Land Rover has come up with a new model to join its existing Discovery and Range Rover sport utility vehicles in the United States. Available in Europe since 1997 and said to be leading the market there, the Freelander has been modified for the U.S. market as an all-new 2002 model. Ford bought the Land Rover company in 2000 and was able to carry through with importation of the Freelander, which will reach the United States near the end of 2001. Priced at less than $30,000, the U.S. version is said to be 70 percent new and more responsive than the European original.
Bob Dover, chairman and CEO of Land Rover, called the Freelander a small premium SUV aimed at driving enthusiasts. It benefits from a new powertrain, chassis improvements, and reduced levels of noise, vibration and harshness. The Freelander is the first Land Rover product with a unibody design and fully independent suspension. Availability of the Freelander should help Land Rover achieve its sales target, which is a 50 percent growth in the U.S. market. Starting in July 2001, prospects can place orders for the new model at the companys special Web site. A five-door model arrives first, and a three-door version could be added later.
Measuring 175 inches long overall on a 101-inch wheelbase, the Freelander stands 69.2 inches tall to the top of its roof rails. Land Rover emphasizes the Freelanders clean lines, which are intended to evoke the traditional Land Rover character. A broad front bumper helps to set the tone for the Freelander, which leads directly into the wheel arches. Generous wheel travel is provided: up to 7 inches at the front and 8 inches at the rear.
Offroad strength and rigidity are said to be comparable to traditional Land Rover models, helped by box-section rails and eight integral cross-members under the body. Aluminum alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires on the S model, but 17-inch tires go on the SE and HSE editions. A full-size spare tire mounts on the side-hinged rear cargo door. A spoiler-type sunroof is available as an option.
Seating is provided for five occupants, with buckets up front and a 60/40-split folding rear seat. Three trim levels are available S, SE and HSE with a cloth or leather interior. Standard equipment includes heated power mirrors, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, a security system with perimeter protection and an immobilizer, and a CD stereo with Radio Data System (RDS) station identification. Tinted glass is standard on the SE and HSE. Heated front seats and a six-disc CD changer are optional.
Under the Hood
A new 2.5-liter, 24-valve dual-overhead-cam V-6 engine delivers an estimated 174 horsepower and 177 pounds-feet of torque and teams with a five-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. Full-time four-wheel drive is standard, and the center viscous coupling is similar to that used on the big Range Rover. The transmission operates in Sport or Manual-Steptronic mode.
All-terrain antilock brakes are standard. Side-impact airbags are not offered. Each Freelander has a four-wheel electronic stability system, as well as Hill Descent Control with a push-button selector for use on slippery downgrades.