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Land Rover Freelander

2001 February: 3-Door Softback V6 auto SE 37,950, 3-Door Softback V6 auto ES 41,950, 5-Door Wagon V6 auto SE 39,950, 5-Door Wagon V6 auto ES 43,950, 5-Door Wagon Td4 manual SE 39,950, 5-Door Wagon Td4 auto SE 41,950 ( 2/2001)


2000 August: New in the UK, a V6 2.5-litre Freelander and a Td4 2-litre direct-injection common-rail diesel. Prices are from 21,595 for the V6 3-door and 17,195 for the Td4 3-door S.

The alloy V6 (as fitted to the Rover 75) develops 130 at 6500r and 240 at 4000r. It can be had with a 5-speed automatic transmission with sport mode and Steptronic control.

In Land Rover's words "[the] new five-speed automatic Steptronic gearbox is equipped with several drive modes for maximum control. `Normal' mode provides for normal automatic change while moving the selector lever into the Steptronic gate gives a powerful new `Sport' mode. In this mode the gearbox changes down more readily and holds onto lower gears longer to give better acceleration and improved response In `Steptronic' mode a brief forward or backward movement of the lever gives up or down gear shifts with maximum ease. Steptronic allows fast, smooth gear changes and improves off road performance by giving more power and control to the driver."

The Td4 is a 2-litre, 16-valve, direct injection engine, with "common rail" injection and electronic throttle.

The 2001 model year Freelanders are distinguished by new bumpers, grille & trim and other minor styling changes. The top-line ES, with V6 or Td4, has heated front seats, leather seats, leather steering wheel, electric sun-roof, and CD auto-changer.


1998: Here it is at last, the (baby) Land Rover Freelander, but is it the way to future expansion and prosperity for Land Rover in an attempt to out-Japanese the likes of Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4?


everything that opens

and shuts
Landrover Freelander picture
3-door softback on show

and again

The Freelander is bigger than it looks: The Freelander's wheel-base is 100" (and a half"), nigh on the same as the original Range Rover (!) although it is about 100mm (4") shorter overall and lower than the latter, not to forget 500kg lighter and with an engine half the size] and 80% of the power. Interior room is good because the monocoque (aka unitary) construction gets the seats nearer to the ground without compromising headroom. The driver in particular gets a great impression of space, partly from the sloping windscreen which runs well forward. The engine is transversely mounted which also makes efficient use of space, in fact the engine is almost lost in the engine bay sitting quite low; one wonders if there is enough space to do the Subaru trick of putting the spare wheel and tyre in there instead of hanging them on the back of the car. Luggage space behind the rear seats is "adequate"; it is more a car for a weekend away than a major 4WD expedition.

Land Rover purists may question the lack of a two-speed transfer case and centre differential: Billed as full-time four-wheel-drive, the Freelander drives the front wheels directly in front wheel drive style and drives the rear wheels through a viscous coupling. An interesting touch is to make the rear differential ratio slightly "taller" than the front (3.214:1 v. 3.188:1 with the petrol engine) so that some torque is always going through the rear wheels, even in the absence of any wheel slip at the front.

Engines are a 1.8 litre petrol engine, the K-series, as in the MG-F sports car but very differently tunes, and a 2 litre turbo-charged diesel. Rover may have given Honda, Subaru and Toyota a rod to use on its back in only offering a 1.8L petrol engine. The opposition parties have 2 litre engines with approximately 10% more power. If you do four wheel driving you will know that flexibility is more important than outright power and the Rover's engine delivers maximum torque at just half the rev's of maximum power where the others come in much higher; however this point may be lost on the Freelander's intended market. The diesel's figures look good in anyone's book. Both the petrol and the diesel engines have drive by wire electronic throttles rather than cables or links.

Suspension, both front and rear, is by MacPherson struts - no live axles here. This gives car-like handling on the road. Just in case braking depresses the nose too far onto a rock, a sturdy bash-plate protects the engine and transmission. It is also claimed that the suspension links are strong enough to support the car if it gets hung-up on a rock.

