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Freelander the pick of the powerful

The Freelander 2 can tackle tough terrain.
The Freelander 2 can tackle tough terrain. Contributed

TOY Story managed the task, as did Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom ... and so did Star Wars with the Empire Strikes Back.

Sequels so often fail to live up to the allure of originals, but the Freelander can join an illustrious group that has bucked the trend.

Not that there was much to trump. The first Freelander was plagued by a range of reliability issues and a design even its mother found off-putting.

Yet the second instalment, which has been out for a few years, shares none of the hallmarks from the initial premium compact sports utility vehicle and it's now been updated.

Some impressive styling changes add to its allure in a crowded segment which has BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi battling hard for the luxury dollar.

Land Rover has now re-entered the fray with a new 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine and sits alongside the six-cylinder petrol that was previously the pick of the powerplants.

But this new oil-burner is available in two grades, 110 (TD4) or 140 (SD4) kilowatts, both variants offering more refinement and 20 more Newton metres of torque over the previous 2.0-litre diesel.

Comfort

Just like its bigger Discovery brother, cabin space is excellent. While you can host a dinner party in the back of a Disco with room to spare, the Freelander can handle high tea without too many issues.

The rear seat allocation is not massive, but two adults will find no problem with the leg and knee room.

We tested the Freelander in mid-spec SE trim and had bouquets for the polished feel and appearance.

Some hard plastics are used in the console between the front seats and in the doors, although they are hard to spot and don't detract from the overall finish.

The centre console sits extremely vertical, uniquely square compared to the flowing lines of many modern-day offerings, and the buttons are simple and uncomplicated. It looks bland by some premium SUV standards.

Leather seats provide a luxurious edge, while there are some nice touches throughout the cabin that remind you that the Freelander is no run-of-the-mill offering.

Ride is quiet and unassuming although our car was tainted by a nasty whistle that occurred above 50kmh.

Luckily the Apline stereo has enough grunt to maintain your sanity.

On the road

There is a premium feel to the Freelander the moment you start the engine.

While launching the oil-burner is accompanied by the traditional diesel clatter, it's a smooth and refined powerplant.

It's a zesty one too. Careful use of the right foot results in carefree and smooth acceleration, although exercise your ankle harder and the Freelander responds in spades.

From above 2000rpm it has the ability to throw your head back in the seat. In this SE specification with an automatic box, the 110kW TD4 is just $1500 cheaper. The SD4 gives you 30 more kilowatts and also has its torque sweet spot lower in the rev range.

The six-speed automatic is a cracker too and always manages to find the right cog in varying conditions. Steering has a tendency to feel too light at speed although it does make easy work of tight car parks.

While it had no problems traversing the urban jungle, the Freelander is not deterred by the rough stuff. You can't tackle really ambitious territory, but armed with Terrain Response, Hill Descent Control, 220mm of ground clearance and 500mm wading depth it can easily handle camping trips on unsealed roads.

The mid-range SE model we sampled probably offers the best value in the Freelander range.

Without requiring any extra cash you get electric adjustable front seats, leather upholstery, front armrests, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, push-button start, 18-inch wheels, nine-speaker Alpine CD stereo system and Bluetooth wireless phone connectivity.

It does miss out on audio streaming and USB input.

You also get a Garmin in-dash touch-screen sat nav system.

Safety is well looked after courtesy of seven airbags: two curtain, two front, two thorax and a driver's knee bag as standard, along with anti-lock brakes and all the associated technology with stability control that helps earn a five-star crash rating.

One option worthwhile ticking is front parking aid for $900.

Other options

There is plenty of competition in this segment, the primary players are the new BMW X3 xDrive20d ($62,200), Audi Q5 2.0 TDI ($62,200) and Volvo XC60 D5 ($59,950).

Practicality

Sports utility vehicles have found favour with Aussies for good reason – they combine ride height with cabin space and good looks.

While the Freelander is a compact machine, families will appreciate its internal flexibilities. Three adults can fit across the back seat, at a squeeze, but the rear boot allocation is creditable.

Both back seats fold to improve the cargo area, but they don't fold completely flat. The three-child seat anchorage points are well located in the middle of the backrests.

Running costs

Average consumption is seven litres per 100 kilometres. Pretty impressive from an SUV this size. Servicing may be expensive depending on parts.

Funky factor

Exterior design changes to the front end have made a monumental difference since the original. The new bumper and grille, combined with improved alloy wheels have given the Freelander a modern makeover.

It looks like a mini Discovery with distinctive square lines, but with a better proportioned rear.

The lowdown

The Freelander 2 should be on the agenda for those looking at a premium SUV.

Where it excels is the value stakes. While it has badge kudos, the bottom line is not quite that of a Beemer, Benz or Audi.

This SE variant is probably the best in the range. Despite costing close to $9000 less than the HSE, the SE feels strikingly similar inside.

Now armed with a smoother and improved oil-burner, it presents a compelling argument.

We've seen the sequel, this update is like a new and improved ending.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Freelander 2 SD4 SE.

Details: Five-door four-wheel drive premium compact sports utility vehicle.

Engine: 2.2-litre in-line four-cylinder, 16-valve turbo-diesel, common rail fuel injection generating maximum power of 140KW @ 3500rpm and peak torque of 420Nm.

Transmission: Six-speed automatic.

Performance: 0-100kmh in 9.5 seconds; top speed 190kmh.

Consumption: 7.0 litres/100km (combined average).

CO2: 185 g/km.

Bottom line: $56,810.

For more motoring check out Drive.com.au.



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