Redefining the class LAND ROVER FREELANDER


Redefining the class

Land Rover’s all-new Freelander 2 makes its local bow at Auto Africa 2006 only weeks after its world debut at the Paris Motor Show.

Already described as a junior Discovery, the Freelander is bigger, bolder and better than its predecessor – and should set the cat among the compact SUV pigeons.
Designed from scratch to meet an exacting list of requirements, the Freelander 2’s styling is clean and contemporary. There’s no aesthetic clutter, but the Freelander DNA is clearly visible in the clamshell bonnet, the large headlights and the stepped roofline.

Yes, it’s bigger – but not by as much as you’d think. Length increases by 50 mm, and the Freelander 2 is also taller and wider. But much improved packaging has greatly benefited space and stowage inside the vehicle. And comfort levels are high, even for five adults.

Versatility is one of the newcomer’s core values. While undoubtedly biased towards on-road use, Freelander 2 is not just a city slicker. It is an agile, responsive and swift performer on normal roads, while a lot of effort has gone into ensuring it’s no sissy when the going gets tough, either.

Permanent all-wheel drive, a substantial ground clearance, short overhangs and good scores in the approach, departure and break-over angle tests already position Freelander 2 as a more convincing off-roader than before.

But the cherry on top is the presence of Land Rover’s advanced Terrain ResponseTM system, making it easy to dial in a preset combination of off-road driving parameters perfectly suited to specific conditions.

First seen on the Discovery 3, it has been specifically adapted for its application in the Freelander.

Terrain ResponseTM works in conjunction with the Freelander’s all-electronic, permanent four-wheel drive system, incorporating an electronic centre coupling.

Also included are a host of ‘intelligent’ driver aids such as electronic traction control, dynamic stability control, and the familiar Hill Descent Control. New is Land Rover’s Gradient Release Control, which helps the driver on steep slopes.

Overall handling on and off the road is assisted by the Freelander 2’s new all-independent suspension, featuring coil spring-equipped struts front and rear, while the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is tuned for response and precision.

Two completely new engines – one petrol, the other a turbodiesel – ensure that the Freelander has enough muscle to cover substantial on-road distances swiftly and safely.

The 3,2-litre i6 in-line six-cylinder powerplant is ultra-compact, allowing it to be transversely mounted. It delivers 171 kW of maximum power and a torque peak of 317 Nm – ensuring that this Freelander is no slouch.

The TD4 model employs a 2 179 cc four-cylinder turbodiesel powerplant credited with 118 kW of power, and a massive 400 Nm of torque.

The performance statistics put the two engines into proper perspective. The turbodiesel-powered Freelander 2 completes the benchmark 0-100 km/h acceleration run in a brisk 11,7 seconds and achieves a very useful 181 km/h top speed.

By comparison, the i6 launches the Freelander from 0 to 100 km/h in a sports car-rivalling 8,6 seconds, with top speed limited to  200 km/h.

Both engines are coupled to a brand new, six-speed automatic transmission. However, the gearbox does offer Land Rover’s CommandShiftTM sequential manual operation, and a sport mode for more spirited driving. A six-speed manual gearbox will become available later in 2007, albeit only on the TD4 model.

A comprehensive safety package includes a host of dynamic systems such as ABS anti-lock control, electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and emergency brake assist (EBA). The Freelander 2 also boasts corner brake control (CBC) and Land Rover’s Roll Stability Control.
The latter is the marque’s most sophisticated roll-over prevention system to date.

In passive safety terms, the Freelander 2 comes equipped with seven airbags, inertia reel seatbelts with pre-tensioners and load limiters, and front and rear head restraints.

The five-door monocoque body features exceptional torsional rigidity in the interests of safety and ride refinement, and features expansive glass areas for superior visibility. A two-piece panoramic glass roof is an option.

Depending on specification, Freelander 2 customers will be able to opt for adaptive front headlights that swivel in the direction of travel when cornering.

If the new Freelander looks chunky, poised and thoroughly modern from the outside, then the interior qualifies it for premium status. Tactile quality is a consistent theme, thanks to the use of upmarket materials, while well-placed switchgear and clear displays ensure an intuitive driving environment.

Most apparent is the increase in interior space, compared to the previous model. Head, leg and shoulder room have all been upped, while the elevated seating position allows a commanding view of the surroundings. For rear occupants, the ‘stadium seating’ configuration ensures good visibility, too.

Luggage capacity has been increased by a substantial 38 percent with the rear seat raised, while the asymmetrically split rear seat can be folded down completely to provide a perfectly flat loading area.

“No other compact 4×4 delivers anything like its breadth of total capability,” says Land Rover managing director Phil Popham.

“Freelander 2 sets new standards in the sector, combining the polished ride, accomplished performance and attractive cabin of a premium car with the toughness, go-anywhere ability and versatility of a robust 4×4.

“We believe that no other compact 4×4 gets closer to blending these best-of-both-worlds capabilities.”

The Freelander 2 is due to go on sale in South Africa in the second quarter of 2007.