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.