Driven: Freelander two-wheel-drive

Power Farming Verdict





Lack of 4wd not as limiting as you might think, though a boggy winter may well change that

The launch of a 2wd Land Rover will have some traditionalists squirming in their green and gold boots. But is it such a bad idea? Emily Padfield went to the launch in Barcelona.

The Freelander 2 has done a lot for Land Rover’s compact 4×4 credibility. First launched in 2006, it’s already considered to be somewhat of a benchmark in the crossover market. So far this year, Land Rover has sold 13,000 Freelander 2s, a 42% increase on last year’s figures. And it’s not just the UK and Europe that the compact SUV is doing well in; in China over 7000 have been sold, a massive 75% increase on 2009 levels.

If the butch-looking Freelander is doing so well, why would the designers need to change anything? It all comes down to what the market wants, says Land Rover’s Dave Roynan. Currently, 2wd account for 23% of all SUVs sold in Europe and, as our roads become crammed with “crossover” models, Land Rover has realised it may have missed a trick. And it’s keen to remedy this with the introduction of a super frugal (well – less thirsty) 2wd model.

I’ve got to admit to being sceptical. It’s a fairly hefty vehicle, weighing in at 1785kg, and dwarfs some other crossovers. But I have always turned my nose up at a crossover that doesn’t have 4wd.

However, finally, a manufacturer has put its money where its mouth is. Instead of confining us to tarmac and the odd gravel track, we had the chance to test each variant on exactly the same off-road terrain. For those who have been on a Land Rover Experience (LRE), you’ll know that these tracks aren’t your usual tame off-roading courses. There’s some pretty challenging and technical parts to them, and some hills you’d feel far happier on a quad going up than a shiny new Chelsea tractor.

First, we took the new five-speed automatic 190hp round the course. It barely struggled, with its terrain response and hill descent control grumbling contentedly and, being an automatic, there wasn’t much driving to be done – just steering.

The two new 2.2-litre engines, putting out 150hp and 190hp respectively, replace the 160hp engine previously offered, but both get 20Nm more torque. Looks-wise, it’s clear to see that LR has decided to group the Freelander with the Discovery, with an updated grille, head and tail lights.

Then it came to the eD4 2wd 6-speed manual. This is available only with the 150hp engine and, according to LR, will be around £1000 less than its 4wd sibling. Based on the existing 4wd drivetrain, the eD4 loses the power take-off unit usually attached to the right-hand side of the gearbox, the subsequent propshaft, rear diff and driveshafts. In all, this means the new model weighs in 75kg less than the 4wd version.

Most of the track was tackled in 2nd, while the steeper inclines demanded going into 1st. I quickly realised that this is what off-roading used to be like, and still is in the Defender. Keep things steady (and fairly aggressive) on the throttle and use your clutch when you need to and this car barely struggled to tackle the very same terrain the 4wd had scaled earlier – but with more fun and less environmental footprint.

Now, I am not saying that, come winter when the fields are sodden and you’re trying to tow a trailer full of tups that 4wd won’t come in handy, but with the same 2t towing limit, this new model won’t disappoint. With mpg claimed to be 47.2, it also falls under the cheaper tax bracket thanks to its CO2 emissions of 158g/km.

• 2wd model with 47.2mpg and 158g/km CO2

• New diesel engine with 20Nm more torque and available with 150hp or 190hp

• Stop/Start standard on manual transmission

• Revised interior

• New colour scheme

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