Freelander - History

Changes and expansion of the 4WD market causes Land Rover to launch a model for the small to medium sector.

1997    Freelander is launched. It is available in three body styles, 3-door hardback, 3-door softback and 5-door station wagon, with either a 1.8 K series petrol engine or a 2.0 L series diesel engine. There are two trim levels the I for petrol and DI for diesel and the XEI for petrol and XEDI for diesel. The differences are in the higher spec models having 16” alloy wheels, ABS and Hill descent control, uprated ICE, passenger airbag, air con. It rapidly becomes Land Rover’s most popular model.

1998    Two intermediate spec levels of the 5-door station wagon are launched, the XI for petrol and the XDI for diesel, these have metallic paint, 15” alloy wheels, and air con. Freelander 1.8 XEI is voted What Car? “Car of the Year 1998” and the Freelander is voted “Best Off Roader” by the magazine. Commemorative 50th Anniversary editions of the Freelander are launched to celebrate 50 years of Land Rover, in both 3-door and 5-door, these are available in only two colours (white gold and blue), and have added features, such as CD player, light guards, sidesteps, leather interior, and a special Commemorative badge inside the drivers door on the pillar.

1999    The XI and XDI spec levels are launched for the 3-door models. The Freelander becomes the top selling in Europe, beating its nearest rival by 40% (source LR). Special Millennium Editions are launched.

2000    Later in the year the new models are announced. The specification levels change to S, GS and ES. The 1.8 petrol engine remains the same but a 2.5V6 is added with an automatic gearbox, this is primarily for the North American market. The 2.0 L series diesel is replaced by the TD4 which is also available with the optional automatic gearbox. The new models are a major upgrade, with changes in suspension, electrics, steering, brakes, safety, as well as look changes like clear front indicator lenses. Land Rover now names these models as >MY01 and MY01, Series 1 and Series 2.

2001    Land Rover launches the ES-X trim level, with some slight enhancements over the ES, such as colour coded wing mirrors, it is only available in a limited number of colours. The Freelander is launched in the USA, initially only the 2.5V6 station wagon is available, new trim levels are apparent that will be available on the MY02 model in the UK. Major recall of the Freelander is announced, the main reason being the handbrake can release when knocked, on recall a number of other things are checked.

2002    The metal A nudge frame is voluntarily discontinued by Land Rover on all models, in line with European guidelines. The new MY02 model is rolled out, the new features are black dash, black leather seats and black interior, black bumpers and body parts, clear side repeater lenses, clear rear indicator lenses, dash mounted cup holder and rear armrest cup holder. Although all the new parts do not filter through at the same time.

2003    Who knows, the rumours are a facelift, to give it a family look like the new Range Rover and the restyled Discovery, which should just be new headlights and some other minor enhancements before a complete new model in 2004/5.

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