The origins of the Land Rover Freelander go all the back to the late 1980s.
Recognizing the potential to capitalize upon the cachet of the Land Rover brand in the emerging small SUV market, the company first looked to partner with another carmaker to accomplish this goal. Honda and Land Rover enjoyed a partnership back then, so that company was approached. Honda declined however and developed the CR-V on its own, eventually launching that vehicle in 1997.
Meanwhile, Land Rover had been acquired by BMW, which provided the development capital required to produce the new model. Thus, Land Rover Freelander debuted in Europe in 1997. A runaway hit, the Land Rover Freelander became the best-selling four-wheel-drive model on that continent. In fact, the success of the Freelander in Europe inspired Land Rover to bring its small SUV to North America.
Entering this market in 2002, as the first new Land Rover to come to North America since 1995, the Land Rover Freelander didn't enjoy the same success here that it did on the continent. With models like the Honda CRV, Jeep Liberty, and Ford Escape available at significantly lower price points, the Land Rover name wasn't strong enough to overcome the perceived deficiencies in the Freelander’s portfolio.
While the Freelander is more capable on trails and off-road excursions than many of the compact SUVs it competes with, if hard-core expeditions are your primary cup of tea, be apprised the Freelander lacks the low range gearing of its bigger Land Rover brothers. Because of this, it might be a bit of a disadvantage in truly difficult going. On the other hand, given the way most people use SUVs anyway, this, in all likelihood won't be an issue in much of the U.S. for the littlest Land Rover.
Brought to North America toward the end of the run of its first-generation, the Land Rover Freelander was sold here for only three years before being replaced by a newer model, dubbed the Land Rover LR2 here in North America.
Thus, the Freelander model name ran only from 2002 to 2005 on this continent.