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THE SEC­OND gen­er­a­tion Land Rover Free­lander was launched in 2006 to take on a host of mainly Ja­panese ri­vals.

It did, es­tab­lish­ing it­self near the top of the compact SUV sec­tor, un­chal­lenged off road and a force to be reck­oned with on-tar­mac too, es­pe­cially af­ter an ef­fi­cient stop-start sys­tem was in­tro­duced in 2009.

Even so, by 2010, cheaper ver­sions of this car were los­ing sales to pre­tend of­froad­ers from the Qashqai ‘cross­over’ class, while top mod­els were be­ing threat­ened by ever plusher and pricier compact SUVs from BMW, Volvo and Audi.

Land Rover re­sponded with a styling up­date, a 2WD op­tion and a pok­ier 190PS SD flag­ship version of the fa­mil­iar 2.0-litre diesel en­gine, which by now was the only unit on of­fer.

It wasn’t quite enough. The Free­lander still lacked the show­room pol­ish of some of its Ger­man pres­tige ri­vals: that ‘Range Rover for the real world feel’ that the brochures promised.

So Soli­hull tried again and in early 2013, the more pre­mium-feel­ing ver­sions we’re go­ing to look at here were launched, with mi­nor styling tweaks, some key hi-tech op­tions and much smarter cab­ins. In truth, it was a bit of stick­ing plas­ter de­vel­op­ment, aimed to staunch the loss of sales un­til the car’s re­place­ment in 2015. Not too many changes were made to the looks of this post-2012 Free­lander. But then, not too many were needed, for the car had al­ready re­ceived a fairly far-reach­ing facelift early in 2011 that had given it a sleeker front end with re­vised grille and head­lamps, plus big­ger door mir­rors.

De­spite that, the de­sign­ers still man­aged to make fur­ther tweaks to this ‘last-of-the-line’ version, re-styling the head­lamps yet again and equip­ping them with the lat­est in Xenon LED tech­nol­ogy.

There was also a fresh sig­na­ture graphic for the front run­ning lights, while the grille and fog­light bezels got a bright fin­ish. There were also paint de­tail­ing changes to the front grille sur­round, plus insert bars and a fender vent to har­monise the dif­fer­ent el­e­ments.

It’s in­side though, that the up­dates made to this car were most ap­par­ent. Pre­vi­ous Free­lander 2 mod­els had been a lit­tle ‘Fisher Price’ in­side.

The big, chunky rub­berised knobs and di­als of ear­lier mod­els were very durable and easy to use but that didn’t give the cabin the kind of up-mar­ket sheen po­ten­tial buy­ers got in BMW or Audi SUV ri­vals, the cars Land Rover wanted to tar­get. The Free­lander used to have a dis­tinctly sec­ond rate re­li­a­bil­ity record, but the Free­lander 2 has im­proved things by leaps and bounds. Check if a tow bar has been fit­ted and also check the tyres for odd wear pat­terns.

Al­though the Free­lander 2 is very ca­pa­ble off road, there are lim­its to its ground clear­ance, so in­spect the un­der­side for signs of dam­age to the sus­pen­sion, ex­haust and front valance.

The lower dash plas­tics can scratch eas­ily and make sure the glove box hinges are still in req­ui­site or­der. All Free­landers of this gen­er­a­tion get the fa­mil­iar Peu­geot/Citroen-de­rived 2.2-litre tur­bod­iesel, up­graded in re­cent years to fea­ture five per cent more pulling power, 420Nm in to­tal and cer­tainly plen­ti­ful enough to al­low for a use­ful 2,000kg braked tow­ing weight.

Most buy­ers choose this unit in TD4 150PS form with ei­ther six-speed man­ual or au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, but it can also be or­dered in pok­ier 190PS SD4 guise - a vari­ant that comes with an auto gear­box only.

Even so, this top model is still able to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the 0-60mph TD4 sprint time from 10.9s to 8.7s and raise the max­i­mum speed from 112 to 118mph. The Free­lander 2 was on sale for a long time but never really out­stayed its wel­come. Right though to 2015, it felt a smart, rel­e­vant and de­sir­able ve­hi­cle.

That’s why buy­ing one of th­ese last-of-the-line ver­sions is still a very vi­able propo­si­tion.

Land Rover’s re­li­a­bil­ity record isn’t the great­est, it has to be said, but by 2012, most of th­ese is­sues had been pretty much sorted.

This car might still not be quite as has­sle free as own­ing a Toy­ota RAV4, but if you can ne­go­ti­ate the odd hic­cup, there’s a lot of rec­om­pense about Free­lander 2 own­er­ship.

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