Europe's best-selling SUV heads to U.S.

Thursday, June 21, 2001 at 1:00am

Land Rover has announced details of the 2002 Freelander, which will be launched in North America in the fourth quarter of 2001. Joining the already successful Range Rover and Discovery Series II, Freelander, the first all-new Land Rover for North America since 1995, will increase the British sport-utility maker's line of vehicles sold in the U.S. to three and has the potential of boosting U.S. sales by nearly 50 percent in calendar year 2002.

At launch for the North American market, Freelander, the smallest Land Rover, will be sold as a five-door model equipped with a V6 engine, permanent all-wheel-drive, a five-speed Steptronic automatic transmission and all-terrain anti-lock brakes as standard equipment. Both a cloth and leather interior trim package will be offered and prices are expected to start below $30,000. Land Rover North America is also considering the possibility of launching a three-door model at a later date.

"We are all looking forward to the North American launch of the V6-equipped Freelander," said Howard Mosher, president and CEO of Land Rover North America, Inc. "Freelander is a product that will open the exciting possibility of Land Rover ownership to many more people. This honest and tough little Land Rover will do very well in our market."

Freelander, which has been on sale in Europe as a four-cylinder gasoline and five-cylinder diesel model since 1997, is already acknowledged as possessing the widest range of capability on- and off-road in its market segment. The new Freelander, powered by a V6 engine, extends that span in both directions. It is even more civilized and fun to drive on pavement, as well as being easier to drive over difficult off-road terrain that would defeat less capable small sport-utilities.

Compared to the 1997 Freelander that was launched in Europe, the 2002 model is 70 percent new. The changes include an entirely new powertrain and extensive chassis improvements and substantially higher equipment levels across the range.

The power unit targeted for the North American market is Land Rover's KV6 engine. This is a 2.5-liter, 24-valve, double overhead camshaft unit that develops an estimated 175 bhp and 177 lb.-ft. of torque. Final output ratings for the North American-specification Freelander powerplant have not yet been established.

The V6 engine is exceptionally light and compact in relation to its capacity and power. It features all-aluminum alloy construction designed for structural rigidity and robustness.

Fuel injection is fully sequential and ignition is direct, with an individual coil for each spark plug. Engine management is via a Siemens 2000 system, which, in addition to controlling the fuel, idle and ignition, also monitors the VIS, the main radiator cooling fans and the fuel pump.

Making a key contribution to the luxury, sporting and off-road appeal of the V6-equipped Freelander is the new five-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. All V6 models are equipped with this advanced Jatco transmission. It offers either the smooth ease of an automatic or the responsive precision of a five-speed manual shifter.

The transmission's electronic control unit has sophisticated adaptive programming that enables it to analyze and understand the operating conditions and cooperate with the driver accordingly. In automatic mode, for example, the transmission can recognize the characteristics of mountain tracks, general hill-climbing or trailer towing.

Freelander features a permanent all-wheel-drive system as opposed to permanent four-wheel drive, which has been traditionally used in other Land Rovers. By definition, vehicles that always operate in four-wheel drive but possess no low range transfer case are categorized as all-wheel-drive, as opposed to four-wheel-drive vehicles. The Land Rover all-wheel-drive system, standard on every Freelander, is light, efficient and ideally suited for the size and intended multipurpose, all-terrain capability of Freelander.

Land Rover led the industry in successfully applying anti-lock brakes (ABS) to sport-utility vehicles. Since all-terrain ABS was first developed by Land Rover for its top-of-the-line Range Rover in 1990, the company has gained an unmatched level of expertise and worldwide operational experience in this very specialized area of engineering. Putting this knowledge to work, Freelander's engineers and designers have been able to achieve best-in-class off-road capability without the usual Land Rover facility of a low range transfer gearbox to assist climbing and descending steep, slippery gradients.

Filed under: Lifestyles