PS Technology Quotient: 34 (out of 50)
Road Manners: 6
An 18-inch crack in a 3,000-foot-thick glacier is small in the
greater scheme of things, but it's a formidable obstacle if your front wheels are stuck in it, as mine are.
Actually, not stuck so much as stymied, as the all-new Land Rover Freelander I'm testing on Iceland's Langjokull glacier noses to a stop, one rear wheel coming off the ground. But a touch of the throttle activates the traction control, and the vehicle claws free. Impressive.
Still, the entry-level Freelander also shows me its limits. The belly pan scrapes against the ground a few times as the fully independent suspension absorbs the terrain. That never happened with the solid axles of previous Land Rovers. And the Freelander's longish nose, which houses a transverse 174-horsepower V6, reduces visibility.
But such is compromise. The Freelander is not supposed to be the ultimate off-roader; it just aims to offer a compliant ride, some luxury features, and the cachet of the Land Rover name -- all in a package that costs half of what you'd expect. Mission accomplished.
What's New: The whole chassis, with independent suspension and front-wheel drive
What's Good: Standard all-wheel drive; the engine controls your descent on hills
What's Not: Power is only adequate; the belly pan gets lots of unintended use
Base Price: $25,600
Major Options: Upscale trim, $2,700
Bottom Line: Keep the pavement in sight
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.