Vol. 3 No.2  

Tougher than the rest

Equipped to deal with either the city or mountainside, the new Land Rover Freelander takes the rough with the smooth, finds Mihai Alexandrescu

     Being popular is a big issue for the younger generation.
     In high school movies, the lengths people go to gain popularity are second in cruelty only to the clubbing of baby seals.
     If you’re not popular in high-school, you will not get invited to parties nor will you get to ‘Frenchie’ with a cheerleader. Instead you will end up dressing up in magic Goblin robes around a Dungeons and Dragons board, in your bedroom, on your own, with no one else to share your pain with, except your own tears.
     The demon of popularity among teenagers provokes a personality crisis in youngsters that leads them to routinely massacre each other in cafeterias. These geek-driven homicides are not provoked by gun-toting rap lyrics or Marilyn Manson’s lip-gloss, but because the captain of the football team has stuck the future murderer’s head in the toilet because of the way the geek’s acne was looking at him.
     Kids are pretty messed-up in their constant drive for popularity. And when they grow up, this does not change.
     This is present in the kind of cars they choose.
     To look like a company director, you will want to drive an Audi A8.
     To resemble a soccer player, you need a BMW X5 and if you are a young man who just received his license, you drive a Golf GTI with shiny wheels. These are the standards if you want to get noticed on the road – a forum as competitive in looks and style as the high school cafeteria.
     Of course, there also are unpopular cars and that brings me to the new Land Rover Freelander.
     Like its main competitor, the BMW X3, it also has some famous relatives: the suave and butch Range Rover - the Daniel Craig of SUVs and then, standing at the summit, is the Schwarzenegger of off-road, the Land Rover Discovery.
     Having two popular big brothers has not helped the Freelander become famous. But the  car does not crave the limelight of its siblings.
     People who drive Freelanders do not visit top stylists, dress in Saville Row suits, rub shoulders with VIPs in Bamboo nor keep a young mistress in a flat in Dorobanti.
     Instead, they are the kind of people who like mountain climbing without safety measures and ice-fishing at dawn in nothing but a T-shirt and boxer-shorts.
     You might think that Freelander customers are not looking for nice interiors or sleek design, but they are as sensitive as any other driver. Of course they want to rest their backs against good quality materials and to look good when they cross mountain rivers and plough through swamps of mud - but they want it for the right price.
     The model we tested costs just over 40,000 Euro and had lots of gadgets, starting from high tech 4X4 system and ending with a start engine button.
     It also looks much more better than its predecessor.
     I could say that it has “fresh and dynamic exterior design-chiselled, geometric and simple” but that would sound like a press release. To give you a better idea, it looks like Courtney Love after she had a few drinks – beautiful but dangerous.
     The engine was a 2.2 litre diesel of 160 BHP (Brake Horse Power) attached to a six speed manual that even felt sporty. It accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in two days but it is very rewarding when it comes to driving accommodation. Usually to try and compromise a tall 4X4 after driving a normal car in town is like getting used to parachuting from a plane. In the Freelander though, it is about as hard to accommodate as sharing a bed with the Pussycat Dolls.
     The steering is light, the clutch is soft and the gearbox is like cutting through butter: it’s so easy to drive.
     On tough land the car feels very confident taking on any pothole or hill, but it’s not as hardcore as the Discovery. Still, the Freelander keeps on going when its main competitors will stop marching forward.
     Inside, the car is much more spacious than you can expect and it took some premium design features from the luxurious Range Rover. It now has an English sense of refinery and sophistication.
     That being said, the new Land Rover Freelander called the LR2 is very good value for money and if you are the type of person who wants to drive unnoticed through town and your kids’ school stands on top of a cliff, this car offers what you are looking for .

Engine: 2.2 litre diesel, 160 BHP, 400 Nm of torque
Gearbox: Six speed manual
Transmission: Permanent 4X4, Terrain Response
Acceleration: 11.4 seconds
Price: 41,105 Euro DDP
Consumption: 11 litres mixed consumption on test (7.5 as claimed by the manufacturer)
Suited for: People who like adrenaline rushes and those with hobbies other than golf.
The optional spare wheel will
shrink the boot
The interior styling is much like the exterior. Edgy and simple