2013 LAND ROVER FREELANDER 2 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Five-door medium SUV
Price: $55,600 (plus on-roads) $61,800 (as tested, plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 177kW/340Nm 4cyl petrol turbo | 6spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.6 l/100km | tested: 13.8 l/100km
The Land Rover Freelander 2 came in for an update this year, and not before time. While it's always been quite capable when it comes to the rough stuff, its engines and interior really weren’t up to scratch.
Finally, the centre stack has been redesigned, there’s a new infotainment system and finding its way under the bonnet is a willing 2.0-litre turbo petrol sourced from Ford (also used in the Jaguar XF).
There's also a revised grille, headlights with a new DRL signature and reshaped bumpers to sharpen up the front styling.
So, it now looks the part, but how does it drive? We spent some time on- and off-road to see how it fared.
Quality: Thankfully, the Freelander 2’s interior has been given the makeover it needed. It looks far more cohesive and is now in line with Land Rover’s current styling themes, rather than the previous button-ridden fascia.
There are still a lot of hard plastic surfaces but the presentation is much better.
While the centre-stack design is the most noticeable, clever changes like the Evoque’s left-right Terrain Response selector and metal accents make a big difference in here.
Comfort: The front seats with captain’s chair armrests make for a very relaxed driving position.
Electrically adjustable (thanks to a $2000 SE Luxury Pack which also includes spoiler, floor mats and seat memory), it’s easy to get comfortable, and the grained leather is durable and easy to clean.
There’s good legroom for rear passengers and headroom is superb for all shapes and sizes.
Equipment: The interior changes for the Freelander 2 update includes the new JLR touchscreen infotainment, so there’s an excellent 380-watt Meridian sound system with 11 speakers and subwoofer.
Annoyingly, like the Evoque with which it shares the system, the voice activation doesn’t allow a destination to be entered on the run, forcing you to stop and enter it in manually.
The standard rear-camera is clear, excellent in low light, plus there are parking sensors included.
Storage: The boot is a very handy 755 litres which grows to 1670 litres with the back seats laid down.
Unlike most soft-roaders, the Freelander 2 comes with a full-size spare wheel, which if removed would liberate even more space under the false floor.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder under the bonnet is an absolute gem.
Smooth and punchy, it’s difficult to make a case for the diesel other than for fuel consumption (normally a diesel would be a no-brainer).
While Land Rover’s official figure for the 0-100kmh sprint is a respectable 8.8 seconds, it feels quicker than that. We timed it for several runs using our stopwatch and it cracked the 100kmh mark in just 7.96 seconds. Consistently.
Maximum torque comes in at just 1750rpm, making it almost diesel-like in its delivery. But where a diesel Freelander comes into its own is fuel use.
During our week of urban-only driving, with some heavy-duty sand work chucked in for good measure, the petrol Freelander returned a figure of 13.8 l/100km.
On longer runs and no 4WDing, we think it would easily see the official ADR figure matched.
You’ll also notice something that sets the Freelander apart from the current crop of soft-roaders: visibility.
While most have opted for curvy styling and rounded glass-houses, the Freelander’s honest, no-frills, two-box design and big mirrors means you won’t miss a thing; bikes, for example, won’t be hidden in blindspots.
Yeah, it’s not the most stylish vehicle going around but it does make for a driving experience that’s a whole lot safer.
Refinement: The Freelander 2 does a good job of isolating road noise from the cabin though there is a bit of wind noise from those large wing mirrors.
The engine is extremely smooth, as is the six-speed transmission. Overall refinement is very good.
Ride and Handling: The Freelander’s suspension is excellent. With a brilliant initial compliance ironing out all the tiny jittery bumps, it’s only the larger jolts that are felt slightly. This absorption does come at a cost however.
It leans during cornering, and you really feel it in quick left-right directional changes.
While it’s not disconcerting, it doesn’t quite match the speed potential the car offers up, meaning you’ll come into a corner a LOT quicker than the car can deal with.
Thankfully the light steering is extremely accurate. It's very direct for an SUV and offers enough feel for you to understand what’s going on underneath.
We headed to a patch of ridiculously boggy dust to see whether changes to the Terrain Response system were enough to keep us from getting buried.
With compressor and shovel on board, we left the tyres at road pressures.
Normally, the best way to handle sand is to drop the road pressures by at least half and then switch off the stability control.
But the Freelander’s sand mode made light work of the dry sand. It allows the transmission to be kept in the lowest gear needed, and holds the revs up while also backing off the stability control.
Only when forward movement starts to die does it clamp a wheel to kick the car in a slightly different direction, lurching forward and holding momentum. It is, in fact, the best sand program we’ve come across in a light SUV.
Its 210mm ground clearance and suspension travel also combine to get it into and out of huge ruts. That soft road suspension gives a fabulous ride in the rough.
Off-road, the Freelander 2 is a real eye-opener; it's little short of brilliant.
Braking: Vented discs front and back make the Freelander 2 capable of hauling up quite easily. Pedal feel is very good, though it does tend to nose-dive under really heavy braking.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars. The Freelander 2 scored 34.84 out of a possible 37 in crash testing. It’s worth noting, however, that it was tested back in 2007.
Safety features: Apart from the Terrain Response system which takes care of stability control when off road, there’s the usual traction control, ESC, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and brakeforce distribution.
Dual front airbags, side airbags and head-protecting side curtains are standard equipment
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km with extended packages available.
Service costs: Service intervals are every 16,000km and will vary in costs dependent on driving conditions and locations. Please consult your local Land Rover dealer for pricing.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI quattro ($62,900) – Like the Volvo, the Audi’s interior is a far better place to sit, but its visibility isn’t as good, nor will it take you off-road where the Freelander will take you. (see Q5 reviews)
BMW X3 xDrive20i ($59,500) – The X3 is clearly the best car on-road in this segment but that’s where it’s meant to stay. It’s never going the challenge the Freelander for off-road ability. (see X3 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Freelander’s newfound urge - its 2.0-litre turbo - is a welcome addition and one that changes the character of the car.
With a punchy petrol turbo in place of a gruff diesel, and a slick six-speed auto, it’s a far better drive experience.
While its German competitors can best it for on-road performance (and interior feel), the Freelander has the field absolutely covered for off-road capability.
If you're in the market for a car that’s as much at home on the beach as it is up a slippery hill-climb, and one you'll enjoy being in, there’s not a lot better than this Freelander 2.