Last night a Freelander saved my life.
When we were down a support vehicle, we asked the folks at Land Rover if they had anything we could nab. The answer was a soccer mom's dream.
Here's a bit of XCAR 'how it works' for you. We borrow a car, research it, film it and head on to the next one. So far, so motoring journalism, but while you see the 'star car' in our films, you often don't see our support vehicles.
We've had a few over the last eighteen months: a Citroen C4, a Skoda Fabia, and our beloved ToyARTa Hilux. Before our current steed, a SEAT Leon, we had a gap that needed filling. Enter stage right, the Land Rover Freelander.
Standing small as LR's entry-level vehicle, it's been around in numerous guises for a while. Ours, a front-wheel drive manual 2.0-litre diesel, was a perfect fit for what we needed. It had plenty of space to store a crane, tripod, and a cameraman (they don't sleep, they wait) in the back, while being easy to drive AND relatively economical.
The ideal support vehicle, for us, needs to be a number of things. It needs to be comfy as we inevitably cover a long distance to get to a location. We're thankful for the heated seats in this one, and the DAB radio. And, come to think of it, the big switches. They're designed to be used with gloves in the arctic tundra, but they're also pretty handy if it's 4am and your medical grade coffee hasn't kicked in yet.
While the boys are doing their filming thing, I tend to retreat to somewhere out of the way to learn my lines and, occasionally, have a snooze (why not?), so thank goodness for comfy seats.
Economy is a great help, too. Y'see, unsurprisingly, our expense bills get pretty big -- supercars don't fill themselves and sorting two cars over a long distance is often a touch crippling. The Freelander's ability to manage over 30 mpg was a definite help.
In our little world, support vehicles need not be able to tackle corners at 90 mph without breaking a sweat, but they do need to be able to travel at a smooth 30 to 40 mph over rough terrain without things getting too bumpy -- else cameras start dropping off cars. Guess what the rugged Freelander was reaaaallly good at?
There do have to be a few downsides to the Freelander, though. In this case, it's how it was used -- largely as a bin. Being on the road at stupid a.m. with a sunrise deadline to be on location means pit stops for a service station breakfast have to be quick, or performed on the fly.
All in all, the Freelander was a cracking motor and I'd gladly recommend it to anyone who wants something off-roady (four-wheel drive is available if you want to tackle serious stuff, obviously), but wants to keep things economical (ish), and have room for people and things.
Like all our support vehicles it was invaluable, though like your mum's hand or arms in an old photo, you'll barely notice it was ever here.