Reassessing the familiar and seemingly unremarkable under cover of darkness.
There is something deliciously atmospheric about walking through a familiar landscape late at night. The normally bustling streets are silent, the lighting casts interesting reflections and even the mundane can become suffused with mystery and wonder.
I have walked past this particular Freelander innumerable times about my daily business and apart from the fact that it appears to be remarkably well-preserved for an eleven year old vehicle in this part of our perpetually rain-sodden isle, I have never really cast it a second glance. Yet parked against the backdrop of the apartment block’s fluorescent walkways, with the sodium glow of the streetlights casting warmer pinkish tones upon its paintwork, the architectural qualities of the Land-Rover’s design stopped me in my tracks. The scene simply begged to be photographed – poorly, in this instance. Sorry.
Our resident R. Herriott discussed the subject of lighting effects at greater length and with more genuine insight in the past, but it’s a subject which perhaps bears repeating. Because not only does a nocturnal streetscape allow one to view the familiar and unremarkable anew, in this case it also served to remind me how comparatively gracefully the L359-series Freelander 2 has aged from a stylistic perspective. Only the ugly wing-mounted vent and clumsy grille/bumper arrangement really stand out for visually jarring reasons.
By way of recap, the Freelander 2 debuted in 2006 as direct replacement for the highly successful, if woefully problematic L314 version. An entirely Ford-financed programme, L359 not only shared significant elements of the much-loved Jaguar X-Type’s EUCD platform and drivetrain, but was built alongside it at the former Escort plant at Halewood in Merseyside.
A more upmarket vehicle than its predecessor, it was also a more capable vehicle off the metalled track, and with far greater offroad capabilities than its mostly German prestige rivals. But while it was vastly better wrought than its frangible predecessor, it nevertheless showed its Land-Rover mettle in less desirable ways, proving it seems, a somewhat less than bullet-proof ownership proposition.
Despite selling consistently and strongly until its retirement in 2014, the L359 was not a huge commercial success for Land-Rover, the outgoing Evoque model (which along with the current Disco Sport was also based on its EUCD platform) outselling it by some margin. But given their shared heritage, the Freelander DNA could be said to live on within those vehicles JLR are producing now.
But whether one views the L359’s styling in a positive light or not, it’s difficult not to conclude that LR’s design team better combined the visual robustness one expects from brand Land-Rover with a modicum of stylistic refinement in this instance than they have subsequently achieved with the Freelander’s current Disco Sport evolution. Perhaps they ought to have got out more at night?