When Land Rover invited us to the launch of its Freelander 2 eD4, its first ever mass-produced two-wheel drive vehicle, the petrol-heads amongst us damn-near choked on their crying panda burgers. "a two-wheel-drive Land Rover?" we asked. "Someone's having a laugh, surely. Land Rover makes dirty, great big 4x4s that violate and pillage the earth. What sort of blasphemy is this?"
After ranting for several minutes and wiping out the last remaining Mongolian wild ass to redress the balance, we jetted off to Barcelona -- on a chuffing jumbo jet -- to take a look at this two-wheel-drive monstrosity for ourselves.
During the press conference, Land Rover waxed lyrical about how the eD4 was built to reduce emissions and running costs and to bring the fight to the Nissan Qashqai and other so-called crossovers -- vehicles that look like dirty-great 4x4s, but are relatively kind to the environment.
To its credit, the Freelander 2 eD4 definitely looks the part. It's very similar to the previous car, but look closely and you'll see a tweaked front bumper and grille, more body-coloured parts and fancy new alloy wheels. From the outside, it looks about as four-by-fourish as you could reasonably ask for, which is great news for anyone that takes pleasure in upsetting dreadlocked hippies.
They shouldn't take too much offense, though, because the eD4 is Land Rover's most eco-friendly car ever. It uses a 2.2-litre 4-cylinder diesel engine mated to a stop-start system that switches the car off when you come to a stop, and starts it up again in as little as 700ms the moment you lift the clutch.
This (plus the fact the total weight of the car has dropped by 75Kg due to a lack of gubbins required to drive the rear wheels) means the eD4 now spews just 158g of CO2 per km and achieves 47.2mpg. That compares favourably to the Nissan Qashqai 2.0 16V manual 2WD's 155g/km and 47.9mpg.
That's all well and good, but we were more concerned about whether the Freelander 2 eD4 lives up to the badge on its front grille. With that in mind, we put the car through its paces around Land Rover's rugged off road handling circuit to see how it would cope.
You can get the full details of how it performed in our full, in-depth Freelander 2 eD4 review, but let's just say that, despite being two-wheel drive, the Freelander 2 eD4 is an off-road monster. Gravel, water, mud and even enormous stretches of stagnant river water are simply no match for this car. The two-wheel and the four wheel drive versions of the Freelander 2 behave differently, but they both completed the challenging off-road circuit without fuss.
The eD4 is a revelation. It handles its business both on and off road, is relatively kind to the environment and is relatively frugal with fuel. We love it.
Flick through our photo gallery above to see it in action then read our full Freelander 2 eD4 review.