Thrills and spills

Land Rover Freelander 2

I take my hat off to Muscats Motors. They really went all out to ensure the local media got to grips (literally), with the all-new Land Rover Freelander 2 at the local launch last month.

I covered the official introduction of the new model in the Motoring page of The Sunday Times on March 4. So, I just wish to go into some personal observations on the model, and describe the driving aspect here.

One thing that struck me immediately about the new Freelander was that the spare tyre is no longer stuck to the rear tailgate but incorporated under the boot. Great emphasis has been placed on the exterior and interior design aspects, without minimising the vehicle's go-anywhere ability (although I expect an unmade road in Madliena or San Pawl tat-Targa will be as close as most drivers will get to offroading).

The interior of Freelander 2 is designed to be more elegant and simply structured than that of the outgoing Freelander. The facia still incorporates clear elements of the iconic architectural vertical and horizontal lines that characterise the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Discovery 3.

The upper part of the facia has a soft-touch finish to give a premium appearance and pleasant feel. Switchgear is purposeful and moves with precision. Regularly used controls, such as facia vents and major switchgear, are within easy reach and have a tactile finish.

Upholstery and tufted carpets are high quality, while metallic and wood-effect finishes add further premium touches. The instrumentation is clear and well displayed. The circular analogue gauges are framed with metallic bezels and are neatly grouped directly in front of the driver.

Although only 50 mm longer than the outgoing model, the all-new Freelander 2 effectively moves up a class in interior packaging compared with its predecessor. The vehicle's height and tall doors improve entry and egress compared with normal cars. The 'clean sill' system also helps keep mud and general road grime off occupants' clothes.

Freelander 2's seats offer good under-thigh and back support, plus strong side bolsters to give excellent lateral support. The front seat frames are similar to those of Range Rover Sport - big car seats for a cabin that looks as though it belongs in a big car. The upright seating provides a comfortable driving position and increases usable legroom.

The capacious boot provides plenty of space for luggage or sports equipment, from bicycles to golf clubs. A neat touch is the reversible load floor cover with carpet on one side and a water-resistant surface on the other.

Total luggage volume is 1,670 litres with the rear seats folded forward and 755 litres when raised (27 and 38 per cent, respectively, better than the outgoing Freelander). The space was designed from the outset to be as versatile as possible.

On selected models, the front seats have handy 'kangaroo pockets' on the front in addition to map pockets on the back. Freelander 2 is available with a wide array of premium-car equipment, as standard or as options. This includes:

• Keyless starter button - standard throughout the range

• High-definition colour touch-screen DVD satellite navigation

• Bi-xenon Adaptive Front Lighting

• Auto headlights and rain-sensing wipers

• Cruise control

• Park Distance Control at the front and rear

• Bluetooth hands-free telephone system to integrate phone control and display with the car

• 12-speaker Alpine/Dolby™ Prologic IIx sound system

• DAB digital radio

• Dual-zone ATC air-conditioning, with pollen filter and humidity sensor

• Panoramic top-sliding sunroof

• Lazy-open and Lazy-locking functionality

• One-shot windows and sunroof

• 'Approach lighting' operated by the key fob

Back to the driving part, the ten vehicles available to the media drove 'in formation' from Ghajn Tuffieha to Ta' Qali, where the offroad track used by the Assocjazzjoni Sport Muturi (ASM) was put at our disposal for so realistic offroading.

The idea was to put the Terrain Response system to the test. Apart from normal there is Snow mode, Wet mode and Sand mode - so the idea was to see the vehicle's behaviour in the Wet and Sand modes apart from normal behaviour.

On my point of view (having also driven the earlier Freelander at launch in southern Spain), I could see the improvement. Hill Descent, for example, is smoother, and there is greater feel with the Sand mode.

One of the journalists had a mishap with the Wet mode since the same ditch was traversed repeatedly. This finally made it impassable and one vehicle actually had to be towed out.

Overall, I believe that this is a much improved Freelander that still retains its Britishness. Ultimately though it is the price that will dictate sales and at Lm20,800 for the 2.2 diesel (going up to Lm31,000) this is an entry premium SUV with the focus on premium.

At a glance

Engine type: 2.2-litre four-cylinder, 4 valves per cylinder.


Fully independent, with front and rear coil-sprung struts and Roll Stability Control (RSC).
Max. power output: 160 bhp at 4,000 rpm.
Max. torque: 400 Nm at 2,000 rpm.
Acceleration, 0-100 km/h: 11.7 seconds.
Max. speed: 181 km/h.
Fuel consumption (litres/100 km), mixed cycle: 7.5.
Carbon dioxide emissions (g/km): 194.
Drag coefficient (Cd): 0.39.
Approach angle: 31°.
Departure angle: 34°.
Length: 4,500 mm, width: 1,910 mm (2,180 mm including door mirrors), height: 1,740 mm.

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