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December 8 2013 Latest news:
max temp: 11°C
min temp: 7°C
A childhood dream has been fulfilled by Martin Pilkington as he swaps a toy car for the real thing
A declaration of interest: I have wanted to drive a Land Rover since receiving two Corgi die-cast models as a child. Land Rover may be owned by an Indian company now, but it is a quintessentially English marque, so born to drive in the wet. Thats just as well - when I take out
the new Freelander 2 it is pouring. Today the huge sunshine roof is for decoration only.
Before I set out from Kentdales in Kendal, dealership manager Colin Shepherd shows me the things I will really need: climate control, heated seats, and the clever Terrain Response system - he regrets the skies are just dropping rain as in December its snow and ice setting proved a godsend.
First things first, employ the electric seat adjustment to get cosy: plenty of headroom though Im six foot three; and the driving position is spot on - strange how some cars are built for chimpanzees, needing huge arms and short stature; temperature to a cheering 23 Celsius; DAB radio set to Radio 7 for Maigret.
Off up the A6 to Shap, the route apposite, like Land Rover pre-dating
the motorway age. The Freelander 2 HSE model is packed with gadgets, most of them as standard, but there remains something retro about it.
The reassuringly chunky shape still shows design cues linking back to its Mark 1 ancestor, like having your grandfathers shoulders if hed played prop for the Lions.
The car makes me reflect on what Top Gear types call the driving experience. They love the adrenaline rush of personal control and speed - you can switch the Freelander to sport mode and effective manual gear changes for this if you want, but surely you wouldnt buy a Freelander if seeking high-speed thrills?
The last time I went karting the machine nearly stalled so slow was my progress: I am content to let the technology make my driving experience safe and comfortable, which this machine does nicely - traffic information system, automatic lights and, yes, big deep cup-holders and all; I want to watch the scenery flash before my eyes, not my life.
Slightly more road-noise than might be expected, but not enough to necessitate turning Maigret up, even when the road surface gets rougher. The much-maligned DAB signal gives out briefly at the top of Shap Summit, in sharp contrast to the car which climbs it like a goat. The ride is hard enough to transmit changes in the road, but smooth, even over the many old bridges around Shap village.
An inevitable (but momentary) automatic/turbo lag when you floor it, but there is power aplenty to overtake a truck on the straights before turning off to head for Shap Abbey. Along lanes lined with silvery-white dry-stone walls the car feels more at home.
Nearing the Abbey a gate blocks the way, the alternative to opening it being a muddy patch around: so into Mud and Ruts mode on the Terrain Response gizmo and through without a seconds slip or slide. Impressive. The steep concrete track doubling as a river means the hill descent mode gets a go. Equally effective.
In five minutes visiting the ruined Abbey Im soaked, so boost the temperature to dry out and find a small flaw - the response is slow; same later when passing over chilly Shap Summit again as the outside temperature briefly invades my space.
On to Haweswater, which should need little filling after todays downpour. The road along its south bank regularly crossed by run-off streams, some bringing stones, all negotiated without a flinch.
Cruising easily back to Kendal theres time to consider overall impressions. Externally the car looks good. Internally some of the silvered-plastic trim lets it down, as do flimsier wiper- and light-sticks than suit it.
The leather seats and compactly arranged display are on the money, though. The 150bhp diesel engine doesnt feel like a diesel and has enough power to make overtaking easy. Build quality is good, doors shutting with a firm clunk.
Its a fine vehicle, surprisingly practical with a combined fuel usage of 40.4mpg and lots of room, and it somehow feels safe (high vehicles always do, but if the snow mode works as well as the rest then its a potential lifesaver). Farmers will buy the Defender, stock-brokers stick with the Range Rover; but if you have to cope with pot-holed roads, ice and snow, loads of baggage, and Lakelands hills its worth a look.
Facts and figures:
Car: Land Rover Freelander 2 HSE TD4 Automatic
Horse power: 150bhp
Engine size: 2.2 litre diesel
Price: 36k approx OTR price including metallic paint