The Freelander 1 code named as L314 was the first generation compact sport utility vehicle launched in 1997 and was assembled in the Solihull plant in UK and Rayong factory in Thailand. Freelander 1 was launched in the market at time when similar Japanese manufactured vehicles in same segment flooded the markets. It had a wheelbase length of 101.0 inches (2565 mm) and featured a powertrain ranging from 1.8 L K-Series I4, 2.5 L Rover KV6 V6, 2.0 L BMW M47 TD I4 to 2.0 L L-Series TD I4 engines. The first generation Freelander was released in 5 door SUV and 3 door convertible styles and was the best-selling four wheel drive model till 2002.
Freelander 5 doors SUV
Freelander 3 doors SUV
Freelander 1 was offered with transmission controls 5-speed automatic to 5-speed manual and were available in 5-door SUV and 3 door convertible body styles. The three door model was available in E, S, SE, Sport and Sport Premium Trim and the five-door model was offered in E, S, SE, HSE, Sport and Sport Premium Trim styles. Earlier models featured manual gearboxes which were later on upgraded to automatic Triptonic-style gear boxes which became the norm on the V6 and a matter of choice on the TD4. Chief designer Gerry McGovern was in charge of styling and designing for Freelander and later on he was promoted in 2007 as head of design at Land Rover and he envisioned to give Freelander a look free of gimmicks and wanted it to have a screen angle and rounded shape of the car. Freelander 1 also featured unibody structure just like other SUV crossovers in its segment but had a difference that it featured body on frame designs.
Freelander enjoyed the status of being Europe’s best selling four wheel drive model since its launch in 1997 and also featured at the Camel Trophy event in 1998 and Land Rover’s G4 Challenge event. With more than sixteen patented features it was equipped with Intermediate Reduction Drive which took care of front differential and fixed ratio transfer, viscous-coupling which balanced differing rotational speed of the prop shafts to enable changing torque across itself, Hill Descent Control system, Traction Control System, special version of ABS adjusted to help drive well in off-road conditions but not as good as other Land Rovers. There was a significant event in 2001 with the end of BMW and Rover collaboration and the buy-out of Rover Company by Ford for $1.5 million. However, the Americans did not revamp the Freelander in an extensive way and basically retained much of its superior features. In 2004 this variant was updated with upgraded interiors and exteriors featuring new face and rear.
Although competition was tough in the same segment with other vehicles such as Honda CRV and Toyota RAV4, Freelander 1 outperformed them with its better off-road capabilities. Its innovative styling and competitive pricing made it a huge success beating Japanese technology. The first generation Freelander 1 lacked MG Rover K18 and KV6 engines due to discontinuation of MG Rover production but was certainly capable to bolster Land Rover’s growing success and signaled the end of production run for Freelander 1 in August 2005 in US and Canada.
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