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by Steve Siler

Land Rover Freelander
2003 Land Rover Freelander

Ironic that this most British of SUVs is named after the Free Land, eh? Because the Freelander doesn't come with any land, and at $25-$32K, it's certainly not free.

However, consider the name to be evocative of freedom of movement and traversing land; suddenly you have two concepts that more than describe the nimble and charismatic Freelander. After all, being a Land Rover means that it wouldn't get out the factory door without everything it takes bound across terra firma and terra not-so-firma alike. Being a Land Rover also means that it simply must deliver the kind of luxury accoutrements that we have come to expect from any automobile from the Motherland. And finally, being a Land Rover means that it will feature a generous helping of good ol' British eccentricity, as evidenced by its eensy taillights, stack-o-boxes dashboard and ergonomics that, um, take a little learning.

But what are the British if not learned? Certainly, they've learned something about passenger-coddling and off-road athletics. Do they have any new tricks? Well, not in the engine compartment, where the old 175-hp V6 still does its best to move the heavy little Brit around over the river and through the woods. Opting for a manual shifter help both fuel economy and performance. But something that is new this year is the addition of a soft top, two-door model, with a rear roof section that folds back behind the rear seats in much the same way as the Suzuki Vitara or old ragtop Isuzu Amigo. A generous helping of fun, to be sure. Such cards, those Brits.