What is it?
The Land Rover Freelander 2 is something of an institution. The current car remains at the top of its class, but that hasn't stopped Land Rover tweaking it for 2011. The changes include an improved interior and some mild styling revisions, but it's under the bonnet where the most significant changes have occurred. All versions are more economical, with the SD4 turbodiesel automatic tested here seeing a significant 14 percent reduction in CO2.
Is it any good?
The Freelander has always been pretty much at the top of the small SUV tree. Unlike its German competition - such as BMW's X3 and Audi's Q5 - the Freelander is hugely capable in the rough, retaining its core appeal as a proper 4x4. That's not at the expense of its ability on the road, as the Freelander corners well with crisp steering, while the suspension provides good body and ride control. The 187bhp 2.2-litre SDI turbodiesel engine is punchy at low revs and works particularly well with its standard six-speed automatic transmission.
Refinement cannot quite match its German rivals, with the 2.2-litre engine being a bit vocal when pushed and some wind noise evident around the large door mirrors. The interior sees some improved materials, looking much like a cross between the fascia of a Discovery 3 and a Range Rover Sport. Big chunky buttons underline Land Rover's rugged roots, though the mix of old-tech LCD for the in-car entertainment and a touch-screen for satnav functions do look and feel a bit dated. Standard leather in this HSE model lifts the interior, but some of the plastics around the cabin still aren't up with the class best.
Should I call the bank manager?
With an asking price of £35,510 for this fully-loaded SD4 HSE automatic you might need to. It's the range-topping machine, though the same engine and transmission combination is offered in GS trim for £27,510. If you can live without the SD4's 187bhp (and the automatic transmission) the TD4 model delivers 148bhp, features fuel-saving start-stop technology and is available from £21,695. An even more efficient Freelander eD4 will be offered from January; it loses four-wheel drive in favour of front-wheel drive in the pursuit of ultimate environmental performance - though inevitably without 4x4 you'll be less able to explore the environment...
Land Rover has concentrated on the basics when updating its Freelander for 2011. The new model is more efficient, smarter looking and better quality than ever, while it retains an enjoyable and unique mix of driving characteristics. It's not cheap, but few cars are so capable.