Thursday, 12 July 2007

What's outside today 11 - Land Rover Freelander 2

This is the new Freelander. What's interesting is that this latest version looks very similar to the original, but is in fact much larger.

When I took it out for a short spin earlier on, I was surprised to discover that it sometimes feels more like the big Land Rovers such the Discovery and RR than a Toyota RAV-4 or Honda CR-V. That's because of the commanding high driving position (good) but also the difficulty of judging the position of the front nearside corner due to the car's surprising bulk (not so good).

My immediate thought was that this probably leaves room in the Land Rover range for a smaller soft-roader to slot in below the Freelander - occasionally there are rumours of plans for such a car in the motoring press.

I know Land Rover are facing an uncertain future at the moment but you have to admire the company's ability to come up with one hit model after another. I think the last new Landy that met with a less than rapturous response from journalists and the motoring public was the short-lived 2.0 litre four cylinder petrol version of the first Discovery. I never drove one but if I remember correctly it used the 'O' series engine and it was very slooooow. The Freelander 2 (our test car is the 2.2 litre diesel) is anything but.


James said...

Don't forget the Freelander David!

Some bright spark (see 'Ford') decided to fit it with the Rover K-Series petrol engine - renowned for only having two minor issues:

1. Oil pump splines wearing causing the engine to cease.

2. Premature head gasket failure under normal driving conditions.

These points, combined with the vast hulk of the Freelander caused extensive engine damage at around 45,000 miles - less in some cases.

Needless to say, a class action suite was filed by riled owners.

David Wilkins said...

Ah yes - the subject of head gasket failure and the K-series is one that has rumbled on for a few years now in various web forums and so on. I'm still not sure to what extent the 'K' is more susceptible to HGF than other engines but fairly or unfairly it's reputation has become tarnished. I think I read somewhere that the K carries less coolant than most engines so if drivers keep going after suffering HGF, this means they are more likely to run into problems.

Whatever the case, it's a pity as the K was in so many ways ahead of its time. I also feel a bit attached to it as I helped fund its development - in my capacity as a British taxpayer that is.

Anyway, this latest Freelander was developed under Ford, so it doesn't use Rover engines at all. This week's test car uses the 2.2 litre 160 horsepower diesel, which is pretty lively - think it's the same one that goes into the Jag X-Type. The petrol option is a 3.2 litre straight six, which I believe is a Volvo engine. Haven't tried the petrol yet but sounds like it might be pretty interesting. That said the diesel doesn't really leave you feeling you need more pep.

Ricky J. Lee said...

After my wife's ownership of two Freelanders in the past, I must say, that despite the cosmetic improvements I would be exceptionally worried about signing another cheque over to a Land Rover delaership for a car I still is the "poor relation" in the family. I think the build quality, choice of materials and engines, whilst improved are still poor. Whilst most people who buy a "soft roader" get more than they wanted with Freelander, thanks to it's heritage, the car needs to dramatically think about who and why they use it. It's no regal enough for the Range Rover set, Street or Footballer-ish enough for the RR Sport gang, so who wants an underpowered, overstyled, under-specified car? Either buy a Defender or RR, avoid this motor like the plague!

David Wilkins said...

The subject of whether the Freelander is a bit of a poor relation to the big Land Rovers is an interesting one that exercised me a lot when I was waiting for it to turn up so I could try it.

It doesn't have some of the serious off-road features that the Disco and RR have - e.g. low-range transmission, air suspension. Nor does it have the sort of advanced bodywork/structures that the two different large Land Rover model families have (Disco and RR Sport on the one hand and RR on the other) AFAIK.

On the other hand, I've been pleasantly surprised by many aspects of the Freelander 2 - it does still have a version of other LR systems like Terrain Response and Hill Descent Control, the diesel engine is excellent and the interior trim/quality seem to be up to scratch, although whether they will stand up to prolonged abuse is an open question. I can well understand why anyone who spent their own money and had a bad experience with the predecessor model wouldn't want to give LR the benefit of the doubt with the new one!

Two factors that *may* be relevant. 1) my guess would be that a lot more money was spent on developing the new Freelander under Ford than the old one, which I think was mostly developed on a comparative shoestring before BMW took over Rover. 2) the new Freelander is being built at Halewood rather than Solihull where the old one was made; Halewood usually gets good press for the quality of its work.

RICKY J. LEE said...

Fair comment David; It did make me re-think my suggestion of a the 2nd generation car still being a poor relation - I spent some time in a dealership this morning and admit the int. trim is better but does it eclipse the X3 it just hill descent control or now can it compete and attract the loyal "blue propeller" girls and boys like me...........I'm not sure yet!