Land Rover Freelander was the vehicle to invent the premium compact SUV. While already a classic, the British off-roader goes completely new with a second generation. It may be more of an evolution than a revolution in design, but it was completely reengineered from the ground up. Ready to redefine the segment it has invented, the Land Rover Freelander 2 comes with a dynamic design, purposeful stance, smart and spacious interior, and an abundance of advanced technologies to complete the package.
The Freelander 2 (LR2) is Land Rover’s fourth all-new vehicle in just over four years, following the new Range Rover (2002), Discovery 2 / LR3 (2004) and Range Rover Sport (2005). This unprecedented range renewal contributed to record Land Rover sales worldwide in 2005.
"No other compact SUV has anything like its total breadth of capability," states Phil Popham, Land Rover’s managing director. "LR2 sets new standards in the sector, combining the advantages of a premium car - such as polished ride, accomplished performance, an attractive cabin and ease-of-use - with the attributes of a robust SUV, including go-anywhere ability, toughness, stadium seating, cabin versatility and spaciousness. We believe that no other compact SUV gets closer to blending these best-of-both-worlds abilities."
The exterior design may strike as being very close to that of the initial Freelander. "We purposely kept strong Land Rover design cues, such as the clamshell bonnet, stepped roof and the basic form," says Land Rover design director Geoff Upex.
"The overall look is new and contemporary. The design is chiseled, geometric and simple – it looks like it is hewn from the solid. We have kept a close design relationship with the LR3 and Range Rover Sport, but interpreted the design language to suit the requirements of customers for a more compact SUV."
The new Freelander 2 features an armada of new technologies meant to improve both on-road and off-road performance, many new to the class. A feature borrowed from the upscale models id Land Rover’s Terrain Response system that is standard on all Freelander 2s but the entry-level model, to make off-roading easier. Among other interesting technological novelties we can include the full-time intelligent 4x4 system for superior traction and better on-road fuel economy, and the patented Gradient Release Control, which improves driver confidence and control when releasing the brakes on steep and slippery slopes.
Other comfort features and options that are rare in this class include the keyless starter button, bi-xenon headlamps, adaptive front lighting, rain-sensing wipers and park distance control (front and rear). A two-part panoramic sunroof increases the cabin’s airiness: air-conditioning is standard on all models and a full color touch-screen DVD satellite navigation system is also available. The choice of top-level audio systems includes DAB digital radio and 12-speaker Dolby Prologic IIx Surround Sound with fiber-optic interconnects. An auxiliary audio connection (for iPods and MP3 players) is standard on all vehicles.
Designed and engineered by Land Rover at Gaydon, near Warwick, Freelander 2 is built at the Halewood plant in Liverpool, where outstanding build quality has been acknowledged with a JD Power European Plant Quality Gold Award in 2005.
The original Freelander was introduced in 1996, during the period where Land Rover was part of BMW group and is the vehicle that has pioneered the premium compact SUV segment until it was joined by less off-road capable BMW X3 (called an SAV – Sport Activity vehicle). There was a variety of models available on the market, 3-door removable-top (SE3) and 5-door versions, and diesel and petrol engines.
Sales reports have shown the Freelander to be the most popular Land Rover model in Europe, but sales of the Freelander 1 in the were slow. Only 5,430 were sold in 2004, adding up to just over 33,000 sold in the three years the car was offered in that market. Just 13 Freelanders 1 were sold in the entire in the first two months of 2006, making it one of the slowest-selling vehicles available. The new Freelander 2 is expected to revitalize the sales.
2002 Freelander 1
Body & chassis
“Freelander 2 is a fresh and contemporary design, with its chiseled lines, chunky good looks and sporty energy. Though the genes of the highly successful original Freelander are still clearly recognizable, the new model looks more premium and more grown-up, without losing its sense of fun,” says Geoff Upex, Land Rover design director.
The refined lines, with smooth and simple surfaces and interlocking elements were three of the key principles that guided the Land Rover design team as they crafted the all-new Freelander 2. These combined well with the vehicle’s near-ideal proportions – especially the height, long wheelbase, and short front and rear overhangs – to create the purposeful, sporty stance that the designers wanted.
Upex and his team, including Earl Beckles (lead exterior designer) and Martin Buffery (lead interior designer), were also determined to develop a vehicle with clear family links to Land Rover’s successful new Discovery 3 and best-selling Range Rover Sport. From the Discovery, according to Geoff Upex, “we took the simplicity of the surfacing, the strong shapes, the bold and consistent graphics, and the strong rear D-post styling. Range Rover Sport inspired the flow of the wheel arches, a lot of the stance, and the dynamics of the waistline.
“But there are also clear visual references to the original Freelander. Its distinctive shape is widely recognized and popular, especially in Europe,” says Upex. “So we took the best bits, the real signatures from that car, and enhanced them. These include the clamshell bonnet and the stepped roof.”
