What is it?
Some may consider it a removal of the car’s fundamental purpose, but Land Rover sees the new two-wheel-drive Freelander as a necessary fact of life, and on British roads it seems they’re right.
The only motor available in the front-drive Freelander (dubbed eD4) is the less powerful version of the new, upgraded 2.2-litre turbodiesel, whose main strengths are its mid-range torque and eco credentials. A fuel economy figure of 47.2mpg and 158g/km of CO2 are impressive, given its output of 148bhp and 310lb ft.
What’s it like?
If the engine’s improvements are evident, so is a lack of the refinement you’d expect in a premium SUV. It comes with stop-start as standard, but wind flutter and turbo whine are often noticeable in the background. A slightly soggy initial throttle response is also disappointing.
Elsewhere, the Freelander eD4 is reassuringly Land Rover-like. It has the characteristic soft springs that soak up intrusions easily without too much body roll. Even at speed, when you do get some slight bouncing and wallowing over undulating surfaces, it is still a comfortable way to travel.
If you choose to drive with a bit more vigour, the chassis responds well, and grip levels are decent. Overall, the Freelander eD4 offers all the stability and comfort you’d expect of a Land Rover. It’s a pleasant and accomplished premium soft-roader.
That doesn’t make it a class leader, though. BMW’s latest X3 offers a more entertaining drive with little compromise to its ability to sooth. The X3 also betters the Freelander’s emissions and economy, despite its permanent 4WD. However, Land Rover does trump the BMW on price. A mid-spec GS eD4 will set you back a reasonable £24,995 – more than £5000 less than BMW’s cheapest.
Should I buy one?
Whether four-wheel drive or front-wheel drive best suits your lifestyle is not a question we can answer, but there is clearly an argument for both. Even so, the £800 extra required for the full-fat 4WD Freelander seems a small sum, particularly given its claimed figures of 45.6mpg and 165g/km.
If you do want front-wheel drive in a high-riding SUV (and 23 per cent of the soft-roader market are with you, according to Land Rover), the Freelander should be on your shortlist.
Land Rover Freelander 2 eD4 2WD HSE
Price: £32,995; Top speed: 112mph; 0-62mph: 10.4sec; Economy: 47.2mpg (combined); Co2: 158g/km; Kerb weight: 1710kg; Engine type: 4 cyls, 2179cc, turbodiesel; Power: 148bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 310lb ft at 1750rpm: Gearbox: 6-spd manual