Land Rover has updated its entry level model, the Freelander with subtle exterior design changes, a comprehensive interior overhaul and a new, more powerful and efficient engine. The newcomer should reach South Africa soon after making its Paris Motor Show debut.
Powerful, efficient new engine
Perhaps the most important change is the replacement of the rather thirsty 3,2-litre six-cylinder engine by the Evoque's direct-injection, turbocharged, four-cylinder 2,0-litre engine (177 kW/340 N.m). A six-speed Aisin automatic transmission is fitted to this model, and offers CommandShift manual shifting. The transmission features a remote breather above the vehicle's water wading depth (500 mm). No announcement has been made regarding changes to the 2,2-litre turbodiesel model.
All Freelanders are equipped with Land Rover's Intelligent Power System Management (IPSM) that incorporates regenerative charging, ensuring that (where possible), the alternator only charges the battery when the vehicle is decelerating, "recovering kinetic energy from deceleration, rather than consuming energy during engine operation."
The most obvious change in the cabin is the new centre console with its smart 7-inch colour touch screen that allows control of the upgraded audio system (Meridian) and optional satellite navigation system. There are also new buttons to replace the traditional TerrainResponse dial. A new instrument cluster contains a smaller 5-inch screen that shows primary vehicle-related information, such as temperature and fuel levels, gear position and the selected mode for the TerrainResponse system. HSE models feature a rear-view camera with hitch assist.
All Freelanders feature standard dual sunroofs to give the cabin a light and airy feel, while there are three new cabin colours to choose from (all Freelanders feature leather upholstery). Cabin space has been improved by the use of a new intelligent electric parking brake. Furthermore, the old key docking system has been replaced by Passive Start – allowing the engine to be started at the press of the button as long as the key is somewhere inside the car.
There are also improvements to the navigation system and a new "Say what you see" voice activation system for the audio, navigation and phone systems.
Two Meridian audio systems are offered. The first is equipped with a 7-inch color touch-screen and packs 380 Watts of power delivered via an 11-speaker system. Customers can also specify the 825 Watt surround-sound 17-speaker system with Trifield technology which is claimed to provide a concert-like experience for all occupants. Each system is equipped with subwoofers and an Audyssey MultEQ audio tuning system. Both audio systems are also equipped with AM/FM and HD and Satellite radio tuners, while music players support CD, DVD, Virtual CD, iPod and USB. There is also a 3,5 mm auxiliary input jack for music players and Bluetooth audio streaming to any supporting devices, including headphones. The virtual CD system is hard-drive based and can store the equivalent of up to ten audio CDs at full digital quality.
On (and off) the road
The Freelander is already one of the better off-roaders in this segment, and offers 210 mm of ground clearance, a wading depth of 500 mm and, of course, TerrainResponse, which gears the vehicle's drive technologies for whatever the prevailing conditions may be – rocky, sandy, muddy etc. The Freelander features a permanent all-wheel drive system, developed in conjunction with Haldex, that uses centre-coupling technology to continuously modify the front-rear torque split through a hydraulically operated multi-plate wet clutch. Hill descent control (HDC), roll stability control and gradient release control systems are standard.
The design changes are subtle and mostly cosmetic – there are new colours (Aintree Green, Havana and Mauritius Blue) and new lights, incorporating LED technology. The grille and fog lamp bezels now feature a brighter finish and there are other small paint detailing changes, too. 18-inch wheels are standard and two 19-inch wheel designs are offered as options.