Tag Archives: landrover

Cars I have driven #9 – 2002 Land Rover Freelander

9 Aug

The story behind my Freelander is one, at least in part, of office politics. It was the first company car that I had ordered after a change of company within the group and there was an anomaly over my contract. My original plan had been to have an S type Jaguar, but that had been ruled out of court because of a policy change, the HR team were being difficult with me over what I could have and I was looking for something different from the executive saloon bracket as a result.

A business friend of my wife’s had just bought his and his Rav4s for himself and his partner and the Berkshire Belle got me to arrange a test drive in one on the basis that they looked nice cars and would fit with the something different requirement. The local Toyota dealer mucked me about and twice I turned up to try one to find that it wasn’t available and so I went to the Oxford dealer instead. Their demonstrator may have been a bit tired, but I found it a horrible, tinny, car and there was a constant whine from the back end at anything above about 30mph, so that was a reject. (I have since driven a more recent edition of the Rav4 in the US, doing about 2500 miles through Florida, Georgia and South Carolina and quite enjoyed the car. Oh, and yes, the floor mat did move and trap the accelerator pedal down on a regular basis, but I’m experienced enough to be able to deal with that without driving into anything solid).

Back on the new car hunt, driving home from Oxford I passed a Land Rover dealer, and that got me thinking about a proper 4×4. I contacted my local dealer and they were very good at taking me through the range and coming up with a package that would fit my purse as well as my driving needs in the shape of a Freelander Td4 station wagon (i.e.; 4 door). Soon after VK52PBU turned up on the doorstep and I was very pleased with her.

My job at that time involved a lot of motorway driving still, but also a lot of cross country work, including over the passes from
Stockport to Chesterfield and trans Pennine work such as Bolton or Preston to Newcastle. It was on one of the Lancashire to  Geordieland runs that the all wheel drive came into its own for me. I left the north end of Bolton at around 1700 in pouring rain one Winter evening and headed for the M6. It began to snow in the Lune Gorge area, but it wasn’t too bad as I turned off the M6 and headed across the high ground. Up on top the snow got worse and I was glad that there wasn’t much traffic around as I dropped down the East side of the slope. Nothing was coming the other way which was a little worrying. Approaching
Barnard’s Castle it all went wrong and I joined the end of a queue of stationary traffic.

I always carry a Winter emergency pack and put it to good use as we sat there in the dark and the snow. After about an hour there was a little movement and, after we had shuffled up a half mile or so, I was able to take to a side road into Barnard’s Castle. The training session I had attended at Land Rover’s facility near Ludlow paid off on the snow and ice as I made my way carefully into the town and found a chip shop open, and with a parking space right outside the door.

That bag of fish and chips was a wondrous meal even if I did have to eat it in the car. By now it was about half past nine and I picked my way over to the A1 and on up to Newcastle, or at least the Holiday Inn Express just to the South arriving there about 2300 very glad to find sanctuary.

I loved the Freelander dearly and had a lot of fun driving her over the three years that I had her, putting 90 odd thousand miles on her. Over that time I averaged 36.5 mpg which wasn’t too bad given that she had the aerodynamic qualities of a brick wall. The BMW turbo diesel and 5 speed manual box worked well together and turning off the traction control allowed you to slide her in the wet without the computer fighting you. It was the turbo that gave me my only mechanical problem in the time that I drove her when the wastegate developed a problem and started dumping the boost when it shouldn’t have (and the dealer earned a black mark when, having told them that I thought the problem was the wastegate they took two days fiddling with other things before getting round to checking my diagnosis which proven to be the correct one; not all customers are mechanically ignorant).

Probably the most interesting thing about the three years that I had her was that, for the first time, I began to notice how other people reacted to me relative to my car. I had previously had one incident (that I will recall when I get round to the Peugeot years), but generally I had seen people react to others and their cars (snob, corrrr, boy racer, pillock, git etc), but hadn’t seen it in relation to me, but owning the Freelander changed that enough for me to notice.

By the time that the three years was up and a decision on a replacement was needed I was tempted to have another one, but I was doing more city driving and you don’t need an SUV for that, even a smallish one, so that was how I ended up with the Audi A3 featured in Cars I Have Driven #2.