However, these inspirations were subordinate to a clear vision of how a vehicle such as Freelander should look. While still definitively a Land Rover, it has always had – and needed to retain – a strong appeal to customers more used to conventional saloon cars.
“The design of Freelander 2 had to reflect its balance of capabilities – as a great road car and a great 4x4,” says Geoff Upex. “This was absolutely at the top of our minds. It could not be too overt a 4x4, in the way that a Discovery is. It had to be tough – but not too tough. It had to reassure people trading up from premium cars. So this balance – tough 4x4 versus premium car – was crucial in the design language.”
According to Upex, 4x4s typically look more geometric, more aggressive and harder-edged. Cars tend to be more organic – and friendlier – in form. Therefore, the Freelander 2 mixes strong geometric shapes and flowing, car-like softness.
Excellent stiffness provides the necessary basis for great ride and handling, because there is little or no flex during hard cornering or on rough roads. It also helps deliver excellent vehicle refinement and safety.
LR2 uses a monocoque construction. Ultra-high-strength steel is used more extensively than in any previous Land Rover in the door beams and for various strengthening reinforcements. DP600 dual-phase steel – which requires special pressing because of its strength – is used for the A-posts, lower sills, contrails, front side members and dash to help provide a first class, weight-efficient safety cell.
Many of the bolt-on components fitted during final assembly also help improve structural integrity. A fully integrated front-end structure not only carries the cooling pack and front bumpers, but also substantially boosts the overall body stiffness. Even the hood-locking platform has been designed to help boost structural integrity, ensuring good load transfer from one front crash rail to the other.
The powerful and torquey 3.2-liter i6 engine is brand new for 2006, and gives LR2 on-road performance comparable to that of many compact sedans. The vehicle accelerates from 0-60 mph in 8.4 seconds and has a top speed of 124 mph. More relevant for everyday motoring, it also has impressive kick-down acceleration. The maximum power is 230 bhp at 6300 rpm, and maximum torque is 234 lb.-ft. at 3200 rpm.
The six-cylinder i6 engine is ingeniously designed to combine an inline configuration – intrinsically, the most refined and smoothest engine arrangement - with an exceptionally compact size. This allows the engine to be transversely mounted, which improves cabin packaging and gives extra space, in front of and behind the engine, designed to help optimize the efficiency of the vehicle’s safety systems.
The key to this compact new design is the unique and innovative Rear End Ancillary Drive (READ) system. Conventional engines drive camshafts and other engine ancillaries (including alternator, water pump and air conditioning compressor) from a series of chains and belts overhanging the front of the engine. The i6’s READ system takes drive to these items up the rear face of the engine – the side attached to the gearbox – with much less overhang. The result is an extremely short engine, just 23.64 in (600.5 mm) long. This substantially increases engine bay space, allowing the i6 to be fitted crossways and the vehicle’s advanced crash structure to be configured around it.
The i6 engine has an aluminum block, head and bedplate and all are structurally optimized to balance low weight and stiffness. Even the camshaft cover is structural, allowing it to incorporate the camshaft bearing caps for further weight reduction.
There are twin overhead camshafts and 24 valves (four per cylinder) to provide optimal engine breathing. This is further improved by a patented Cam Profile Switching (CPS) system that features two completely different intake cam profiles machined onto the same camshaft. The engine management system decides which cam profile to use, depending on the engine’s running conditions and driver’s torque demands. One profile is ideal for low-speed/low-load driving; the other, which gives longer valve lift, is better for higher speeds and loads. An ingenious two-piece hydraulic valve tappet arrangement alters the cam profiles.
The engine has been developed primarily by Land Rover’s Premier Automotive Group partner, Volvo. Built at Bridgend, – alongside the Land Rover/Range Rover V8 engine family – the i6 engine has been extensively developed for Land Rover’s demanding off-road requirements, including improved dust, mud and water protection and the tolerance of operation at more acute angles of tilt.
The LR2 engine offers a sophisticated six-speed automatic transmission. A new transmission specially developed for Land Rover’s challenging blend of on-road and off-road driving, delivers power to its unique intelligent Permanent All-Wheel Drive driveline.
The Aisin Warner AWF21 six-speed automatic transmission is a light, compact unit that features a unique remote breather, deliberately routed above LR2’s wade line (19.68 in water depth).
Seamless shift quality is ensured by a new fully integrated electronic Transmission Control Module. The module uses different gear change maps, depending on whether the transmission is in full auto, sport or manual CommandShift mode, and when the vehicle is using one of the special Terrain Response programs.
