Land Rover Freelander

Mk1 Freelander Series 1

Land Rover logo1 Feb 1998

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