Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Rock Steady with a Real Dune Raider

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Rock Steady with a Real Dune Raider

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Torpey

Ancient meets modern in the road leading from the village of Od Al Haj in southern Morocco.

Life doesn't look like it has changed much in centuries around here. Men barter feverishly in the main street oblivious to anything going on around them, women carry baskets spilling over with foliage settled on their heads and the only car park is reserved exclusively for donkeys.

But then this is the principal mode of transport in a sun-ravaged region where you come to expect the unexpected. Where else would you find goats balanced precariously in the upper branches of trees?

Their lips contort round vicious thorns of the Argan ( known to the native Berbers as the Tree of Life ( in a desperate quest for a few leaves and berries.

So severely potholed is the 17 kilometre stretch of road leading away from all this mayhem that the few motor vehicles frequenting the route zigzag in huge arcs to avoid being stuck fast. Never mind driving on the right side of the road ... you drive where you can.

Once clear of the craters and closer to world heritage site Essaouira, the surface improves, though only to the width of one and a half cars making for a chicken run-style strip where the driver with the least nerve is forced onto a rutted and crumbling verge.

This is the intoxicating part of the world Land Rover chose for the global launch of Freelander 2, the Liverpool-built car so vital to the Ford-owned company's future.

Over the next six weeks more than 750 journalists from every corner of the world will put the new Freelander through the sort of hammering private owners simply wouldn't entertain.

They can expect to be impressed, as, more importantly, will be the first of 1,000 customers who have already paid up front to take delivery when the initial models go on sale early next month.

Freelander 2 goes into the market place from a position of strength. The original, launched almost a decade ago, was the top selling 4x4 in Europe for five years and best seller of its type in the UK until the end of 2005.

The latest models raise the bar appreciably. …

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