17 October 2016

Parting is such sweet sorrow

After seven years, and with 101k miles on the clock, I decided that it was time to replace my venerable Freelander 'Classic' with something newer. I'd previously had a Freelander 2 on loan for a few weeks when my Defender was in for repair, so buying one as a replacement was a fairly easy decision to make.

I did consider (briefly) the Škoda Yeti, Volkswagen Tiguan and Mitsubishi ASX, but they were a little smaller and the lure of the green oval was strong. Eventually I took delivery of a 6-speed manual 2014 Freelander 2 GS in Loire Blue from a dealer in Reading.

The GS is the not-quite-entry-level version, but still fairly well appointed with full leather, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, keyless ignition and a DAB radio. Unfortunately a problem with a driver's seat meant that I got excruciating backache in a very short space of time whilst driving it, so the dealer agreed to an exchange for the next version up: an XS in Santorini Black (AKA Range Rover black).

This brought some extra features including built-in satellite navigation, armrests, voice-control and additional trim to enhance the interior. Mine also has the Meridian sound-system complete with sub, which gives excellent audio from the radio or my iPod.

It may be an older design (the Freelander 2 was originally launched in 2006) but the updates that Land Rover have made have helped to keep it current. The last update took place in 2013 and bestowed an improved interior, electronic handbrake, daytime LED running lights and improved fuel economy. On a typical, laden, long journey on mixed the roads the computer tended to show around 36mpg.

As an ex-courtsey car it hadn't done a huge mileage, and it still felt very new. Almost immediately I had to make some long journeys in it, and it sat very happily on the Motorway all day, making smooth, refined progress in climate-controlled comfort.

The Freelander 2 boot is a good size and has comfortably swallowed luggage, equipment and even items of furniture without complaint. That the rear seats fold completely flat helps enormously when trying to get larger items inside, and the square shape overall means the space is all useable.

With the rear seats upright, there is plenty of leg room for the rear seat passengers and an armrest with cupholders and door pockets are there for convenience. As with the original Freelander the rear seats are set slightly higher than the front ones to improve the view.

As you might expect, it works well when you leave paved surfaces and take to unsurfaced roads and tracks. Freelander 2 features Land Rover's Terrain Response system than changes the vehicle's characteristics to suit the terrain, including the throttle response and traction control systems. However, unlike its larger Discovery 4 sibling it does not have either low ratio gears nor air suspension for adjustable ride-height, but it does have an improved version of the Hill Descent Control system first seen on the original Freelander.

I have the Defender for heavy-duty off road use, but the Freelander 2 got its wheels muddy from time-to-time, generally giving demonstration drives to people who don't believe it's as good off road as it is, strolling casually up and down muddy, slippery slopes on road tyres.

Land Rovers are built for towing, and I had a Witter detachable tow bar installed with plug-in (13-pin) electrics. With a trailer attached the trailer stability system is activated, the rear parking sensors are deactivated, and it feels as though other aspects of the vehicle's performance is modified to suit. I haven't towed much, but it made short-work of my trailer and a friend's caravan - but with a two-ton towing capacity that isn't really a surprise.

On the road, it is a fairly tall vehicle and it does lean a bit in corners, but never disconcertingly so and I've been able to hustle it along twist back-roads without any concern: at the end of the day it's a 4x4 and not a sportscar, but it's no slouch either and can hold its own in urban traffic. The 2.2 litre diesel engine is a little old now and some have described it as noisy or coarse, but it's certainly not intrusive and there's very little in the way of disturbance from vibration even on the coldest of mornings.

On the subject of cold mornings, there are some nice touches that really help: the windscreen and door mirrors are heated, as are the driver and front passenger seats, and there's a winter-park setting for the windscreen wipers that leaves them on the heated part of the screen. Once underway, the heating system is very effective with warm air coming out of the vents in just a few miles at urban speeds which is very welcome.

When I did the initial review on the loan car in 2011 I wasn't sure whether I'd buy one or not, and of course I did. It's still a much more complex vehicle than the original Freelander, but the technology is applied well and genreally not intrusive. The only disappointment is the manually adjustable driver's seat which caused me a problem on anything more than a short journey. I enquired about upgrading the seat to one with lumbar support, but apparently that's not possible.

The driver's seat is the most important one in the vehicle, yet the other seats are more supportive. The previous Freelander 2s I've driven have also been XS spec. and have had electrically adjustable seats with lumbar support, so when buying this XS it came a surprise that the seats were lacking in support. I don't generally suffer from a bad back, but the Freelander 2s have given me one, which is a pain (all too literally).

As a result my time as a Freelander 2 owner was brief, and just over a year after buying it it has been sold. It was a lovely car with lots to like, but ultimately the driver's seat was the deal-breaker and it had to go.

Its replacement has arrived, and it's one that I've already reviewed on this 'blog: a Land Rover Discovery Sport.

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