CAR CLINIC: The Land Rover Freelander is second to none - Daily Nation

There are few cars that boast this baby Rover’s comfort and off-road capabilities

Wednesday October 18 2017

Land Rover Freelander 2 (2013). PHOTO| COURTESY

Land Rover Freelander 2 (2013). PHOTO| COURTESY 

By Baraza JM
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Hi Baraza,

I’m trying to buy a Land Rover Freelander from the UK; I can’t seem to get one in Japan.  From your posts I see they have an issue because of our dirty diesel. Any other vehicle in that range that you would advise me to get?


The Freelander’s problems transcend fuel quality; and anyway, if our not-anymore-dirty diesel makes you nervous, why not shop for a petrol-powered Freelander?

The immediate list of “other vehicles in that range” is a bit lengthy if you look towards Japan with its -Trails and RAV 4s and CRVs, and that list is mostly irrelevant because the Freelander is not what many people think it is. Sure, it is a mid-sized crossover type, but it is also a bit more than that.

It is a baby Land Rover. Does this sound like stating the obvious? Let us see what makes a Land Rover a Land Rover:

i) Land Rovers are off-road cars, and the Freelander falls squarely into that category. Let no one lie to you that an X- Trail or a CRV is equally off road-capable; there are only two other vehicles of this class that even come close: one is the Suzuki Vitara, aka the Escudo, and the other is the Subaru Forester, which is a bit smaller and rides lower than both the Land Rover and the Suzuki. However, neither in this Japanese pair qualifies for the second Land Rover characteristic:

ii) Land Rovers are luxury cars, and the Freelander falls squarely into that category as well. Before you shout “But the Defender...!” first read up on the Heritage versions of that square brick then come back and claim it is not luxurious. All Land Rovers are luxury cars, which places them in the premium segment and they are priced accordingly.

The last Freelander I reviewed in this column cost Sh9 million off the showroom floor, and it looked and felt worth every hard-earned penny of that amount. People mistook it for a Range Rover everywhere I went with it, and when a headlamp was gnawed off in a cringe worthy traffic incident (ouch!) the police who handled the matter grinned widely because they thought all their birthdays had come at once, only for their faces to drop when they realised the driver was an outraged penniless hack in search of an accident report for a hit-and-run. I am digressing.

The Freelander really is a luxury vehicle inside; so smooth, so quiet, so powerful, so light, so airy; it is a Range Rover without the name or the air suspension.

In this sector, only equally European fare like the Audi Q5, the former Mercedes GLK and probably the BMW X3 can even look it in the face, but surprisingly, none feels as expensive, as bourgeois,  as definitively upper crust as this British bulldog, were it not for their snobbish badgework. Also none of these Euro-snobs can wander far off a leaf-strewn path without tripping over their expensive shoes.

That leaves a surprising conclusion. The Freelander straddles two worlds and that makes it the leader in a class of one. It has only one real rival, and that is its own brother: the similarly-priced entry level Land Rover Discovery XS (either the 3 or the 4, same difference), again without air suspension.


*Disclaimer: all sentiments expressed herein refer to the Freelander 2 model.

Hallo Sir ,

I would like your advice on which is the better car between a Mitsubishi Outlander and a Toyota Harrier.


The Harrier is better.


Hi Baraza,

I recently sold my Toyota Passo for an upgrade. I love the new shape Toyota Premio but  the 2011 Mazda Premacy is giving me sleepless nights. Yeah, I know the comparison is a bit weird but sir, please help me on this.



Hi Sam,

I can’t really help you given the little information you have provided. A saloon car and a minivan appeal to different target markets based on dominant application and you say nothing about what you plan to use the car for. 


Hi Baraza,

I am planning to buy locally used, second-hand, single-cab pick-ups, one to transport heavy agricultural products over medium distances on hilly territory and the other for light transport in the city. Please advise on the best types. My budget is between Sh500,000 and Sh750,000.



Hello Peter,

For use on hilly roads in highland areas with heavy loads, what you need is turbocharged engine that is diesel-powered.

For light city transport, you want a small pickup, preferably a cheap and uncomplicated one.


My car has spacers on the four wheels and I’m planning to have Monroe shocks instead of the spacers because I was told insurance will not pay if a car with spacers is involved in an accident.  Kindly advise.



Just confirm with your insurance agent whether or not spacers void your insurance cover. Different agencies and different policies have different terms and conditions. Read the fine print.


