Range Rover Freelander
Gets Wrinkle Job
Cues Added To Suggest Links With Bigger, Expensive Brother
Update improves interior, facia, ergonomics
This face-lift looks as though the National Health might have been responsible.
Land Rover has tried to turn the Freelander into a more in-yer-face, macho looking machine with a mid-life styling update. At first glance, this seems to have missed the mark and messed up what was a clean, simple and attractive looking Sport Utility Vehicle. It will certainly look more aggressive as it looms into your rear-view mirror, but it wont earn points for prettiness. At least that was my first impression of the revamped new Land Rover Freelander when I first saw it at the Frankfurt Car Show early in September.
But it is along way from the almost scary, bullying ugliness of the upmarket Porsche Cayenne SUVs front-end which seems to scream get outa my way, Im rich and important.
Land Rover says it has added a touch of the top-of-the-range Range Rovers family look to the little Freelanders front grille, with new lights and front bumper. This is supposed to achieve a Range Rover family look, but I cant see it. The rear bumper is now body coloured, and the tail lamps have been repositioned higher, improving their visibility and reducing the likelihood of being obscured by road grime or off-roading dust.
Delamere Forest, Peak District
But after driving the Freelander around the Delamere Forest near Manchester and over the Peak District, the impression is much more favourable. Land Rover was keen to underline the off-road abilities of the car, and driving it through dirt tracks and forest trails, testified to the cars ruggedness. Unfortunately, the lack of rain, even in Manchester, meant that its abilities as a mud-plugger werent really tested. On the road, the Freelander performs well. I drove the 2.0 litre diesel and 2.5 V6 petrol versions, and technically they remain almost unchanged from the previous models. The original 1.8 litre petrol remains the entry-level option.
The cabin has been redesigned and this is a big improvement on the old model. There is a new facia, new instruments, switchgear, door trims and improved seats. The suspension settings have been revised. There is also a sports version with a 30mm lowered suspension, road-biased tyres and 18-inch wheels to give improved on-road dynamics.
There continues to be two body styles, with a three-door version featuring a detachable hardback or fold up softback, and a five-door. The competition in this sector is considerable, and possible Freelander buyers will also be looking at terrific cars like the Nissan X trial, Honda CRV, Toyota Rav 4, and BMWs latest conception, the X3, although the latter is probably going to be too expensive for this group. The next generation Freelander was going to be based on the X3, but when Land Rover was sold to Ford, BMW made sure it kept hold of the Freelander plans.
The most practical purchase in the Freelander lineup is probably the diesel with the automatic gearbox. The five-speed auto box has a neat manual override, for that once in a lifetime event when you think I think Ill switch to manual for a moment. The 2.5 V6 petrol goes better and sounds great. Dont expect the petrol version to be very economical though.
Land Rover Freelander
Engine - 1,951 cc diesel, 4 cylinder
Power - 112 bhp
Acceleration - 0 to 60 mph 14.3 seconds (auto)
Top Speed - 100 mph
Gearbox - 5-speed automatic
CO2 - 240g/km
Fuel consumption - Combined 32.8 mpg (claimed)
Length - 4,423mm
Height - 1,708 mm
Width - 1,809 mm
Full-time four-wheel drive with Electronic Traction Control, Hill Descent Control, Eelectronic Brakeforce Distribution
Price - to be announced - old model with similar specification - around 28,700 euros
Pluses - Rugged, classy
Minuses - So is the competition
Score out of five - *** - three
Neil Winton, September 23, 2003