The Freelander outhandles, outbrakes, and outrides anything in the class. IT has a very sporty feel on the road, and is exquisitely comfortable off the road.
Compared to the Jeep Liberty, the only other SUV in this category that can match the Freelander offroad, the little Landie is much more fun to drive. On the road, it feels like an expensive European car and offroad it feels like it glides over obstacles without punishing the occupants.
The traction control and 4x4 system works extremely well. Even though the Freelander does not have a tradition low-range transfer case, it easily tackles most off-road tasks. In fact, its traction control even allows it to clear obstacles a traditional 4x4 might have trouble with, like a hillside covered with wet grass.
Clearance, however is the soft spot off road. The clearance in front is just 7 inches, less than a Subaru Forrester. If I could change anything, it would be to add another 2 inches of clearance.
Interior is very plain compared to most upper-end SUVs, although it is quirky and different (which is a positive in my book). Instrument panel could have been lifted from a 1980's era compact car, and there are plenty of hard plastics.
The leather seats are very comfortable, but lack any armrests in the front, and the height cannot be adjusted. I am 5' 10" and my head nearly touches the roof. A tall driver would have problems with the seating.
The engine is one of the smoothest I have experience in any vehicle (including Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, etc.). It has a nice sound when revved, but must stay at rather high RPM to produce power. Merging onto the freeway in heavy traffic can be a terrifying experience as the Freelander struggles to accelerate. 0 - 60 times are approaching 11 seconds.
The 5 speed transmission is very nice. It can be moved into normal mode, sport mode, or manual shift mode. Having a manual shift mode is great for mountain driving or when you are off roading.
One suprise - the paint seems unusually soft and easy to scratch. I use Zymol cleaner wax on all of my cars and it seems to chew through the clearcoat of the Freelander. I notice many more swirl marks and scratches on this vehicle compared to my others and I wash them all the same.
Overall, I would say that the Freelander is one of the best (if not THE BEST) small SUVs on the road, and off the road, it really has no peer outside the Jeep. If Land Rover could clean up some quality issues and spruce up the interior, I think they would have a hands down winner. More power under the hood wouldn't hurt either.