2007 Land Rover Freelander 2 review

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2007 Land Rover Freelander 2 Review

Test car: 2.2 SE TD4 Automatic

CarAdvice Rating:

Options Fitted: Metallic Paint - $1500, Sunroof - $3300

Recommended Retail Price: $51,990

by Karl Peskett

“All hail the mighty cow.” They’re the best invention ever. Not only do they give us milk, cheese and yoghurt, but we also get meat from them. And there's nothing like chowing down on a good slice of bovine flesh.

Oh yes, I almost forgot; they also give us leather. And the hide for your hide in the new Land Rover Freelander 2 is just wonderful. Soft, cool and comfortable - it's how seats should be.

We took a 2007 SE TD4 model for an 1877km lap around Western Australia’s south-west. Leaving Perth, our destinations were Busselton, Augusta, Walpole, Denmark and Pemberton. Being a rather lengthy trip, some supplies were required. A baby seat, pram, toys, nappies - were all included - and that was just for me.

The Land Rover swallowed up all our luggage, proving that mid-sized doesn't have to mean small. The twin sunroof arrangement meant plenty of light came into the black over ivory interior, and the glasshouse was tall enough for superb visibility. My 18-month-old son was able to see out easily, preventing the boredom (and screaming) of four-hour driving stints setting in.

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Outside, the Freelander 2 is light-years ahead of its dumpy predecessor. The "baby-Disco" look has been achieved while still giving the Freelander its own flavour.

Inside, the dual-zone climate control also quelled the typical "I'm cold/I'm hot" arguments. The steering wheel's vertical aluminium horn strips are a brilliant idea, easily reached by your thumbs, or palm; whichever mood you're in.

However, the hard plastic on the doors, wheel and dash sit incongruously with the soft leather and plush carpets. It’s like donning a slick, black Versace suit, but choosing a purple and pink polka-dot tie. They just don’t go together. Personally, I'd be willing to pay a few thousand more to get soft-touch plastics, purely to finish off the luxury 4WD tag.

The rear seat is a good size, and while initially seeming firm, on the long haul, it’s supportive and comfy. The armrests on the front buckets are also ideal for the stacking on the kilometres.

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Setting off, the ride around town is certainly firm, and can be a little hard-edged, but once the speeds rise, so does the comfort level. The trade-off comes with its off-road bent. Using the 4WD-for-dummies knob, the Freelander accurately selects traction-control, gear and rev levels to suit the terrain.

On a particularly treacherous wet grassy slope, we dialled in the "Grass, Gravel or Snow" setting. Without it, the car was slipping, sliding, and scrabbling for grip. With it, the Land Rover simply walked up. This contrasts nicely with the "Sand" setting, which supplies plenty of revs, and backs off the traction control to keep the vehicle's speed up, and the tyres spinning. In short, it works.

However, both on and off road, each suspension hit is followed by a slight body wobble. There must be some flex somewhere, as after just a week of country driving, some squeaks and rattles were brought to the surface.

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That’s not to say that the rest of the drive is bad. Far from it. The superb (but slightly loud) 2.2-litre diesel is a perfect match to the six-speed automatic which intuitively selects the perfect gear for the conditions. Even when braking, it downshifts like it mind-reads, ready for your command.

Fuel economy isn't too bad, with the trip almost matching Land Rover’s official combined cycle at 8.7 litres per100km. But a week of solely country driving should have returned a better figure. The 118kW is adequate enough to keep the engine spinning when needed, but the ample torque of 400Nm is where this motor shines. Providing smooth, seamless gearshifts up and down, overtaking is as simple as brushing the throttle. Don’t floor it; you don’t need to. Just ride the torque curve and enjoy. But do keep your eyes peeled on country roads – overtaking isn’t as simple as it should be.

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This is a wakeup call to all country drivers. Check your mirrors before overtaking.

Things could have easily become a lot worse without swift thinking and smooth driving. While en route from Pemberton to Perth on the Southwestern Highway, two vehicles were travelling in close proximity. The first, a truck; The second, a Daewoo Kalos.

The road straightened out, and continued straight for several kilometres. We approached, doing the speed limit, giving plenty of time for the Daewoo to pull out and get past. But as we got closer, the Daewoo maintained its distance behind the truck. Surely it was just going to sit there.

We accelerated, ready to overtake both vehicles, with comfortable margin. As we pulled out, we got to within two metres of the Daewoo. Suddenly and without warning, they indicated and went to overtake, missing us by centimetres. I didn't even have time to blast the horn. I braked and swung back in, tyres protesting on the limits of adhesion, DSC light blinking on the dash. It hadn't kicked in yet, but was about to. Mr and Mrs Daewoo continued on their merry way, completely oblivious to the swaying, wallowing, squealing four-wheel-drive behind them.

One wrong move and the Land Rover would have rolled. At higher speed, and the Kalos could have been clipped, causing it to spin off the road, killing its occupants. With two tonnes or more of Freelander 2 (at best) roaring up behind you, check your mirrors. Once you're sure that it’s clear in all directions, overtake at will.

The rest of the trip back was incident free. At highway speeds the aerodynamics and suspension combine to make it the most comfortable velocity - it feels like there's enough air running under the car to take the hard edge off the ride.

At $51,990 the Freelander SE TD4 certainly makes a case for itself as a well-equipped 4WD, which tackles the rough-stuff with aplomb. Sure, there are cheaper SUVs out there, but they’re not as nice inside, or as capable off-road. The question of reliability still hangs like a dark cloud over the Freelander name, however Land Rover assures us it’s got that sorted. Time will tell.

But for now, all I can say is, “All hail the mighty cow.” They’re the best invention ever.