Two turbos on offer
It was not that long ago that every new model was bigger and more powerful than its predecessor.
Nowadays every new model is more fuel efficient, and therefore more environmentally friendly, than the model it replaces. Many also continue to be bigger.
The updated Land Rover Freelander 2 and Range Rover Vogue, which were launched in the NSW Highlands last week, are no different. And Land Rover has also joined the growing list of premium manufacturers that have been able to use this improved efficiency to add greater value to their vehicles thanks to Luxury Car Tax (LCT) savings.
The biggest change to the Freelander 2 range is the addition of two 2.2-litre turbodiesel engines that return fuel use figures of 7.0L/100km or less, entitling the car to LCT concessions.
The now Indian-owned manufacturer has used those savings to add extra features to its compact SUV. Headlining this list is satellite navigation, which is now standard across the range (though the lower-specified models are fitted with a Garmin system instead of the factory unit), Bluetooth connectivity and premium audio systems.
The company has also added two new models, lifting the number of choices from five to seven, with all variants fitted with more standard features than their predecessors.
At the same time the entry-level model has been reduced by $500 to $44,900 plus on-road costs.
The Freelander 2 also remains the only entrant in the luxury compact SUV market that offers genuine off-road capability via Land Rover's renowned all-terrain system, which enables the driver to select the right setting for various driving conditions.
While this gives the Freelander a distinct advantage over its competitors, Land Rover believes it may also be part of the reason the car is not being shopped against the likes of the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. Land Rover product manager Brett Lewis-Driver, said the SUV had a strong reputation for its off-road capabilities but was not recognised for its suitability as a city car.
He said most of the changes in the first facelift since the Freelander 2 went on sale in mid 2007 were aimed at further highlighting this aspect of the vehicle, with most of the cosmetic changes made to the interior.
While the 2.2-litre turbodiesel is the same as that used in the outgoing model it gains a new variable-geometry turbocharger and is offered in two states of tune - 110kW and 140kW. The 110kW TD4 version produces 8kW less than before but torque has been increased from 400 to 420 Newton metres.
There is no fuel penalty in opting for the more powerful, auto-only SD4 engine that cuts the 0-100km/h sprint by half a second to 11.2sec., though peak torque of 420Nm is identical.
The drive route, which was a mix of roads that included fast-flowing freeways, secondary country roads and rugged gravel tracks with several creek crossings, took us from the city centre up to the Highlands and on to the coastal town of Mollymook on the South Coast.
In the urban area the ride was comfortable, suspension was compliant and while the engine was a little noisy at start-up and idle, there was little intrusion in the cabin. The steering was light but it was responsive and felt well connected to the road.
Throttle response in the stop-start traffic (and there was plenty of that) was impressive and the transmission smooth. In this type of driving it was actually difficult to pick the difference between the 110kW version and the bigger 140kW.
On the freeway, engine noise was barely audible when cruising at 110km/h, and wind and road noise were also virtually non-existent. But as we climbed the hills the difference between the two engines became more obvious with the smaller one lacking power when driving out of corners. With only a $1500 premium for the bigger motor, it is the pick of the two.
The biggest challenge Land Rover has with this car is getting it on to people's shopping list.
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