The Land Rover Freelander was introduced to the market in 1997. It was an exciting time for Land Rover as it was the first compact SUV in Land Rovers model range, designed to compete with other small 4x4s that were starting to emerge onto the automotive market in the mid 1990’s.
When Head Designer, Gerry McGovern, was tasked with designing the Freelander whilst retaining an element of Land Rovers design heritage, allowing it to be instantly recognised as part of the Land Rover family. He achieved this by incorporating Land Rovers iconic vertical front end and straight lines along the side of the vehicle, along with Land Rovers ‘command’ drivers seating position, there was no mistaking the Freelander as anything other than a Land Rover.
What depicted the Freelander from other Land Rover models was its use of a monocoque body and strut suspension that was seen on other modern cars, instead of a ladder chassis that had been in use since the Land Rover Series 1. Although unlike other modern cars, the Freelander’s body had a subframe that included welded box-section rails, giving the vehicle a higher overall structural rigidity.
The Freelander came as a 3-door softback, a 3-door hardback and a 5-door estate, with 4 different engines to choices including the 1.8-litre petrol engine, the 2.0-litre diesel, the 2.0-litre diesel TD4, and the 2.5-litre V6. The Freelander was fitted with a manual gearbox as standard and the V6 featured an automatic Tiptronic-style gearbox, that was also given as an option on the TD4 engine.
The Land Rover Freelander’s off-roading capabilities in comparison to its competitors were far superior, despite the Freelander not having a low-range gear selection, or a locking differential (diff lock) like other Land Rover models. Instead, Land Rover introduced its All-Terrain technologies including Hill Descent Control (HDC) to the Freelander, which at the press of a button HDC will pulse the brakes and maintain a target speed of 5mph. Land Rover also introduced Intermediate Reduction Drive (IRD), which acted as a front differential and fixed ratio transfer, along with the Viscous-Coupling (VCU) that reacts to different rotational speeds of the prop shaft to give the Freelander its all-wheel-drive ability.
Land Rover introduced an upgraded Freelander model in 2004 that included an uprated interior and exterior, with a new front and rear fascia.
Land Rover went on to release a second-generation model, in 2006, known as the Freelander 2. First unveiled at the British International Motor Show, the Freelander 2 came with some significant improvements including a more refined modern interior, whilst still maintained its fantastic off-roading capabilities and lively nature. Other differences in the Freelander 2, was the new engine choices, most popular being the 2.2 litre 157bhp TD4 diesel. There was also the 190bhp version in the SD4 engine, that came with a 6-speed automatic gearbox and for a brief period, Land Rover released the 3.2-litre 231bhp six-cylinder engine (available until 2008). In 2009, a stop/start engine (the TD4_e) was introduced which saw CO2 emissions reduced and the Freelander’s economy improved.
Finally, in 2010, a facelift version of the Freelander 2 was launched, featuring a new lights, grille, and bumper. Along with a 2-wheel-drive version and that became available into the UK in 2011, which was badged the 2 eD4.
Facts about the Land Rover Freelander
- The Freelander was Land Rovers first small 4×4 in its model range.
- Hill Descent Control (HDC) was so successful that Land Rover introduced this across their model range.
- The Freelander was the first Land Rover to have a monocoque body and strut suspension.
- The Freelander was available as a 3-door softback, a 3-door hardback and a 5-door estate model.
- The Freelander quickly became popular in Europe, with sales growing from 47,000 in its first full year, to 70,000 the year after.