Freelander Is No Soft Option

Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), July 9, 2004 | Go to article overview

Freelander Is No Soft Option


Byline: By Val Jessop

Her view:

Soft-roader tends to be a phrase applied to the less serious, less masculine mud-plugger. They're the ones that growl testosterone, but in fact very often do not have the bravado to live up to the projected image.

They might look the part, but their natural environment is the highways and byways and the high street, where owners enjoy flexing the inflated flanks of their heavy metal.

Nothing wrong with that ( as long as they don't take up more than one parking slot. And why not indulge in a little parading, aided by overblown biceps and sidebars ( those that are legal, of course ( and meaningful roof rails, while posing as a worthy contender for the Paris/Dakar dash or the African Safari. Just so long as they don't attempt to take part!

The soft-roader fulfils the ambitions of most armchair adventurers without getting a speck of mud on the mud flaps.

Most of these vehicles can boast four-wheel-drive and an array of traction and stability devices that cope well on Tarmac. But take them out of the concrete jungle and into the real one and most would be pretty handicapped.

But not the Freelander.

Land Rover's baby Discovery/Range Rover can tackle most of the nightmarish assault courses dreamed up by the 4x4 track supremos at Solihull. "Fly on the wall" is what springs to mind when recalling one particular series of near vertical ascents and descents I encountered there.

Smaller it may be, but Land Rover's baby can still tackle many of the challenges that its big brothers can pull off.

Being thrown around a sodden, swampy field at breakneck speed by one of the 4x4 rally anoraks felt like dodgems on ice. …

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