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Future models - Land Rover - Freelander

Land Rover's Freedom march

Past use-by: Current Freelander will be superseded here in early 2007.

Second-generation Freelander to lead next wave of all-new models from Land Rover

15 Aug 2005

LAND Rover’s new-model splurge continues.

Following on from the new Range Rover Sport and Range Rover Vogue models released in Australia last month, the Ford-owned British 4WD marque will next year reveal the second-generation Freelander.

It will possibly emerge as early as the Birmingham motor show in early May, or the Madrid event later in that month, but more likely at Paris in September.

Australia will not see the new model until the second quarter of 2007.

Built on a stretched C1-plus Ford Focus platform that also underpins the Mazda3 and Volvo’s S40, V50 and new C70, the new Freelander will be larger in every direction compared to its eight-year-old predecessor.

A longer wheelbase and wider tracks are also part of the program.

Despite using a monocoque body, Freelander II’s off-road abilities should be class leading, with permanent low and high-range four-wheel drive, hill-descent control (a feature the original pioneered back in 1997) and advanced traction and stability controls.

Huge strides are also expected in the name of comfort, space and refinement, although despite its growth the model will continue as a five-seater only.

As Land Rover design director Geoff Upex exclusively told GoAuto last October, the new Freelander will address the exiting model’s shortcomings – which he identified as being in the areas of "powertrain, poor luggage space and a non-height-adjustable driver seat".

Widespread change is necessary as a league of new-generation light 4WDs is waiting in the wings to compete with the vehicle, including the Honda CR-V, third-generation Toyota Rav4, the Mitsubishi Outlander II and the Volvo XC50 (an in-house rival based on the V50).

Reports suggest that a 200kW-plus 3.2-litre six-cylinder engine will be used.

This would add important ammunition to Land Rover’s need to increase the Freelander’s appeal in the vital US market, where the new vehicle will be known as the LR2 (in line with the Discovery’s LR3 moniker there) to distance itself from a reputation for patchy reliability.

Ford’s 2.0-litre petrol and TDCi turbo-diesel units, along with a Volvo five-cylinder engine and Land Rover’s own 2.7 TdV6 are also likely, married to six-speed manual and automatic gearboxes in higher-end models.

Speculation is also rife that a single five-door wagon bodystyle will be offered in lieu of today’s two-door option.

But that doesn’t mean Land Rover will not replace that vehicle altogether.

Instead, a smaller, entry-level model is thought to be in the skunkworks, slotting underneath the now-bigger Freelander when it is released sometime during 2008.

Land Rover has yet to confirm the existence of this vehicle.

Again, the C1 platform will be used, offering permanent all-wheel drive with some off-road ability, a compact four-door wagon body about the size of the current Rav4 and four and five-cylinder engines in petrol and diesel derivatives.

Aimed mainly at European buyers, this car – nicknamed the "Landie" by some members of the UK press – will have lightness, efficiency and low running costs on its side.

But before that, in 2007, a new turbo-diesel V8 engine will arrive in Australia for the Range Rover Sport (L322) and Vogue (L320) range.

Set to debut late next year, the engine is believed to develop 185kW of power and 560Nm of torque. It will usurp the long-serving 130kW 3.0-litre straight-six unit supplied by BMW.

Finally, a replacement for the Defender, already 57 years old and still going strong, is expected sometime in 2008.

Not much is known as yet, but abilities exceeding the unrivalled off-roader are expected in a package that resembles, but greatly improves, the 1948 original.

No monocoque bodies or rear DVD screens are expected for this truck.

New tough emissions and safety regulations are behind the current Defender’s demise.

It has been a busy time at Land Rover, as it fights for relevancy in an age of car-based 4WDs from BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.

Australian sales last year were down to a dismal 3143 units, 755 cars shy of the lacklustre 2003 total. This compares to the heady days of the late 1990s when 7000-plus Land Rovers found buyers.

The new Range Rover Sport and the facelifted Range Rover Vogue, together with the all-new Discovery launched earlier this year, are expected to lift the British marque’s annual sales past 4000 units from next year onwards.

What's coming from land Rover:

September 2006: Freelander II
September 2006: TDV8 turbo-diesel
Late 2007: ‘Landie’ sub-Freelander
2008: New Defender

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