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Free Wheelin'

BACK in the day when a 'bust' was a 'boom' Land Rover flew me to London to test drive the new Freelander.

'So what?' you say.

Well they got me to drive around the most fantastic off road track that had been specially built inside Battersea Power Station.

That was at the height of the boom, when the London landmark was owned by Treasury Holdings -- the property group owned by the pocket-sized developer Johnny Ronan.

How things have changed in those few years.

Change

Little-John has gone -- maybe to Morocco on a private jet with a former Ms World -- and Battersea Power Station is now owned by me.

Well, we all own it, through NAMA.

But the biggest change of all is that the Freelander has now become a two-wheel drive.

Since its launch a decade and a half ago, the Freelander has been one of the most popular 4x4s around -- it was Europe's best seller for five years in a row.

But the onset of those pesky greens and a need to become more accessible to the Irish market has meant a down-scaling of the Freelander from four to two.

As much as I love the reassurance of 4x4, I'm not all that troubled by its inception as a 2WD.

That's because in my book the Freelander is the best looking mid-sized jeep on the market, and that happily has not changed.

Neither has the performance, and if anything this felt faster and fleeter of foot on the open road -- take-off in particular was a joy.

For me the shape of the Freelander is the cherry on top and there is still that beautiful roofline, which rises wonderfully at the rear.

This is complimented by those aggressive wheel arches, gorgeous grille and stunning clamshell bonnet.

It has become more space age at the back too with a wraparound style window.

And wait one second, is this Freelander bigger than the last?

It certainly looks it from the outside, and it definitely feels it from the inside.

I've read that it's bigger than its rivals the KIA and the BMW.

It now feels like a big 4x4, which is only a good thing for those of us who like our cars manly.

This in turn offers a higher driving position, for that surprisingly exciting ride.

Those who are interested the green bit follows.

Impressive

There is a combined economy of 47.2mpg, which isn't that impressive, and is barely all that much cleaner than its 4x4 sibling.

But I don't really care for all that sort of stuff.

The Land Rover Freelander 2WD is a joy no matter what you think about its green credentials.

The Freelander 2 will cost between €29,000 - €52,000 depending on spec.


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