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Land Rover Freelander

Date: 12 November 2006   |   Author: Tristan Young

Land Rover Freelander
Category: Small 4x4
Price range: £20,395-£33,990
Key rival: BMW X3

Going upmarket is Land Rover's specialty with its latest vehicles. First it was the Discovery and the Range Rover Sport, and now it's the turn of the Freelander.

From the moment you sit inside the new small 4x4 you can see the efforts Land Rover designers and engineers have gone to. Much of the interior will be familiar to anyone who's been in a Discovery or Range Rover recently, but even though it's far more premium than ever before and ahead of rivals such as the Honda CR-V or Jeep Cherokee, it's not perfect. Some of the materials are a bit cheap, such as the hard plastic lower area around the handbrake and the nasty feel to the sun visor, although it could be argued that these areas are hard wearing.

Land Rover Freelander

As you'd expect from a Land Rover, the Freelander will not let you down if you go off-road. Any driver spending £30,000 on a car will give up in off-road conditions long before the car's ability runs out.

The Freelander comes with a host of technical wizardry to help drivers who do venture off the beaten track. All models have hill descent control (allowing tick-over speeds when going down hill), anti-rollover technology, traction control, and on all but the entry-level S model (itself only available from March 2007) you get Terrain Response similar to that found in the Discovery and Range Rovers.

Although the Freelander does without clever air suspension or a low-ratio gearbox, Terrain Response tweaks the way the traction control and throttle work, enabling maximum grip at all times. It will get drivers over steep and rocky hills, grassy fields and even sand dunes.

The 2.2-litre diesel, badged TD4, is expected to take 90-95% of sales according to UK managing director John Edwards. There is also a 3.2-litre petrol, but not only will it be a small seller in the UK, the diesel engine's shove means that while both cars feel similarly quick on the road, the diesel will visit the petrol station far less frequently.

However, in the business car world the Freelander will live and die on its costs, something that has also gone upmarket, while buyers of the previous Freelander will similarly have to get used to the overall price hike.

If you think of the Freelander as a rival to the Toyota Rav4 and the Honda CR-V, then it looks very expensive, even with equipment levels taken into account. But if you see it as a prestige car and a rival to the BMW X3, as Land Rover want you to see it, then its pricing and cost per mile is competitive, and it actually looks attractive if you note the Freelander includes leather seats and satnav, when the BMW X3 M-sport does not.

However, even much improved RVs don't fully soften the blow of, in the case of the range-topping HSE diesel, a price hike greater than £5000.