Freelander goes off road

  • Buyers of new Land Rover product receive a complimentary Experience session
  • Can book at one of seven centres around UK including Eastnor home of Land Rover
  • Three-hour session is tailored to customer requirements and includes on and off-road

Purchase a brand new Land Rover and you’ll receive a complimentary three-hour Experience session to test the brand's famed go-anywhere ability.

Sessions can be tailored to a customer's requirements and provides a chance to get to really know what their vehicle is really capable of. Customers can specify a solely on-road route, completely off-road or a mixture of both.

The good news for nervous owners is that you don’t use your own car for the Experience as each centre has its own models that it uses. These are standard cars even down to the tyres.

However, I wanted  to use the Land Rover Freelander we are currently testing to see how good (or otherwise) it is off road.

The Experience was held at Eastnor, near Ledbury, the long-time home of Land Rover, and a place where the British brand spends time testing out its new products. Eastnor was also the first Land Rover Experience centre to be set up and is now one of seven places in the UK, and one of 34 worldwide.

Freelander at Eastnor Experience

I was paired up with instructor Clive Symmonds, who took me through what the course could offer and asked me what I would like to get out of the day.

‘We always tailor the Experience to what customers want to get out of their time here,’ says Clive. ‘For some that will be just off-roading and discovering what their vehicle is capable of, for others it will be on road tuition.’

For the first part of the Experience Clive did the driving and took me through a demo drive to reveal the Freelander’s capabilities off-road, plus an explanation of the car’s off-road tech and some top driving tips to get the most out of it.

While Land Rover Freelanders are fitted with the Terrain Response system to make the most of the 4x4 system, they aren’t fitted with a low range gearbox, unlike other models in the range such as the Discovery.

However, the Freelander 2 is fitted with Hill Descent Control with adjustable speed so all you have to do is steer and the car does all the braking to control descents down steep slopes. This was graphically demonstrated by tackling a 1 in 1 hill (that’s 45 degrees!) with a dry mud surface.

It’s weird seeing nothing but sky as you reach the edge of the slope and then still seeing sky as the bonnet gently tips forwards before suddenly find your vision full of grass and dirt as you hang in your seatbelt.

Freelander tackling 1 in 1 slope

Steep it is but the Freelander controlled the descent and slowly wound its way down. You can hear the brakes and ABS system going like crazy but the car feels completely in control.

The same is true of the other obstacles we tackle. There's a water hole to test the Freelander's 500mm (over a foot and a half) wading depth which it dispatched with ease, plus a gnarly track that winds its way through trees, over thick tree roots and swerving deep, water-filled ruts that similarly failed to faze the Freelander.

It is easy to believe how customers who opt for the off-road Experience will be impressed by just how capable their car is not least because so few customers realise a 4x4’s capability on the rough stuff.

That said, the stats sheet reveals that a Freelander is a better off-road tool than its rivals because it was developed from the get go with off-roading in mind. Its wading depth, ground clearance and off-road tech combine to produce an impressive performance when charging through the green stuff.

Freelander over obstacle

The Experience brings that capability to light and shows owners how to use it safely. Clearly there are other off road experiences to be had and for those looking to take up the half-day, full-day and 'Advanced' Experiences won’t find them cheap.

However, the complimentary three-hour Experience is a much better way to understand what your Land Rover is capable of than resorting to flicking through the handbook and working it out for yourself. And that applies as much to on-road driving as it does to off.