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The fix is in for Freelander

Design direction: Geoff Upex with what is believed to be an early sketch of the next Freelander.

Land Rover tackles Freelander shortcomings in new generation model

15 Oct 2004

LAND Rover’s next generation Freelander, due in 2006, will be a substantially improved vehicle that addresses the key limitations of the current model, according to design director Geoff Upex.

Speaking exclusively to GoAuto at the Australian International Motor Show, Mr Upex identified the existing Freelander’s shortcomings as being in the areas of "powertrain, poor luggage space and a non-height-adjustable driver seat".

These handicaps and a high price vis-a-vis its rivals have meant the Freelander has remained a niche player in the booming Australian compact off-roader segment.

But it has fared well in Europe and Land Rover managing director Matthew Taylor said the heavily facelifted version launched late last year had increased sales there by 11 per cent.

Mr Upex revealed the all-new Freelander is close to being signed off, which indicates it may be unveiled at next September’s Frankfurt motor show, if not sooner. It is likely to go on sale in Europe in early 2006 and should arrive here later that year.

As with the current Freelander, the new vehicle will be built on a monocoque chassis – in all likelihood a derivative of the C1 platform that underpins the Volvo S40/V50, Mazda3 and new Ford Focus. This platform is also expected to form the basis for the imminent Volvo XC50 all-terrain vehicle.

Although unconfirmed by Mr Upex, it is believed the new Freelander will use Volvo-sourced engines, including the five-cylinder units that power the S40 and V50.

The 2.4-litre normally aspirated version produces 125kW and 230Nm, while the 2.5-litre turbo variant pumps out 162kW and 320Nm. Of course, the engine line-up will also include diesel powerplants – perhaps borrowed from elsewhere in the Ford parts bin.

Transmission choices are expected to include five and six-speed manuals and a CVT (continuously variable transmission). The Freelander will also pioneer a new 4WD system developed by Haldex.

The Haldex system is expected to debut in the Volvo S40/V50, but the Freelander will use a more sophisticated version that is more capable off-road. Mr Upex was tight-lipped on the subject.

The new Freelander may derive its styling inspiration from a Land Rover design study unveiled earlier this year. It is believed the concept also points the way to a new mini-SUV that will be positioned below the Freelander in Land Rover’s line-up.

European sources suggest that production of the next Freelander will be switched from Solihull to Halewood on Merseyside, where it will be made alongside Jaguars. This would be consistent with Ford’s efforts to cut costs by sharing as much as possible between marques.

Meanwhile, Mr Upex said the imminent Range Rover Sport would set a new standard for on-road performance for a Land Rover, competing against the likes of the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5. But Mr Upex is adamant it won’t be a soft-roader.

"It has to be capable off-road, because that’s expected of anything wearing a Land Rover badge," he said.

Derived from the composite monocoque/ladder-frame chassis that underpins the new Discovery, the newcomer harks back to the original two-door Range Rover of the 1970s.

Performance will be a strong point with the range-topper using Jaguar’s 4.2-litre supercharged V8. The Range Rover Sport V8 Supercharged, as it is expected to be badged, will be the fastest Land Rover ever, with a near-240km/h top speed and a 0-100km/h time of less than seven seconds.

Other engines in the line-up are likely to be a 140kW turbo-diesel 2.7-litre V6 and a 220kW 4.4-litre V8. Both these units are offered in the new Discovery.

Weight loss program awaits Discovery 3

LAND Rover’s heavyweight new Discovery 3 SUV will be trimmed during the course of its life, the company’s global managing director Matthew Taylor said at the Australian International Motor Show.

The latest Disco, which goes on sale here in April 2005, weighs in at a range between 2486 and 2718kg.

While much else about the new vehicle has drawn praise, this aspect has created media controversy and criticism.

"I would sincerely hope it gets lighter," Mr Taylor said. "If not, I will be having discussions with the engineers." But Mr Taylor made it clear that he was "comfortable" about the Disco’s launch weight level.

"At the end of the day we built some very clear priorities into the performance of this car and we have met those priorities," he said.

"At the end of the day what you have to look at is are you delivering the customers' expectations?"

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