The basic trim level is the Freelander i/di (petrol/diesel). The more luxurious XEi/XEdi comes with a passenger airbag, six-speaker stereo system and other extras. It also has ABS brakes, electronic traction control (ETC), and a new hill descent control (HDC) system; these all come courtesy of the anti-lock brake sensors and controls which, apart from their usual function, can also apply the brake on a spinning wheel to transfer torque to the other side (ETC), and can walk the car down a hill at 6mph in first gear or reverse while preventing the locking of any wheel (HDC), even slowing it to 4mph if it detects a particularly rough section. It is claimed that HDC will make up for the lack of a low-range transfer case to some extent. (It would be particularly useful in an automatic transmission model.)

Two bodies styles are available, both on the same platform and hence wheelbase. The 3-door can be had as a softback or a hardback depending on the choice of tailgate and rear roof panels. The 5-door suffers from a styling compromises as a consequence of that single wheelbase, just as the early Range Rover did when it went four door - the rear doors are heavily cut into to get around the rear wheel arches. It is easy enough to get in and out but the styling does not look quite right in this area. It wouldn't be surprising if, in a year or three when the new Discovery (code name Tempest) has grown and moved up-market, an improved Freelander gets a larger petrol engine and an extended wheelbase at least on the 5-door.

The rear tailgate of the 5-door can provide hours of fun: The window glass is frameless. When the rear door closes, the electric window mechanism raises the glass another half an inch or so to make a good dust seal against the bodywork. When the door handle is grabbed to open the rear door, the glass first drops the half inch before the door latch releases. Those with time on their hands can try to beat this system (fruitlessly). It does raise the question of how to open the back if the battery is flat.

Freelander prices start at 28K for the 3-door petrol model, and go up to 39K for the 5-door diesel with the lot (Aus), just about where the base model Discovery currently starts - so you can have a "hose-out" Disco' or a comfy Freelander.

All in all the Freelander is a very clever car. It is not a "hard" four wheel drive but it shows many serious touches based on Land Rover's years of experience offroad. With 12 variations from two body styles, softback/hardback, two engines and two trim levels (i/di and XEi/XEdi) it can play mix and match with the best of them. If Rover can build them to a high level of quality it deserves to do well.

Land Rover Freelander 1998.

  • bodystyle, 5 seats, 4 doors, driver's airbag
  • loa: 4382mm (inc' spare), width: 1805mm (2074mm mirrors), height: 1757mm
  • approach: 30, ramp-over: 156, departure: 34
  • weight: 1425kg (unladen), GVM: 1960kg (petrol), 2050kg (diesel)
  • K-series, 1796cc, petrol, 4-cyls, mpfi, 4-valves/cyl, dohc
    • bore: 80mm, stroke: 89.3mm, c.r.: 10.5:1
  • L-series, 1994cc, diesel, 4-cyls, direct injection, 4-valves/cyl, sohc
    • bore: 84mm, stroke: 88.9mm, c.r.: 19.5:1
  • transmission: 5m, the gearbox drives the front wheels directly and the rear wheels through a viscous coupling, no cntre diff'
  • suspension: MacPherson-strut/MacPherson-strut, brakes: disc/disc, ABS on XE models
  • tyres: 195/80R15 on steel 5.5Jx15 std, 195/80R15 on alloy 5.5Jx15 (5 door XE), 215/65R16 on alloy 6Jx16 (3 door XE) or 225/55R17 on alloy 7Jx17 (accesory), fuel tank 59L
  • also available as 3-door: 4-seats, 1425kg, softback version has removable rear roof
  • insurance rating: NRMA 16 points
  • prices: 3-door softback i 27,950, XEi 31,950, hardback XEi 33,450, 5-door wagon i 30,950, XEi 34,950, di 32,950, XEdi 36,950;
    options (all models): air-con 2000,
    options 5-door i/di: ABS+ETC+HDC+air-con 3,800 (Aus 1998)
  • rivals: Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4

Go to the 1999 diesel test drive, pre-release and Land Rover pages

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