Car Enthusiast - click here to access the home page


 



Stop. Scammer time. Image by Mark Nichol.

Stop. Scammer time
Land Rover claims, perfectly justifiably, that this is the world's first stop/start SUV. But is it a real green step forward?

   



<< earlier review     later review >>

Reviews homepage -> Land Rover reviews

| Week at the Wheel | Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

This car is just like any other Freelander 2 inside and out, apart from the little switch on the dash with 'ECO' written on it: press it and you'll negate this Land Rover's party piece entirely by switching off its groundbreaking stop/start system. Bah humbug.

Let's leave that for later though. Elsewhere in the cabin you get the same junior Range Rover robustness, but without quite the wood-and-leathery tactility. It's nowhere near exciting, but it's still a quality place to be; all the switchgear is damped adequately, it's well ordered, and the dash is topped with soft touch something or other. Our car came in high-end HSE spec, which lifts things a little, but there's not a lot to complain about whatever the trim.

Consider, after all, that the difference between bottom and top spec cars is about ten grand, so the bottom half of the range still feels like an almost premium product, albeit sparse of equipment. It's spacious inside, in every direction, but it's not so big that you can't park it or feel like you're constantly terrorising everything else on the road.

On the outside you'll notice the 'e' badge on the tailgate, but that's the only difference. And it's amazing just how much kudos this car caries; its "nice car, mister" quota is high from both men and women, possibly because it looks a bit like a Range Rover to the untrained eye - and no matter what the Government or the eco warriors do, the urban SUV is still a cool thing to have on the drive.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

Ok, this is where we go through exactly what Land Rover has done to make this the guilt-free 4x4. As we already know, it has added stop/start to the familiar 2.2-litre diesel mainstay engine, basically made possible by way of a bigger starter motor. However, LR needed to eliminate that familiar diesel shudder at shut down and start up, otherwise we'd all be reaching for the 'ECO' button to turn it off at all times. So, there's a system that smoothes out the throttle when it's closing, the alternator is shut down to ease the burden in the engine, the ECU is remapped, and the engine itself is mounted into the chassis in such a way that it reduces shake. And it works... when the car actually shuts down, that is.

See, stop the car, put it in neutral, lift the clutch and the engine should stop - but during our week with the Landie this procedure only happened four or five times. That's because there are a series of prerequisites that must be in place for the system to work - the main bugbear of which is that the air outside the car must be over four degrees. It's Baltic up in Newcastle at the moment (where the test car spent all its time), meaning the engine took slightly longer to warm up (another prerequisite), and often it was just too cold for the stop/start to play ball. It also doesn't work when it deems that the air conditioning and other electrical gubbins are demanding too much juice from the batteries. We wouldn't like to criticise the system too harshly for this - it's not always going to be cold - but when you see the system in action so little over a week, it's prudent to point it out. When it works, though, it works impressively; especially considering this is a heavy diesel car. There's no rattle or fuss - just off and on again. It only works with the standard six-speed manual transmission at the moment (with a shift indicator that tells you the most economical time to change gear), but we're told that there'll be an auto version at some point.

Other green fettling includes low rolling resistance tyres and a more heavy-duty battery that doesn't deteriorate as quickly under the strain of constant starting and stopping, as well as some other changes to the brakes (a sensor that detects vacuum reserves in case you go mad with the pedal when the engine's off and they stop working), the climate control and the drive train. It's all boring stuff, but the point is, you can't tell the difference - and this system will be rolled out as standard (and free) on all models from here on.

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

The latest Freelander is a more talented urban family chariot than the model it replaced in 2006, with more room, better cabin ambience and superior cruising ability - though at the expense of out-and-out off-roading capability. But let's face it: you'd probably buy a Defender of you wanted a serious 4x4 machine. However, we took ours onto some ferociously boggy fields and it despatched them with assurance. Gone is the low-ratio 'box, replaced by a well-damped circular dial to select a pre-set terrain setting depending on where you're at: sand, mud, snow - that sort of thing. It's good.

But better still, it handles properly where it matters: on potholes and things. Fling it into a corner (because you have to try that at least once) and you're greeted by the strange feeling that the body is completely detached from the wheels and floor pan - which remain firmly planted. So, while you roll from left to right, with no clue what the wheels are actually doing, it all feels bizarrely secure. On a motorway, the Freelander tends to bounce around with a little too much enthusiasm, but it's still comfortable and mostly jiggle free. For our money it doesn't ride as well around town as a Range Rover, or even a Nissan Qashqai, but there's little to complain about.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

So what do all the changes outlined a few paragraphs ago actually mean for the environment and your wallet (which, let's face it, is what this is all about)? Well, fuel consumption is officially reduced by eight percent, equating to a 15g/km CO2 reduction (37.7mpg to 42.2mpg and 194g/km to 179g/km respectively), which pulls the diesel Freelander down into VED band E and saves you forty quid a year. Score. And of course you'll be saving on your fuel bills, too (when it's not cold, that is).

As we alluded to before, there's a big price gap from top to bottom of the Freelander range - actually over 11k. All cars get the usual stuff: alloys, air conditioning, a decent CD player and the Freelander's competent off-road ability - but how premium you want your car to feel is up to you. You might want to hover around the middle of the range: the XS, for example, which is around 26k and adds bigger wheels, an upgraded stereo and front parking sensors to the standard spec sheet, among other things. Whatever, it still feels like you're getting a lot of car, and street cred, for the money. Our HSE car had full leather interior, a surround sound stereo, satnav, automatic climate control and a humidity sensing rear view mirror. All good, especially if you need to know how moist it is, but pricey at over 32k without options.

Overall: star star star star star

Our headline at the top of this article is a bit cheeky, really; of course adding start/stop technology to a car is not a scam of any kind. However, that our test car's system was utilised only four or so times during a whole week and a tank of fuel shows that, perhaps, Land Rover's system has more of a marketing benefit than an environmental one at this time. Still, credit to the maker for making it standard and not charging for it - and it's also part of a bigger picture of green developments, including the company's Electric Rear Drive Axle tech and all kinds of weight saving ideas.

Small gains add up, and it's a step in the right direction. We're not sure it's a step far enough to eliminate the sense of profligacy that comes only with a big 4x4 in suburbia just yet, but bravo to Land Rover for starting off.

Mark Nichol - 9 Mar 2009



  www.landrover.co.uk    - Land Rover road tests
- Land Rover news
- Freelander 2 images

2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 specifications: (TD4_e HSE)
Price: 31,662 on-the-road (excluding optional extras fitted to test car).
0-62mph: 11.7 seconds
Top speed: 112mph
Combined economy: 42.2mpg
Emissions: 179g/km
Kerb weight: 1770kg

2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.



2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2009 Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4_e. Image by Mark Nichol.
 






 

Internal links:   | Home | Privacy | Contact us | Archives | Old motor show reports | Follow Car Enthusiast on Twitter | Copyright 1999-2023 ©