Land Rover Freelander (1997 – 2006) Review

Land Rover Freelander (1997 – 2006) At A Glance


+Roomy, comfortable cabin with child-friendly views from the back seat. Plenty for sale out there. Good off-road ability.

-Not as sharp to drive as a CR-V, RAV4 or X-Trail. Niggling reliability problems. 1.8 petrol engine leaks coolant and expires. Fared badly in JD Power Customer Satisfaction Surveys.

Land Rover had been planning a smaller model to sit below its Discovery since the late-1980s. In fact, many of the Freelander prototypes were disguised in Metro and Maestro bodyshells or - towards the end of development - the body of a Maestro van.

But it wouldn't be until the BMW Group took over Rover in 1994 that project CB40 (as it was known internally) would be given the green light. Enginners would then have just three years to get the project ready for the road. 

Finally launched in 1997, the Freelander was available in two different wheelbases and buyers could choose from a 1.8-litre Rover K-series petrol engine, 2.0-litre Rover diesel engine. A 2.5-litre KV6 petrol engine with automatic transmission followed in Autumn 2000 and a BMW 2.0-litre TD4 diesel also replaced the Rover unit.

It was Land Rover's first ever vehicle to be of monocoque unitary construction, rather than on a separate chassis. It was also the first ever SUV to feature Hill Descent Control, along with a viscous coupling, off-road specific traction control and the IRD (or Intermediate Reduction Drive), which acted as both transfer box and front propshaft, ensuring the impeccable off-road performance that Land Rover was so keen to retain. The IRD, though, would later prove itself to be one of the model's most common failure points, alongside K-series petrol-engined models' head gaskets.

Ask Honest John

When should I change the cam belt on my Land Rover Freelander 2?

"My Freelander 2 with a Ford diesel engine is nearly 10 years old but with only 45,000 miles. It has been regularly serviced. It is used to tow 1500kg caravan but for the last few years (and future probably) it has only done about 2,000 miles a year. I believe it has a cam belt not a chain? Should I have it changed at next service?"
The Ford engine uses a belt. And the belt needs to be replaced now. As a general rule, I recommend changing the belt, tensioner, water pump and aux belt every five years or 60,000 miles (whichever comes first).
Answered by Dan Powell

How can I clean the headlight lenses on my Land Rover Freelander?

"My Land Rover Freelander needs its headlight lenses cleaning as they are looking misty. Is there anything you could recommend? I've seen toothpaste being referred to but don't really know if that works!"
I've had good results with kits like this one off Amazon: The sanding disc is great on particularly cloudy headlights but, speaking from experience, you can scratch them if you're not careful. Whatever you use, be sure to add protection (every three months, ideally) or else they won't stay clear for long. This works well:
Answered by Andrew Brady

I want to lease a small car. Is there a time of year when better deals are offered?

"I currently drive a Land Rover Freelander but I'm considering changing to a smaller leased car for a few years until the newer hybrids improve on distance. I live in a rural area so would need at least a 250-mile guaranteed range. I'm considering something like a Citreon C3 or Vauxhall Corsa, but will consider any economical smaller car/hatchback with room for my dogs. When is the best time of year to lease? Is there anything to be aware of, like fees and charges? I would expect an annual mileage of around 8000. Thanks."
There isn't really a set time of year that's good for getting an affordable lease deal. Keep an eye on leasing sites – there are quite often 'flash deals' when there's a surplus of cars that need to be shifted. You might notice that the deals available are slightly better towards the end of the month when dealers have targets to meet. That's especially true towards the end of quarters. It's worth looking during quiet periods – over Christmas, for example. Being flexible about which cars (and trim level) you want will also help you get a better deal. As a step towards an electric vehicle, consider a hybrid like the new Toyota Yaris or Honda Jazz. Both are great cars, combining a petrol engine with an electric motor. They'll never need charging but are more efficient than petrol alternatives. If you'd prefer a standard petrol model, we'd recommend a Volkswagen Polo or Ford Fiesta.
Answered by Andrew Brady

Would a Land Rover Freelancer diesel automatic be reliable?

"What’s your opinion on a 2005/2006 Mk1 Land Rover Freelancer diesel automatic for reliability?"
Have a read of our review and buyers guide: Personally, I have a bit of a soft spot for them - but they are not perfect by any means. They're comfortable and roomy but plagued by reliability issues. The good news is that there's plenty to choose from if you want to go down that route, so there's no excuse for not buying the best one you can afford from an enthusiast who has given it plenty of TLC.
Answered by Keith Moody
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