Which is the right way to drive an automatic car?

Hi Barasa,

I’m a keen follower of your articles and have benefited immensely from your expertise. All my previous questions have received your attention. Now, educate us a bit on how to drive automatic cars efficiently because I have realised that we have different ideas regarding how to drive them. Personally, I press the accelerator gently, then when I feel/think the car is shifting gear, I release it. Should one do this or just press it continuously?



Hello Itonga,

Unless you are slowing down, just keep applying the gentle but constant pressure. Throttle position sensors and the laws of physics can easily do you in where economy is concerned. This is why.

When you come off the power, engine braking applies and the car loses momentum. Every time you get back on the power, the injectors initially feed in just a little bit more fuel than is needed before the load sensors in the engine tell the ECU that not that much power is needed, after which fuel delivery tapers off towards zero as building momentum equals reduced demand from the engine.

Excessive throttle control (getting on and off the power frequently) is actually wasteful with an EFI engine, you are better off with constant pedal pressure. You don’t need to lift every time your autobox shifts up.


Hi Baraza,

Thanks for your weekly dose of motoring.

1. What is your opinion on the biometric e-driving licence (hope I got the name right).  What will it do differently from the current driving licence? Will it make Kenyans better drivers, reduce accidents or corruption among NTSA officers on the roads? Will it have deductible points like in other countries. Are we ready for it?

2. Apart from harassing speed violators on the road and dealing with drunk drivers, what else does NTSA do to make our roads safe.

3. Regarding school bus safety, isn’t the Bill that was assented to by the President a duplicate of what we already have? What’s your opinion on the same?

4. The third identifier sticker introduced by the NTSA, is it another money-minting scheme and how come motorists are not protesting against it. Will it affect all vehicles or only those that go for inspection, namely PSVs and commercial vehicles.

5. There has been word that soon we will have toll roads in Kenya, including the  many bypasses, on  Mombasa Road/Highway, and on the Nairobi-Eldoret Highway;  is it worth it? Motorists already pay too many taxes in fuel taxes and levies for road maintenance. Doesn’t it sound fraudulent?Passengers also pay high fares due to these many taxes on fuel. What’s your take?

6. According to the current vehicle classification, where does Class E end and where does Class A begin?  I was stopped a while ago while driving my 10-wheeler lorry with a BCE qualification and the cop claimed it was  beyond that class. I had no way of verifying this at the time and departed with some loose change for the cop. Kindly enlighten me on this.



Hello Brian,

1. The “biometric e-licence” is primarily the advent of technology, humanity’s inevitable march towards paperlessness, a march that originated in finance systems with the introduction of ATM cards, then spread to literature in the form of e-books and is now creeping up on personal credentials. The leafy hardcover papyrus booklet we so fondly hand over to traffic policeman with quaking fingers will soon head the dodo way.

However, I don’t think the new electronic thingy was conceived out of green initiatives or out of recognition of the fact that technological advancement cannot be stopped; the real reason is a bit more sinister. Big Brother can watch you a bit more closely now, and the number of doors you can escape through after dabbling in naughty behaviour are becoming fewer. You will be able to carry your own criminal record around with you inside that card everywhere you go, meaning any policeman with a card-reader who notices you walking on the wrong side of the tracks can stop you, plug your card into his machine and immediately see that you had been booked for a similar infraction just half an hour earlier, and he can use this information to toss you in the clink on the basis that your three strikes are up and you are insistently antiestablishment.

This card can carry a lot more than just your driving record. It could easily contain your tax information as well, which means if and when it is plugged into a card reader, you could be arrested for other reasons besides a traffic offence. We are heading to where the United States is now: the driving licence is a multipurpose ticket that contains your name, your address and flags you immediately if you are the subject of a manhunt. Big Brother has a high-tech dragnet.

Will it make Kenyans better drivers? In the long run, yes, when repeat offenders eventually discover that their bad habits attract a cumulative stain that will result in their license being revoked when they attain a certain high score. This will also affect the number of accidents because these types of records will include how many accidents you are involved in and if crashing is a pattern you have. If you build a reputation as a demolition derby-ist, your licence can be revoked as well. People will be forced to be more careful on the roads and the number of accidents will consequently drop.

