It can often be risky for a car company with a long, established history within a specific market segment to introduce a new vehicle. One of the primary problems is that after so many years if producing an automobile known for possessing certain characteristics, any new product which deviates from the established formula is almost certainly bound to attract at least a smattering of negative attention, whether it be from longtime fans of the brand or the automotive press. This is particularly problematic due to the fact that broaching a different area of the market almost by definition requires the development of a unique car or truck, one which may certainly share some of the characteristics of the vehicles that have come before it but which is mainly focused on satisfying the needs of a new customer base.
Premium automakers face an additional hurdle that they must clear when it comes to expanding their range of vehicles. It is important that any entry-level automobiles that might be added to the lineup walk a fine line between carrying enough features and capabilities so that they can be identified with their loftier cousins and yet not be infringing upon these same stable mates in terms of performance or luxury. Since all high end car buyers are quite selective no matter what price range they are shopping in, proper product placement can be a nightmare for manufacturers with ambitious expansion plans.
Land Rover had always been known as the purveyor of tough, go-anywhere SUVs which in North America also offered a sizable amount of comfort, both in terms of driving characteristics and luxury accoutrements. Without exception, the vehicles offered by the British car company were variations upon an off-road theme, with even the plushest editions of its models fully capable of fording streams and handling the roughest of terrain. However, in the mid-1990s, the sport-utility market in the United States was starting to explode, and Land Rover came to the conclusion that there was plenty of room for a smaller SUV that perhaps was more focused on dry-pavement performance than rocky desert trails. While this meant compromising upon the company's decades-old image, Land Rover was confident that they would be able to carry the day with buyers and convince them to accept a new kind of truck from the venerable brand. This article examines the best used compact SUV available from the automaker, the Land Rover Freelander.
2002 - 2005 Land Rover Freelander
When seen from the outside, there are plenty of visual clues built into the 2002 - 2005 Land Rover Freelander to help buyers identify it clearly as a member of that noble British clan. The Freelander's jutting, rectangular grille and familiar three-box greenhouse shape is reassuring to anyone enamored of Land Rover's somewhat conservative styling tradition. However, there are also indications that this compact SUV is meant to attract a somewhat different demographic - a big, sloping front bumper made of plastic that matches the extruded fender wells is highly reminiscent of some of the more Japanese competitors in the Freelander's class.
Underneath the hood, there is only one option to be found throughout the vehicle's entire production run. Land Rover has assigned the 2002 - 2005 Freelander a 2.5-liter V-6 which produces 174 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. A 5-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are standard equipment, and this particular drivetrain marks another fairly significant departure from the car company's standard operating procedure. Instead of the heavy-duty differentials and rugged frame of a larger Land Rover, the Freelander makes use of electronic traction control to manage torque distribution as well as features such as hill descent control in order to help manage tricky conditions such as ice, steep hills or loose sand. Even though the Freelander might not have been designed to tackle hardcore off-road driving, it is still far more gifted in this department than the typical small sport-utility vehicle.
Inside, the Freelander offers a choice of either cloth or leather seats, and the SUV is generally quite comfortable. Seating 3 across the rear seat is somewhat of a stretch, but that is par for the course when it comes to a compact truck. With a maximum of almost 47 cubic feet of cargo space when properly configured, the Freelander makes a fairly useful hauler, certainly more than up to the task of handling a small family and all of their lifestyle accessories. Cruise control, power windows and door locks and air conditioning are of course all provided as standard equipment.
The 2002 - 2005 Land Rover Freelander is a bargain-priced used compact SUV that can add a level of sophistication to anyone's small truck purchase.