Land Rover's second-generation Freelander has seen just two main changes since it was introduced in 2007; the first is that the petrol model, with its Volvo-derived 3.2 litre six-cylinder engine appears at some stage to have been dropped from the range in the UK market, a change which, as far as I can tell, has never been officially announced. The second change came last year with the adoption of stop-start technology for the diesel model, which is now rebadged TD4_e.

Unsurprisingly the TD4_e is pretty much the same to drive as the previous standard diesel, with the exception of the stop-start mechanism which works reliably and pretty unobtrusively. It's harder to restart a diesel smoothly than a petrol engine, but the system on the TD4_e seems to work well.

Apart from that, the TD4_e is more or less unchanged, which, in my book, is a very good thing indeed. I was never a particular fan of the original Freelander but when I first tested the second generation model shortly after it was introduced, I was deeply impressed.

Land Rover has a head start over just about every other manufacturer of 4x4s, of course, because it's been in the game longer than anyone else apart from Jeep. That means that Land Rover stands a better chance of producing a car that performs well off road than its less experienced competitors do, but given how infrequently many owners take their 4x4s off the road, that may not be the advantage it appears.

I suspect the real advantage is a different one. Land Rover has spent sixty years developing its off-road look; its latest designs, the Freelander 2 included, are modern, but also draw upon a rich design history that means its cars simply look the part; other manufacturers trying to adapt their traditional design themes to off-road vehicles sometimes produce cars that are either desperately bland (for example, Volkswagen's Tiguan and Touareg) or even ugly (BMW and Porsche). And the thing about looking the part extends to the Freelander's interior, which is rugged and classy in equal measure, as well as providing fairly generous space for passengers and their luggage.

On the road, the Freelander is equally convincing, combining Land Rover's raised "command" driving position with car-like handling and a nicely compliant ride. The gear-change is smooth, while the 2.2 diesel engine is quiet and has a rather undieselly willingness to rev. Its main weakness was always its unimpressive fuel consumption, which the TD4_e's stop-start mechanism is designed to address – although Land Rover must surely realise that this has to be the first, rather than the last, of its steps on the road to producing sustainable 4x4s.

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