach and departure angles to the bodywork and grippy tyres all helped. So do did the stability control system that ensured there was enough grip if you floored the throttle hard enough.
There's no hill descent control, underlining that off-roading was not what this 4x2 Freelander was built for. Indeed you sometimes have to go uncomfortably fast to clear an obstacle that you'd trickle through in the 4x4.
On regular roads the ride is good for an SUV, and while the handling isn't as sporty as some cars of this ilk, it's good enough.
While Land Rover has usually managed to pitch its cars someway above the obvious rivals in terms of prestige, it's only the Range Rover brands that actually produce the full luxury you might expect.
So despite some minor interior changes in the 2011 Freelander, including revised seats and some fancy new leathers, the fascia still alludes more to practical off-roader than the more car-like pretensions of crossovers such as the Hyundai ix35 and Kia Sportage.
Consequently, two-wheel-drive or not, it feels purposeful inside the eD4, with all the ability to withstand rough and tumble from dogs, kids and bales of straw that would leave other makers trembling in their Hunters.
Room in the back seats is as good as ever. The wide, large, sensibly shaped boot is impressive and practical.
Economy and safety
All Freelanders are now greener. The 150hp four-wheel-drive version is almost 4mpg better at 45.6mpg average, with CO2 8% better at 165g/km. The two-wheel-drive Freelander is better still, at 47.2mpg and 158g/km.
Safety is unchanged from the previous versions, with a five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating. Two Isofix child seat fixing points are standard.
The MSN Cars verdict
Straw poll results estimate that the cost saving of the eD4 over a four-wheel-drive version should be about £2,000. In reality it's just £750. On a Land Rover that will cost, in many instances, £25k plus, who is going to bother?
The economy and tax savings are relatively minor too. We believe there is a case for a front-wheel-drive Land Rover, but we're not convinced the Freelander is it. The next offering from Gaydon, the Evoque, may be the right solution. As long as the price is right.
|Need to know|
|Torque, lb ft||310|
|0-62 mph, secs||10.9|
|Top speed, mph||112|
|CO2, tax||158g/km, 22%|
|Ratings||Land Rover Freelander 2 eD4|
|Ride & handling||****|
|MSN Cars verdict||***|
Read another Land Rover review on MSN Cars
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