You can't move for SUVs these days.
Land Rover's first Freelander was arguably the first 'styled' small SUV. Visually, it hangs together pretty well for a 21-year old design, which is just as well, as they didn't always hang together quite so well in the sense traditionally required by everyday motorists on a budget.
This 2002 example is from smack in the middle of the first model's nine-year run from 1997 to 2006. The first half of that time period was in the good old 'Treasure Island' days for the UK motor industry, when those of a creative bent could still make serious moolah by putting together paid-for manufacturer supplements in the car mags.
Shed remembers proposing an idea to Land Rover to help usher in its exciting new Freelander. It involved taking a couple of them to Africa for a bit of a thrash around with a photographer. "Er, will any of the driving include sand?" asked the oddly nervous LR operative tasked with the job of assessing the brilliance or otherwise of wheezes like this.
On being told that it would, the shutters immediately came down. Even before it went on sale, Land Rover seemed to be acknowledging that the Freelander wasn't really on a par with the Defender in terms of ruggedness.
It was an odd one for Land Rover, as buyers back then still expected Defender-type yompability from anything that bore the doughty green oval badge. Nowadays, of course, an SUV can be about as good off road as a Cadillac Eldorado and folk won't really mind, but in 1997 Shed does remember being shocked by this corporate admission of inadequacy, or at the very least by the surprising air of uncertainty.
As it turned out LR was right to be worried, there were a few problems in the early Freelander years, but even so, LR went on to sell a hell of a lot of them. Our Shed has the 2.5-litre KV6 engine that joined the range in 2001, plus a manual gearbox to transmit its mighty 174hp (or thereabouts) to the road (not the sand, remember, don't go near the sand) through a fairly simple 4x4 package untroubled by the complications of a double-range gearbox or locking diffs.
Land Rover's shining ability to create handsome and extremely able vehicles does seem to be matched by a corresponding inability to keep those vehicles going for more than ten minutes or so. That's an exaggeration, obviously, but there's no getting away from their generally terrible showings in reliability surveys, where they routinely finish next to last, beaten only in the customer disgruntlement stakes by Jeep.
Having said that, this V6 wasn't a bad motor. For a start, it had the major advantage of not being the chocolate head-gasketed K-series 1.8 four. The owner happily confirms that his V6 'drives and pulls in every gear as it should'. That's always good to know.Nobody wants a car that doesn't drive or pull in every gear, as it should.
As noted, most of the Freelander's endemic shortcomings made themselves known in the earlier part of its life cycle, so you'd hope that most if not all of the common faults - rear hub fractures, improperly secured front seats and a rubbing wiring harness that could disable most of the electrical systems - won't be rearing their ugly heads here.
The incident-free MOT history for this 91,000-miler appears to back up the idea that this is a decent example. It's just gone through the test with the only mention on the advisories section being a thin brake pad. Corrosion on the brake pipes and exhaust was addressed last year.
Shed has done more than his fair share of driving around with bald spare tyres heavily concealed under piles of rubbish in the back of various cars, but even though the spare tyre isn't part of the MOT test, he's not sure he'd be on the public highway with such a dodgy looking spare proudly mounted on the back for all to see, as here. He'd have preferred to see a towbar round the back. Not for towing stuff so much as protecting the Freelander during touch parking, an increasingly common manoeuvre in these fractious, time-poor days.