I do not know whether it will help curb corruption. If I am busted and I hand over a well-folded Sh1,000 note instead of my driving licence, whether that licence is papery or paperless will make absolutely no difference. Corruption in the traffic department has its own cure, and it’s not paperless licences.

The points system will definitely be there; otherwise it would just be a waste of tech. In fact, the points system is exactly why licences are digitised. It is easier to track miscreants digitally. We might not be ready for it, but neither was Mr Anderson when agent Smith grabbed him by the neck and forced him to listen to the sound of inevitability. We might not ready for the electronic licence, but we will adapt because that is the sound of inevitability... or we face extinction as drivers.


2. The road safety effect of the NTSA is not the intended one. The safety is passive – instilled out of fear. The NTSA is the boogeyman that scares little children into eating their vegetables and teenage girls from walking alone at night. You speed, the NTSA will get you. Fail to observe lane discipline, the NTSA is lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce. Overlap, oh, snap; here comes the green-and-white. This is sometimes counterproductive because we have been reduced to NTSA-spotters at the expense of observing road conditions. We spend far too much time watching out for green-and-white cars, or staring into our instrument clusters that we may fail to notice road hazards. Screech, hoot, hoot, crash, bang, smash, tinkle, crack, weep, weep, blood, tears, wives, lives, medical bills, antidepression pills, skeletal chills, burial hills, unsigned wills, RIP. I might be dead now but at least I avoided that pesky NTSA fine, right? Right?


3. I don’t understand. A duplicate of what, exactly? An existing law?


4. The third identifier sticker has been put on ice for the time being, and rightly so. I was on the verge of donning sack-cloth and waving palm fronds in the middle of the bypass while chanting “Haki Yetu” as beleaguered motorists do their best to simultaneously read their speedometers and evade the road hazard that I present in my fetching gunny bag frock. And why would they not join me, you ask? But I just told you: they are beleaguered.

Being a Kenyan motorist at this moment is a very trying affair. You have to battle matatus, trucks, traffic police and fresh graduates from all manner of driving schools, real or imagined. You have to watch the fuel prices as you drive past each petrol station because the ERC might have a brainwave whose effects are both immediate and far-reaching and can put paid to your best-laid plans. Try driving a twin turbo Subaru with only Sh200 in your pocket. You tend to notice such mundane details as one forecourt selling petrol at 96.15 and the next one at 96.23.

Combine this motoring hell with the hell of being a Kenyan, living in a country suspended in economic limbo because we are too politically immature to decisively select a president for ourselves. The threat of protesters ruining your day just when you are about to start your usual slog. The exponential increase in the cost of living with no attendant adjustment in monthly wage. Rising insecurity. All these are enough to occupy a mind for three lifetimes, so when the NTSA says they are introducing a third, or fourth or even fifth sticker, it is difficult to give a damn because there is already too much going on around us.  So we dismiss the thought to the back of our heads until such a time as we need to cross that bridge, and that is when we get to it: when we finally see a newspaper headline screaming “NTSA to impound vehicles without 12 stickers beginning tomorrow.” Then we will run to the nearest NTSA office or Huduma centre or whatever government outlet to get those stickers.


5. Nothing is ever worth what it is paid for in Africa. I will not call the toll roads fraudulent, but what they are is unfair. As you rightly point out, we pay far too much in taxes, the government borrows far too much in foreign aid, project prices are massively overinflated and the debt transferred to the mwananchi and what thanks do we get?

“If you like the new roads so much, you will have to pay to use them.”



6. Class A allows one to drive a motor omnibus. These are typically buses with seating for 25 or more, and the class A is almost always accompanied by the BCE stamp because you cannot train directly for class A without going through BCE first. Class E allows one to drive a motor vehicle not exceeding 4,000 lbs (something just shy of two tonnes) tare weight, which loosely translates to “regular passenger cars”.

That cop deserved the loose change he wangled out of you because you are the unwitting one here. “No way of verifying this?” You had your licence with you, didn’t you? What class of vehicles does the C in BCE represent?  “Commercial vehicles exceeding 4,000 lbs. Tare weight”. It is written right there on page 2 of the driving licence. What is a 10-wheel truck? It is a commercial vehicle exceeding 4,000lb. Tare weight. These trucks have their tare weights and load capacities written on the side of the cabin, usually on one of the doors or the panel behind it. How were you not able to argue your way out of that? I think the cop spotted a greenhorn from afar and successfully had his way with him. Sorry.


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