Lead­erofthepack

New Land Rover Free­lander is big­ger, more pow­er­ful and head­ing for No1

The Herald Business - - Motoring -

LAND ROVER’S tremen­dous growth in Scot­land is set to con­tinue with the launch of the new Free­lander which is big­ger and more pow­er­ful than its best-sell­ing pre­de­ces­sor. The sec­ond gen­er­a­tion may be just 2in longer, but that fig­ure dis­guises the true ben­e­fit be­cause there’s no longer an ex­ter­nal spare wheel mean­ing the f ull ex­tra length is at­trib­uted to cabin room. As a re­sult, the tail­gate now opens up­wards in­stead of be­ing side-hinged.

An­other sig­nif­i­cant change in the new range is that all mod­els will have five doors; there’s no three-door model.

The cabin is 15% larger and the boot has grown by 38% mak­ing it best-in-class – with com­fort­able room for three adults in the back row of seats.

En­hanced by the op­tional panoramic sun­roof, the cabin is a posher place with softer ma­te­ri­als and a de­sign which is less clut­tered. It’s also packed with ac­tive and pas­sive safety fea­tures, in­clud­ing seven airbags.

The switchgear is sim­ple, prac­ti­cal and large, all of which makes nav­i­gat­ing the main knobs, lev­ers and di­als straight­for­ward.

Pushed-back A-pil­lars al­low a good view around cor­ners and the wing mir­rors clev­erly tilt in­wards and down­wards when you se­lect re­verse.

Ex­ter­nally Free­lander 2 bor­rows a num­ber of de­sign cues from the larger Range Rover Sport. Like all Land Rovers it is fit­ted with per­ma­nent four-wheel-drive and, apart from the en­try-level model, the new­comer is also fit­ted with with Ter­rain Re­sponse bor­rowed from Dis­cov­ery 3.

This is con­trolled via a large ro­tary knob by the gear lever and helps tai­lor the trac­tion to the sur­face. There is a nor­mal set­ting, plus vari­a­tions for grass/gravel/snow, for mud and ruts and even for sand.

The new­comer cer­tainly main­tains Land Rover’s im­pe­ri­ous rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing the lead­ing 4x4 in the world.

Free­lander 2 is a big and im­pos­ing piece of kit but get it out on to the road and its bulk is ad­mirably dis­guised through a clever com­bi­na­tion of class-lead­ing ride and han­dling. Boast­ing near 50:50 front-rear weight dis­tri­bu­tion, the chas­sis dis­plays great bal­ance.

Two power plants are avail­able from launch date on De­cem­ber 7. The 3.2-litre, 230bhp straight-six petrol en­gine will ac­count for only around 5% of sales in the UK, with the vast ma­jor­ity – ex­pected to be closer to 98% in Scot­land – opt­ing for the silky-smooth 2.2litre, 158bhp, four-cylin­der tur­bod­iesel. It hits 62mph from stand­still in 10.9secs, has a top speed of 112mph and is good for 37.7mpg on the com­bined cy­cle.

The 3.2-litre is mated to a new au­to­matic gear­box with man­ual over­ride, but diesel buy­ers are ini­tially re­stricted to a six-speed man­ual be­cause the diesel auto doesn’t ar­rive un­til spring next year.

Prices, as you would ex­pect, are higher – around £2000 up on the cur­rent model – but buy­ers are get­ting a far su­pe­rior, and ma­ture, pack­age for their money.

The range starts at £20,935 for the en­trylevel TD4 S and rises to £33,990 for the 3.2 i6 (in-line six-cylin­der) HSE. The best-sell­ing model is ex­pected to be the TD4 HSE cost­ing £30,935. At £28,484, the slightly lower-specced TD4 SE may well buck the UK trend in Scot­land by grab­bing the No 1 sales slot and re-es­tab­lish­ing it­self as the leader of the com­pact 4x4 pack.

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