A chance drive in the latest Freelander over the weekend, reminded me a) what a good car Land Rover's cheapest passenger model is and b) how a few minor tweaks in the car configuration when you're finalising your purchase can transform a great car into a so-so one, and vice versa.
Actually, my drive was less by chance and more the result of a special request to Land Rover, as I'd had an opportunity to drive the latest manual 2WD version (verdict: not bad, and certainly nothing that £800 and another pair of driven wheels couldn't fix) and I was keen to remind myself of the abilities of the automatic 4WD version.
I ran the original Freelander 2 in this spec as a long-term test car, and found it to be every inch the mini-Range Rover we hoped it would be. The reassuring thing for me and, I guess, for JLR is that I rediscovered the same warm feeling driving this one, some three years later. There's plenty of low-down torque, unlike most new cars on the market, it handles and steers very well for a car of this type, and it's a very comfortable place to spend a long journey.
The march of progress means that the sound system, separate from the colour sat-nav, looks a bit dated and has no iPod functionality, though the actual sound output is fine. Similarly, the centre console is beginning to look dated, though to my eyes it’s in a rather appealing Defender/Disco 3 way, which emphasises the car’s genuine off-road abilities.