Land Rover Freelander 2 review
The compact Land Rover Freelander 2 has a comfortable drive, a strong diesel engine and excellent off-road ability
With the arrival of the excellent Range Rover Evoque, it's easy to forget about the other compact Land Rover in the range – the Freelander 2. But you shouldn't because it offers a comfortable driving experience, brilliant off-road ability and is very well made. It's not as sporty to drive as a BMW X3 and it's expensive to buy, too. But the Freelander is well worth a look, especially as it was revised at the end of 2012, with stylish new lights and a neater interior.
Our choice: Frelander 2 188bhp 2.2 SD4 GS
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Freelander
The Land Rover Freelander has a chunky shape that borrows design cues from larger models such as the Range Rover, yet has a look all of its own. The front end is imposing but it's quite car-like in the flesh, rather than an aggressive SUV. The latest versions have updated headlights, grilles and new bumpers along with some shinier chrome accents. All models come with alloy wheels as standard. Inside, the dashboard is a quality affair with upmarket soft-touch materials along with wood and metal trim. The updates late in 2012 have removed the 'Terrain Response' dial in favour of two small buttons, and the centre console has been tidied up substantially. Nevertheless, the Range Rover Evoque does make it look rather dated both inside and out.
Gone are the days when Land Rover offered a petrol engine in the Freelander - now the range is diesel only. Choose from a 148bhp or 188bhp 2.2-litre turbocharged unit; we'd go for the latter as it never feels underpowered, has lots more low-end torque for easy overtaking and is swift with 0-60mph taking 8.7 seconds and a top speed of 118mph. It's a bit noisy at start-up, but quiet on the move, and gets a six-speed automatic gearbox as standard, while other units have a six-speed manual. The auto is smooth and suits the Freelander well. Around corners, the Freelander isn't as precise or involving as a BMW X3 or an Audi Q5 – or its sister car, the Range Rover Evoque. It has too much body roll and steering that is a little vague. The upside is that it is extremely comfortable, and excels at cushioning occupants from bumpy roads. Sadly, while the Freelander is quiet around town, its boxy shape generates a lot of wind noise on the motorway. Still should the going get tough than the Freelander will tackle rough terrain much more easily than any of its rivals.
You get a host of airbags as standard on the Land Rover Freelander – including front, side and curtain 'bags – while it also features traction and stability control to enhance the car's already excellent levels of grip. Reliability is a different matter – the first generation Freelander was one of the most troublesome cars on UK roads, with owners constantly visiting their dealer. This latest version is a vast improvement, but we would still advise caution, despite the improved build quality and new engines. However, it is worth noting that the current Freelander was awarded a full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests, putting it at the top of its class.
The Freelander is well suited to the rough and tumble of family life with a big boot that has 755 litres of load space with the rear seats in place and a massive 1,670 litres with them down. That beats the BMW X3 by a long way – plus it features heavy duty, wipe clean materials on the boot floor and lots of cubby holes throughout the cabin. Front seat space is very good but knee room in the back could be better. You sit up high and enjoy a commanding view of the road ahead, thanks to a wide windscreen and relatively narrow A-pillars. Large glass areas behind the driver make it easier than most SUVs to reverse park, too. Off-road, the Freelander beats more on-road focused rivals like the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 hands down thanks to its excellent Terrain Response system, which features a number of modes to tackle different surfaces and limited grip levels. Although be aware that entry-level versions and the eD4 do miss out on this impressive electronic system.
The cheapest way to run a Land Rover Freelander is to go for the entry-level front-wheel drive 148bhp eD4 model which gets stop-start and returns 47.1mpg while emitting 158g/km of CO2. By comparison, the 188bhp 4x4 version posts 40mpg and 185g/km – not bad but not great when you consider a 184bhp 2.0d BMW X3 beats both models, returning 50.4mpg and emitting just 149g/km of CO2. The Freelander is expensive to buy, especially when you consider top-spec models are within reach of the cheapest Range Rover Evoques. However, residuals are strong due to strong brand image. Servicing costs are likely to be average for the class and equipment levels are good. Even entry-level S models get air-con, while GS versions add cruise control, climate control, Terrain Response and parking sensors. Further up the range XS models have electric seats and sat-nav, while flagship HSE models boast leather trim and a CD changer. HSE Lux and Dynamic models were added late in 2012, focusing on providing the ultimate in luxury and sportiness respectively - with subtle visual changes to differentiate them from the rest of the range.