Ten years after its launch, the Freelander has grown in stature, power and refinement - much like the Land Rover brand itself. The Freelander 2 is as far from a cosmetic update as you can get, but rather a top-to-bottom redesign accompanied by a nuts-and-bolts refit. On the road, it looks and feels like a new machine - and is miles ahead of the early production models that were dogged by electrical glitches. Along with a thorough mechanical upgrading, the 2007 Freelander receives an eye-catching external redesign. With its cheese-grater grille, clamshell bonnet and chiselled lines, the test vehicle gels more stylistically with its Land Rover stablemates - the sharp new Discovery and Range Rover models. It looks and drives a lot more like one of those purposeful 4x4s than the dated-looking bathtub-on-wheels Freelander Mark One. On the inside, the Freelander is a paragon of luxury. The power-operated leather front seats offer good under-thigh and back support and the front seat frames are similar in size to the Range Rover's. Land Rover's upright driving position is as commanding as it is comfortable atop the imposing 18-inch alloys. The Freelander feels spacious up front at least. Legroom for the driver is impressive but the Mitsubishi Outlander has more stretch in the back. The new 2 comes with a six-speaker audio system, power-folding door mirrors, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and adaptive bi-Xenon self-cleaning headlamps as well as an electronic sunroof, adjustable leather steering wheel and cruise control. Apart from the faux-wood veneer panel strapped across the dash that's probably more suited to a Macau casino, the cabin's plush. The Freelander received a full five-star Euro NCAP rating for adult protection, a rare achievement for its class. It was awarded a four-star rating for child protection, but only received one star for pedestrian protection - possibly due to its high bonnet. With eight airbags (including one to bolster the driver's knees) there's a full contingent of on- and off-road safety features, from hill descent control to roll stability control, electronic traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, anti-lock braking system, corner brake control and emergency brake assist. There are also two rear Isofix child-seat anchorage points and an isolation switch for the passenger airbags. Front and rear parking distance control and remote central locking come as standard. On a circuit around Hong Kong Island, the Freelander drives beautifully and is remarkably nimble - and superbly hushed in the cabin, even at speed. The Outlander makes for an excellent budget alternative, but the 'Lander's just so refined, and with a punchy straight-six engine. Some of the gyroscopic wizardry from the heavier Range Rover has been employed to help the Freelander corner without body-roll and there's no hint of slide from the pliant 4x4 chassis. Yet the Freelander platform comes across as powerful and well-engineered, with a ride that is reassuringly firm - not soft and wallowing like the contemporary Lexus SUVs. As for off-road capability, the British-based 4car website says there's little to suggest that the Freelander could be bettered over challenging terrain by anything else in its class. The marque tested the Freelander 2 on a variety of surfaces in Britain, Morocco and Iceland, where it's said to have performed exceptionally, wading through water deep enough to cover the bottom of the doors. The Freelander 2 is a worthy successor to the car that helped define the compact SUV market in the 1990s by marrying 4x4 heritage with road-going comfort. Add to this Land Rover's leading off-road credentials and badge cache, and the new Freelander is an appealing drive. Expect resale prices to be healthy, despite the fact that Ford may be putting Jaguar and Land Rover up for sale. Land Rovers have a strong following in Hong Kong among collectors and overlanders who find they're easy to drive when touring the rugged parts of the mainland. And, despite my earlier assumptions that neither the Freelander nor the Outlander could get you to Everest base camp, I've found that quite the reverse may be possible - especially with the advent of the new Olympic road to the foot of the world's highest mountain that's due for completion in 2008. Hong Kong to Everest: now that would make for one interesting head-to-head road test. At a glance: Land Rover Freelander 2 What drives it? A transversely mounted 3.2-litre 'i6' straight-six engine, with a six-speed automatic transmission, push-button start and permanent four-wheel-drive. How fast is it? With a maximum torque of 317 Nm@3,200rpm and power of 233ps@6,300rpm, the Freelander makes 0-100km/h in 8.4 seconds, according to Land Rover UK figures. How safe is it? It aced the Euro NCAP safety awards with a long list of acronyms: ABS, EBD, EBA, HDC, RSC, ETC, CBC ... and a terrain response system. How thirsty is it? UK figures say it delivers 25.2mpg or 9.33 litres per 100km combined. Hong Kong friendly? Emits 265gpk, the fug equivalent of two Smart ForTwos. Nice touches: It's safe, has more interior space than the first model, and is very capable off-road. Where from? Land Rover Hong Kong (2713 2383) for HK$$430,000.