Way back in 2002, Land Rover got ahead of this whole "compact luxury SUV" craze by releasing the Freelander — possibly the first small luxury SUV on the market. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very luxurious, it was a bit truck-like, and it was certainly very unreliable — so most of these things have long disappeared.
But the Freelander always had one bizarre piece of design that irked me: its brake lights, which might just be the strangest of any car made in recent years.
To help explain what I mean, take a look at the rear picture of the Freelander I’ve posted above. You’ll see three different brake-light areas. One is the third brake light, which sticks out above the tire like a prairie dog looking for predators. Next, there’s the brake lights mounted where every brake light is always mounted, on either side of the tailgate. Finally, there’s a set of brake lights inexplicably located in the bumper.
But guess what? That set of brake lights on either side of the tailgate … doesn’t work. It doesn’t illuminate. And supposedly, it’s not because it’s broken: All U.S.-bound Freelander models left the factory with those lights permanently disabled. Here in the States, the only working brake lights were the ones in the rear bumper, and the groundhog one above the tire cover.
Which, naturally, begs the question … WHY?????
There were a lot of problems with this whole setup, but I’d say the main one was this: When you were following behind a Freelander, you were looking for the brake lights to light up in their normal spot, and then … they didn’t. The actual brake lights lit up feet below where you assumed they would, within the bumper. I’d bet anything this led to at least a couple of rear-end collisions with this vehicle, and maybe even the occasional fix-it ticket from a sharp police officer.
But this is how Land Rover designed it! Except, oddly, it isn’t. On European Freelander models, all three sets of brake lights turn on — including the ones next to the tailgate and the ones in the bumper. But when Land Rover shipped this car to America, they turned off those tailgate brake lights, leaving only the other two. I’ll always wonder why they did this, and — to my great disappointment — I strongly suspect I’ll never know. Then again, it doesn’t really matter that much: The number of Freelanders left on the road seems to diminish with each passing week. They’ve probably all been rear-ended. Find a Land Rover Freelander for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.