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We test drive the new Freelander...

Byline: By CHRIS RUSSON

BIGGER and better in every aspect than the original, the latest Freelander is about to set a new benchmark among 4x4s.

But it is also going up a league when it comes to pricing with the new line-up aimed at the premium buyer.

The top range HSE model will cost pounds 33,990 and even the basic versions will set you back pounds 20,935.

This is more of a baby Range Rover than an entry-level Land Rover - the slot occupied by the first Freelander when it was launched back in 1997.

The interior is a class act, more plush and refined than before and much more comfortable.

It's not on sale until December but the range topping 3.2-litre HSE has just been put through its paces -and is very impressive.

That spartan feel of the previous Freelander has been replaced with luxurious leather upholstery and

MOTORING: Freelander on the road wooden trim and while the dash remains absolutely functional it is now state of the art and centred around a full-colour touchscreen controlling the latest in graphic displays.

Although similar in design to the original the new Freelander is almost two inches longer, which translates into more room inside, especially in the back.

The new Freelander - the first Land Rover to be built in the UK at Halewood-is available only as a five door model, dispensing with the three door option of the original.

Other significant differences are moving the spare wheel off the tailgate and into a well beneath the cargo area floor.

Land Rover is making use of two new engines to power the new model - a 2.2-litre four cylinder diesel and a 3.2-litre straight six petrol engine.

It's the 3.2-litre which powers the HSE and it develops 233bhp leading to 0-60 time of 8.4 seconds and a 124mph top speed.

Through a six-speed Command Shift automatic gearbox, which allows auto and manual gear selection, it's a smooth operator and brisk off the mark. Average fuel consumption is a claimed 25.2mpg.

But it's the diesel engine, with its 37.7 average mpg, which is going to be the more popular.

Handling is where the new Freelander really impresses. The overall ride is class leading - firm, accurate and wallow-free - and very easy to manoeuvre.

Advanced braking systems, traction control and independent all-round suspension are enhanced by a roll over protection system which makes the Freelander2, as it will be badged, the most stable Land Rover to date.

The new model also sees the debut of Gradient Release Control, a braking gadget which makes uphill and downhill move-offs easier.

Land Rover's Terrain Response computerised off-road system is fitted across the Freelander2 range. It's an electronic, go-anywhere 'expert' which ensures optimum traction for a variety of conditions.

In everyday use it is a brilliant all round package. That said, there are a couple of 'could do better' points.

The handbrake is situated very close to the side of the driver's seat and can pinch your fingers, and the seatbelt anchor points rub against the front upholstery.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 26, 2006
Words:516
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