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Land Rover Freelander

Mk1 Freelander Series 1

Land Rover logo1 Feb 1998

By CHRIS HARRIS

THE Freelander has not been the success Land Rover had hoped for.

Released locally in February 1998, the diminutive 4WD arrived in three body styles – a two-door hardtop, a two-door cabriolet-style soft-top and a four-door station wagon, all built on a 2555mm wheelbase.

It was designed to quell the upswell of light SUVs led by Toyota’s RAV4, while upholding the British marque’s formidable off-road reputation.

But the early ones were too noisy, coarse and unrefined to lure urban buyers, while the missing dual-range gearbox, live rear axle and ladder-frame chassis also limited its 4x4 appeal.

Quality and reliability issues, tight interior packaging and the lack of a strong petrol powerplant (an 84kW/158Nm 1.8 four-cylinder engine, nicked from the MG-F sports car, and mated to a five-speed manual only gearbox) also held it back.

Only a 72kW/210Nm 2.0-litre OHC turbo-diesel four-cylinder unit proved more suitable. But this engine too came with no automatic gearbox, a serious marketing oversight.

It was, to borrow a British expression, all a bit of a cock-up.

Against the soaring Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester, the Freelander soon found the going tough in Australia.

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Land Rover models