Stopt / Start Freelander A World First
Freelander 2 TD4 may be the compact member of the Land Rover family but it now commands extra attention with the introduction of the SUV segment's world-first Stop/Start engine technology.
This fuel saving first (the engine automatically shuts-down when you're stationary and re-starts when you accelerate) has reduced the Freelander 2's fuel consumption by 21 per cent and exhaust emissions by 20 per cent.
Continuing the 'green' theme, Freelander 2 TD4_e Stop/Start (long name, great SUV) jumped the European Union's End of Life Vehicle Certification legislation by two years - up to 85 per cent of each vehicle is recyclable and 95 per cent is re-usable. In today's world, this is just as significant and the development of hybrids and electric cars.
Land Rover fans are entitled to feel pleased with the company's progress under new owners TATA. The Indian parent company has left the British-based team to do what they do best - develop SUVs.
What You Get
As you would expect, coming from Land Rover, the compact Freelander 2 TD4_e Stop/Start Start is refined on-road and superb off-road. Priced from $45,590 its design stands out from the hordes of Japanese and Korean SUVs - and even from direct European-sourced rivals - while inside is a lot of luxury equipment and driver-assist technology - again typical of Land Rover vehicles.
Of course the big news is the Stop/Start engine system.
Under The Hood
Performance of the 2.2-litre four cylinder turbo-diesel is identical to the TD4 SE model Freelander - 118kW of power and a lusty 400Nm of torque. Drive is to all four wheels via a six-speed manual transmission with a dashboard light which illuminates when selecting a higher gear will allow more fuel-efficient driving.
The Stop/Start engine system is a complex arrangement but its operation is simple. When the vehicle is stationary, gearbox in neutral and clutch pedal raised, the engine shuts-down. To restart, the driver just pushes-in the clutch and the boosted starter motor re-starts the engine in time for first gear to be selected.
Cleverly, this ingenious system is overridden and does not work when a special off-road program like Terrain Response or Hill Descent Control is selected or in circumstances such as:
- external temperature sub-four degrees
- external temperature above 35 degrees
- engine is still cold
- drivers seat belt not fastened or a door is open
- battery charge is low
To support all of this, Land Rover engineers recalibrated the engine management system and alternator, developed a heavy duty starter motor, new ring gear attached to a new dual mass flywheel friction control plate, fitted new absorption glass matting in the battery and enhanced the air-conditioning and audio/Bluetooth systems to cope with the varying voltage outputs as the engine shuts down and restarts.
Inside it's the high quality, nicely finished cabin we're accustomed to with the Freelander. The ebony cloth seats are nicely shaped, the steering wheel adjusts as it should, the instruments are traditional and easy-to-read and the cruise control operation is uncomplicated.
You do sit high in a Freelander (like all Land Rover products) and the female members of the Car Showroom team complimented the excellent all-round vision this affords.
On the audio front there is a six-speaker CD system with MP3 player auxiliary input with steering wheel-mounted controls.
Freelander is one of the larger-sized compact SUVs and while the rear seat is comfortable, legroom is not massive. The load area is reasonably sized, versatile and comes with a security cover.
Exterior & Styling
Distinctly Land Rover, the most recent facelift for the Freelander added a more contemporary look, but you will never be mistaken for one of the Japanese or Korean vehicles that populate the compact SUV segment.
Freelander is not overly curvaceous or cutting edge although the latest front grille and headlights look stylish and fresh.
High-waisted and with a forward-sloping C-Pillar, the Freelander is conservative for sure, but we like its on-road stance and car-park 'cred'.
On The Road
We were intrigued to see how the Stop/Start technology translated into everyday driving and the peak hour crawl through Melbourne's roadwork-plagued freeway system saw immediate results.
To put it simply, the engine stops (but the air-conditioning, lights, audio system etc keep working) then you push the clutch, the starter motor instantaneously cranks-up the engine as first gear is selected and you accelerate away.
Intrusive? Not at all. Fuel saving? Undoubtedly.
We were impressed.
Otherwise, it's the Freelander we know. That means high levels of refinement and convenience even in the city. We've always liked the direct steering of the Freelander - a real help in tight carparks and when tackling high speed, twisty roads.
In the rural environment, Freelander exhibits very high standards of ride and handling. It's precise and firm, turns-in nicely, shows good mid-corner balance and grip and the 2.2-litre diesel is responsive.
The female drivers in the Car Showroom gave the Freelander top marks for its ease-of-operation - driving, parking and fitting child/booster seats in the rear.
Ultimately the Freelander doesn't quite match Volkswagen's Tiguan for refinement or on-road dynamics…but we'd back the Land Rover vehicle in an off-road fight.
Freelander ticks all the boxes for a compact SUV and if ground-breaking, eco-friendly technology counts for something, the TD4_e Stop/Start must be a star performer.
Volkswagen's Tiguan is the benchmark amongst European compact SUVs (in this price range). The 'Mini Touareg' is beautifully built, sharply priced and offers a good choice of petrol or diesel engines but not the load space of the Freelander.
Brilliant Stop/Start engine technology; nice drive; unstoppable off-road
A tad short on refinement compared to newer rivals