This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.
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Published in The Witness Motoring on Wednesday March 24, 2010
Even some Land Rover fans see the Freelander as little more than a soft-roader. Sure, it pioneered Hill Descent Control (HDC) that has since been copied by everyone else, but it has less ground clearance than its siblings (210 mm vs. 240 to 280 mm) and the fully independent suspension is all steel rather than the ultra compliant air suspension system found on Discoveries and Range Rovers. It also loses the low range gearbox. Simple economics plays a part in this, with a huge price gap between the most expensive Freelander and the entry level Discovery.
The original Freelander had its faults and detractors so this second series was a complete redesign from the ground up. It is now 50 mm longer, much roomier with almost 200 litres more boot without sacrificing head, leg and shoulder space, better built, better finished and altogether more capable.
Capability upgrades include improved torsional body stiffness, full time intelligent 4x4 transmission with an electronically controlled centre coupling that optimises traction and economy, and a four-way version of Land Rover’s Terrain Response system. This gives you a choice of: no aids, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts or sand. It’s five-way on the premium models – they get a “rock crawl” program as well.
The model under review is the entry level four-cylinder 2.2 litre eco-diesel version that comes only in “S” trim level and with a six-speed manual transmission. In the current line-up, all other Freelanders are supplied with six-speed automatics with manual override. Power output is 118 kW at 4 000 rpm with 400 Nm of torque at 2 000 rpm.
The eco version’s party trick is to switch itself off whenever you stop in traffic or wherever else you might choose to, but would usually keep the engine running. It fires up again when you put the clutch in. This saves fuel and emissions, leading to Land Rover’s boast that this is its cleanest and most economical power plant to date. More are on the way, so watch this site for details.
I can hear the complaints about auto switch off already: “but what about when…?” Relax; the system was designed with more intelligence than you give it credit for. First, you can decide whether you want it to function or not and second, it won't operate whenever HDC or one of the off road programs is selected, or when the computer figures that the battery might be in danger of going flat or that the family inside might prefer to sacrifice environmental issues for air conditioning. The result is that in hot weather, off road or in short spells at the lights, auto shut off doesn’t happen very often.
My time with this car just happened to coincide with an introductory course at the Land Rover Experience at Inchanga and a trip through the boonies near Nottingham Road with like-minded friends the following day.
The Land Rover Experience was my first formal lesson in off-road craft and apart from dealing with the basics, served as a real eye-opener to what these things can do. To make it interesting, all types of Land Rovers were present with the notable exception of any Defenders (guess real manne don’t need introductory courses), and a sprinkling of Japanese 4x4 pickups as well. The Experience is very democratic, with instructors able to introduce owners of other brands to little-known details of their own vehicles.
The following day, we joined a small convoy of Land Cruisers, an elderly Series lll station wagon and a typical 4x4 farm pickup on a ramble through the veld. There should have been more participants, but it was raining that day causing a rash of illnesses, sick animals and sudden urgent appointments.
I found the lack of low range first gear a bit awkward at times, as keeping up momentum resulted in a little more haste and bouncing than one would choose under ideal conditions. It also necessitated a second run at a rather nasty rocky climb that I think was intended to banish mere soft-roaders to the embarrassment queue. The owner of the following Cruiser was somewhat irritated. All he could criticise was that one or two wheels had left the ground in the process.
In the boonies and back in civilisation, the Freelander goes very well with perfectly adequate performance for what it is. It is also very comfortable with plenty of head, leg and luggage space. Entry and exit from the back seat is easy as a result of enough room under those in front to park one’s feet, and no doorsills to speak of.
Detractors call it a soft-roader, Land Rover describes it as a fully-fledged premium compact SUV. Whatever it is, it keeps up in all but the most trying of circumstances. I could live with one.
Price: R380 500
Engine: 2 179 cc 16-valve four cylinder
Power: 118 kW at 4 000 rpm
Torque: 400 Nm at 2 000 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 10.9 seconds
Maximum speed: 180 km/h
Combined cycle fuel economy (claimed): 6.7 l/100 km
Real life fuel usage (50/50 freeway/city and off road): 8.5 l/100 km
Tank: 68 litres
Clearance: 210 mm
Approach /departure/ramp over angles: 31/34/23 degrees
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the central hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and go to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
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