David Motton

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Practical Caravan's 2007 review of the Land Rover Freelander gets to the heart of how this compact 4x4 performs as a tow car

Overview

Land Rover has been building off-roaders for longer than almost anyone else and it shows. Few other 4x4s are as capable on or off road.

When the original Freelander arrived in 1997, it was one of the first off-roaders to manage this tricky balancing act, but the car was plagued by reliability issues. The Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and other Japanese rivals may have lacked the Freelander's off-road prowess, but they didn't break down. And with new models being launched all around it, the original Freelander was overtaken by fresher-faced 4x4s.

So this Freelander has a lot to live up to, and to live down.

Towing

At 1770kg, the Freelander is hefty for a compact 4x4. It is 110kg heavier than the Honda CR-V diesel, for example, and is an 85% match for vans of 1505kg. A sky-high noseweight limit of 150kg means there's little chance of overloading the towball.

To give the Freelander a stern test, we matched it to the Bailey Ranger 620/6. The 1540kg MTPLM makes it an 87% match, although our van was lightly loaded.The diesel engine has 43% more power than the previous version could muster.

It's torque that really counts when towing, however, and the new 2.2 TD4 doesn't disappoint, with 295lb/ft of twisting force to call upon. Even with a big twin-axle like the Bailey, there is no problem getting up to speed.

At 60mph, the outfit tracks straight and true, but this Land Rover was good rather than great through the lane-change test in last month's Towcar Awards. Cars with firmer suspensions are more comfortable with this sudden change in direction, although it's not an everyday manoeuvre.

Land Rover's four-wheel-drive expertise means you can be confident about escaping even the boggiest pitch.

Everyday driving

The days when 4x4s drove like tractors are gone. The Freelander offers a ride that sets the standard in its class; its supple suspension smothers obstacle courses that all too often pass for roads. As speeds rise, the Freelander is just as happy, combining comfort with control over dips and crests. Accurate steering easily conquers twisting roads, but more feel through the wheel would add to the fun.

Although you're never in doubt that there's a diesel under the bonnet, the engine is impressively quiet at motorway speeds. However, the big tyres do kick up some road noise, and the wind whistles over the extra-large sunroof fitted to the SE and HSE models.

It's very capable in the rough, thanks to Land Rover's Terrain Response system. This lets you adjust four-wheel drive and stability control for Tarmac, gravel, mud and other conditions. The hill-descent control maintains speed on slippery descents. In the 

Space

The Freelander is much larger than earlier models, with more room for people and luggage. That's just as well; the old ones felt cramped compared to rivals.

The driver and front passenger have plenty of space, and the wide range of adjustment for the seat and wheel make it easy to find a comfortable driving position.In the rear, more knee room wouldn't go amiss, although this space may well have been compromised in order to create a bigger boot. At 755 litres with the back seats up, the boot is 209 litres bigger than its predecessor.

However, the rear wheelarches intrude into the loading space, making the Freelander somewhat less practical than it appears on paper. Fold the seats down to fit in 1670 litres of belongings.

Running costs

Land Rover knows that the new Freelander is bigger and better than the one it replaces, and has priced it accordingly. Top-spec HSE models cost an eye-watering £30,960. However, when you sell it on, you can expect to recoup 52% of the original price after three years.

If you can do without the bells and whistles, the S trim costs as little as £20,960. The next model up, the £23,460 GS, strikes a better balance between cost and kit, which comprises Terrain Response system, cruise control, CD player, climate control and parking sensors.

Whichever version you choose, Land Rover hasn't skimped on safety. Seven airbags and stability control come as standard across the board. A five-star rating from crash-testers Euro NCAP is further assurance about safety.

The biggest question concerns long-term reliability. The old Freelander finished 95th out of 113 cars in this year's JD Power Customer Satisfaction Survey. On the other hand, its younger sibling, the Discovery fared better, in 70th place. Time will tell whether Land Rover has turned the corner.

Technical specs

Kerbweight1770 kg
Maximum towing limit2000 kg
Power158.0 bhp
Torque295.0 lb ft
Official MPG37.7 mpg
CO2194 g/km

Verdict

The Freelander isn't cheap, but you get what you pay for. This is the best compact 4x4 you can buy.

It's more able off-road than any of its rivals, even if you venture no further than a grassy pitch at your favourite CL. Performance is strong, it's a stable tow, and the ride is exceptionally comfortable.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Good passenger space
  • Impressive towing performance

Cons

  • It isn't cheap
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