FREE but DEAR

The lat­est Free­lander is no longer in­vis­i­ble, writes Neil Dowl­ing

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

THE ac­ci­den­tal en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist has taken a bit of a fall, as new SUV buy­ers start putting their fam­i­lies first. And that plays right into Land Rover’s hands, says Jaguar Land Rover Asia-Pa­cific man­ag­ing di­rec­tor David Black­hall.

While launch­ing the new baby Land Rover— the Free­lander — Black­hall says it’s a greener world, ‘‘but in the lux­ury SUV sec­tor we are scram­bling for prod­uct’’.

‘‘We could have sold sev­eral hun­dred more Range Rovers last year,’’ he laments.

All this au­gurs well for a push to re-es­tab­lish the Free­lander 2, which has been the for­got­ten Land Rover.

The chis­elled four-door wagon, built on a sim­i­lar plat­form to the Volvo XC60, has been al­most in­vis­i­ble on the Aus­tralian mar­ket.

A lot of that has to do with its nois­ier com­peti­tors as well as the Free­lander’s seem­ingly ex­pen­sive price.

Though the Volvo-sourced 3.2-litre in-line petrol six is keen, the Free­lander has never re­ally rated in terms of per­for­mance. Its diesels have ap­peared too weak to sat­isfy pow­er­hun­gry, leisure-ori­ented buy­ers. This week, part of that changed. The good news is the ex­pan­sion of the Free­lander model line-up to seven from five, more pow­er­ful diesels and pric­ing from $44,990 for the TD4.

Value

IT IS not cheap. The Free­lander range now falls into line with Volvo and the BMW X3, and it does not meet the value-for-money of­fer­ings of the South Kore­ans and some Ja­panese.

The en­try-level $44,990 TD4 is a man­u­al­gear­box 110kW diesel (the smaller of two oilier en­gines) with a high level of safety but with a sim­ple ex­te­rior and some high-end con­ve­nience fit­tings miss­ing from the cabin.

Bet­ter value is in the TD4 (110kW diesel) at $55,310.

This model has heaps of cabin fea­tures, big al­loy wheels, top-class leather and a six-speed se­quen­tial au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

The 140kW diesel is avail­able in two trim lev­els, but will cost $1500 for the ex­tra 30kW (the two en­gines share 420Nm of torque) and ba­si­cally isn’t worth it.

Land Rover says its petrol ver­sions are $49,990 for the XS and $55,310 for the SE.

There’s also a heavy­weight ‘‘pre­mium lux­ury pack­age’’ that takes the diesel’s price to a heady $72,740 and adds 19-inch al­loys, sun­roofs, bet­ter

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