The North West

This weekend, I had the pleasure of heading off to the Northern Irish countryside - home of the NorthWest (motorcycle road racing - May 18h 2009!) - Port Rush. And you cant find a more friendly, pretty, hospitable place. The Harbour Bar food was excellent, as was the craic. Much guinness, Black Bush (We visited the Bushmills distillery) was consumed, and we had a wee sing-song in the snug bar.

Hertz had yet again decided that I needed a free upgrade, and this time gave me a Land Rover Freelander. When I first drove one of these, it was a mini-SUV style vehicle - a car on balloon tyres. A 'Soft-roader'. The new one is enormous - almost the same size as the huge Discovery. I had to climb into the seat. its been a while since I drove such a huge car, and after a succession of Minis, sports cars, and shopping trolleys - it was less like driving a performance vehicle and more like steering a supertanker. Once I had the GPS plugged in, the car defosting, and figured out the controls, I headed some 60 miles upcounry on unfamiliar roads. It reminded me of driving a Ford Explorer in the US (with the important distinction that the Freelander is obscenely huge here in the UK and the Explorer in the US is 'average').

And you know what, it wasnt at all bad. Acceleration - well it had *some* - and seemed to lurch around quite happily. Brakes were good, but this monster took a bit of stopping. Fuel economy - well. Even the Alfa (240 miles, 35 liters) was better than this (140 miles, 35 liters)

I can understand the attraction of something like this. If you *have* to drive off road, of course it makes sense. If you happen to transport massive loads around and want somehing nicer than a van, great. But the thought of some dozy distracted mother using this to drive the kids half a mile to school terrifies me.