Engine layout in line 6 Front transverse
Valve train DOHC 24V
Displacement 3192 cc
Bore x Stroke 84 x 96 mm
Compression ratio 10.8
Max power output 233 bhp @ 6300 rpm
Max torque 233 lbs/ft @ 3200 rpm
Four-wheel drive systemFull-time four-wheel drive with Haldex rear axle differential
Top speed 124 mph
0-60 mph 8.4 s
Key contributors to achieving excellent on-road performance were the new, fully independent suspension system – coil-sprung struts front and rear – and an exceptionally stiff body using front and rear sub-frames. Front and rear anti-roll bars provide excellent anti-roll control.
On-road ride comfort has been a key consideration, and LR2 excels – due to its supple long-travel suspension, its excellent torsional body stiffness, its isolated (rubber-mounted) front and rear sub-frames, and its large-diameter gas damper struts.
Off-road it is a Land Rover. Its capability starts with 8.26 in minimum of ground clearance to overcome rocky, sandy, rutted or muddy terrain. This also helps LR2 to wade through water up to 19.68 in deep – better than most rivals. Approach and departure angles are also excellent.
The LR2 has large vented discs front and rear, providing superior stopping power. The large 12.44 in front discs are ‘reverse vented’, so they draw cool air into the disc over the central bell, which is then vented out from the rim of the disc. This approach improves thermal stability under severe braking. Rear brake discs are also substantial – 11.88 in diameter.
The responsive rack-and-pinion steering is direct and fluid, with just 2.6 turns lock-to-lock. Rigidly mounted to the front sub-frame to improve lateral stiffness, the steering column and wheel is adjustable for reach and rake.
Tires & wheels
LR2 is fitted with an 18-inch alloy wheel and tire combination, specifically tuned to help deliver Land Rover’s heralded breadth of capability.
The wheels are low-pressure die-cast aluminum, and are fitted with all-terrain rated tires, so they perform well both on-road and off.
The interior of LR2 is designed to be elegant and simply structured, a decision made early on by Geoff Upex and lead interior designer Martin Buffery, who describe it as ‘strong but not intimidating’. Yet the fascia still incorporates clear elements of the iconic architectural vertical and horizontal lines that characterize the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and LR3.
The elevated driving position in LR2 – called ’command view’ by Land Rover – improves visibility and helps the driver feel in control. There’s abundant leg, shoulder and head room - even for the rear seat passengers.
‘Stadium seating’ places the rear seat passengers slightly higher than their front seat counterparts, so they too can enjoy the view. Visibility for all occupants is helped by the narrow front A-pillars, deep front and rear windows, and large side windows.
"There is a real sense of space in LR2," says Geoff Upex. "You can stretch out, relax, and it makes the whole ambience so much more enjoyable."
LR2’s seats offer good under-thigh and back support, plus strong side bolsters to give excellent lateral support. The front seat frames are similar to those of Range Rover Sport – big-car seats for a cabin that looks as though it belongs in a big car. The upright seating provides a comfortable driving position and increases usable legroom.
The large cargo area provides plenty of space for luggage or sports equipment, from bicycles to golf clubs. A neat touch is the reversible load floor cover with carpet on one side and a water-resistant surface on the other.
The sound systems offered for LR2 are headed by a top-level version that features Dolby Pro Logic II 7.1 Surround Sound, incorporating a 12x40 W amplifier. It is delivered through 12 speakers, including a sub-woofer, and the system incorporates a six-disc in-dash CD changer. It is also MP3 format compatible.
The LR2’s long list of primary safety features – including its responsive handling, strong brakes and permanent all-wheel drive system – helps the driver avoid hazards. The high ‘command view’ seating position provides visibility over traffic and a clearer view on rain-lashed roads.
Secondary safety starts with the strong monocoque body and its inner ‘safety cell’. Front and rear crumple zones are designed to help absorb as much energy as possible during an impact. Side-impact protection is further assisted by the Ultra-high-strength steel door beams, the strong and deep door sills (bigger on an SUV than on a conventional car) and the raised seat position.
Front safety belts have pre-tensioners, and all LR2 models feature seven airbags. The driver and passenger front airbags are designed to help provide head and chest protection and the front side airbags to protect against side impacts. Full-length curtain airbags in the roof side structure are designed to help protect against head injury and roll-over ejection for front and rear occupants. An inflatable knee bolster helps protect the driver against leg injury from the steering column.
Pedestrian safety is a high priority, with 2.76-3.54 in clearance between the upper hood and under-hood mechanicals in the critical zones. The excellent energy absorbing qualities of the hood further assist pedestrian protection.
We tried to diminish a bit the “cute factor” of the car and add some muscle to it. It wasn’t a girlie car in the first place, but it had a few soft parts. Our main changes were intended to get heavier off-roader appearance, and even increase the rough terrain capabilities by modifying the suspension and tires. The pain work uses a black and silver mix that emphasizes the body panel and the original design of the car, which is pretty nice.