First reviews, more pictures of the latest, hottest cars
|Land Rover Freelander 2
Rugged, Handsome, Go-Anywhere SUV
Styling Reminds Potential Buyers Of Luxury Elder Siblings
Quality Bugbear Addressed? Will High Prices Repulse?
“Just select the type of terrain you are about to tackle mud, ruts, grass, sand, or Chelsea maybe, and the computer will do all the work for you”.
ESSAOUIRA, Morocco Sometimes car launches reveal something more than va va vroom vroom stuff. Take the launch of the Land Rover Freelander here in Morocco.
This was my first visit to the Dark Continent, and it was unforgettable, mainly for negative reasons. The Land Rover people made sure we tested the off-road ability of the Freelander to the max, so instead of hugging the Atlantic coast and the relatively western-friendly resort areas, we were pointed inland to the real Morocco.
Welcome to grinding poverty, and the land of the donkey. The many scattered hamlets were filthy and neglected. The roads were full of individuals walking purposefully to the next hamlet, often dressed in biblical style smocks with pointed hoods, or riding donkeys. Children were everywhere, looking cute and well-looked after as they waved and smiled at us western intruders. Donkeys were still the main mode of personal transport in the interior, and they also helped out by dragging ploughs in their off-peak periods. Because they are so important to the locals, most donkeys appeared well looked after. During a day’s driving, there must have been at least 3 donkey markets.
Good treatment didn’t extend to camels, which were often driven along with binding trapping their legs to dissuade them from running away.
Tree climbing goats
Festering in poverty
There’s no easy link between the interior of Morocco and the high-tech new Freelander. How about this; crucial to the future of Morocco is the need to rescue its citizens from penury by throwing off the shackles of monarchy and liberating them with democracy. The Freelander is crucial to the future of Land Rover. If it fails, there’s a good chance all of Land Rover will too. The Freelander has passed the first tests with flying colours because it looks good, rides and handles well, and goes anywhere with aplomb.
But the most important hurdle is the old bugbear of quality.
The old model won over customers because of its superficial attractions, and of course its ruggedness off-road, but it let many down by enforced visits to the garage to fix often maddeningly trivial imperfections. Others, like power losses, starting problems, and failed electrics, were more than trivial. The whole process was often topped off by an irritating dealer experience.
The Freelander is the cheapest Land Rover, underneath the Discovery 3, Range Rover Sport and topped out by the iconic Range Rover itself. The new version, which looks remarkably similar to the outgoing one, at least from the side, is new from the ground up.
Land Rover set up a test on the sand dunes on the coast near Essaouira and the Freelander handled it all with awesome aplomb.
The Freelander’s interior is big improvement on the old one. It is bigger and airier. There’s more room for luggage and the loading area is more flexible.
Land Rover talks about how this car is much better than the old one; it will have to be given that prices start at around £20,900. That’s almost £5,000 more than a basic and similarly sized Nissan X Trail.
The new Freelander is built at the Halewood plant in Liverpool, which has won much applause from industry quality guru J.D.Power for its output of Jaguars, which now lead customer satisfaction awards in the U.S. - last year Jaguar topped the J.D.Power Customer Satisfaction Index in the U.S. for the third year in a row, edging out second-place Cadillac
The new car’s looks are strangely inconsistent. The design of the front and back do a neat job of reminding buyers of the more expensive Discovery and Range Rover, while the side view just seems a derivation of the old model. Much progress has been made with the interior, which is bigger and roomier, and has captured the essence of the bigger siblings’ snug, encompassing luxury cockpit feel.
There are two engines available at launch next month - a 3.2 litre 233 bhp straight six petrol engine with a six-speed automatic gearbox and a 2.2 litre 4-cylinder diesel developed with Peugeot, mated to a six-speed manual ‘box. An automatic gearbox will be available from spring 2007.
Prices start at £20,900/€31,000.
Neil Winton November 20, 2006