Fleet News

Land Rover Freelander 1.8 XEi - 6,800 miles

Land Rover

Review

##lanfree.jpg --Right##WE'VE been piling the miles on our Freelander with a vengeance: the total now stands at 7,000 - and more than 5,000 of those have been covered in a little over seven weeks. To date, the news is good: while the Freelander has proved entertaining to drive on the road, nothing has gone wrong with it ,which seems to be saying the right things about Land Rover's new-found build quality.

In work, the Freelander's practicality is undoubted: most of its miles have been covered plying Britain's motorways laden with photographic gear. Here, refinement and surprising handling competence make it an unexpectedly relaxed cruiser - particularly considering the knobbly all-terrain tyres - while the driving position, which is more akin to a car's than a 4x4's, is a boon on a long run.

It's on the motorway, too, that the Freelander's Achilles' heel is at its most disguised: the 1.8-litre K-series engine develops just 118bhp, which isn't enough to make the car totally enjoyable. Though it's economical with a combined consumption figure of 27.6mpg, A-road driving can be a laboured affair with much gearchanging and anticipation needed in even the simplest overtaking manoeuvres. What price a Freelander fitted with Rover's acclaimed 2.5-litre KV6 from the 800?

But the payoff for its relatively modest output and performance are running costs which match those of many premium upper-medium cars - and that's despite the reputation 4x4s have regarding high cost of ownership. A total pence per mile figure of 28.65p over three years/60,000 miles (FNN Running costs figures) beats the Audi A4 1.8 SE Avant's 29.42p largely on account of better than average depreciation figures: a CAP Monitor RV of 50% of original cost new (ú9,925) is among the best of any car.

With Land Rover's generous 10,000-mile service interval, we've yet to experience the service of our local dealer, Marshall of Peterborough, but a previous problem with another Freelander - where the alternator bracket broke - revealed a courteous and quick service. That car had already covered more than 12,000 miles in less than three months, the subject of another magazine's round-Britain tour, so it's understandable that this unusual workload might cause some unreliability. Even so, it didn't stop us reaching our destination and was easily cured with a new bracket under warranty.

Our top-of-the-range 1.8 XEi comes as standard with Land Rover's novel Hill Descent Control: this features ABS and traction control, both of which work together to provide controlled ascent or descent of low-friction slopes. It's fine in theory, but the ABS part of the package should be available separately on the lower spec 1.8i and 2.0Di models at a more modest price than the ú900-odd HDC costs. Considering many drivers won't even use HDC in on-road driving (which will account for the vast majority of Freelander mileage) it seems absurd you can't order ABS on its own. But it's a small gripe on a car that's made a big impression here. Freelander's rugged appeal and youthful image is what everyone wants to be seen with.

Paul Clark

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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