But, as so often happens, no sooner
does a new model start selling well, than the clamour from some customers for
more power begins. This need has finally been answered in the form of a V6 engine,
but the new top ranger is, initially at least, unfortunately only available
with an automatic gearbox.
The new engine is fitted into a mildly face lifted version of the previous
body, which now has clear front direction indicators, integrated with the headlamps.
The four-cylinder models have a revised front bumper design featuring an enlarged
lower air intake; the V6 has more strongly sculpted and extended front bumper
and grille mouldings, and a castellated profile to the lower body-colour section.
This model shares the Rover-designed all-alloy V6 engine with the Rover 75
saloon. Quoted maximum power is 130 kW at 6 250 r/min; torque maximum is claimed
to be 240 N.m at 4 000 r/min.
Out on the test strip, the 12,53-second time recorded for the zero to 100 km/h
sprint was significantly slower than the 11,1 seconds claimed by the manufacturer,
but this can be partly explained away by the fact that our measurements are
done with two occupants and some 30 kg of test equipment on board. But the two-way
average fifth gear maximum speed of 173 km/h was also lower than the claimed
The wheelbase, track and interior dimensions are the same as for the smaller-engined
models, but the body is 65 mm longer, presumably to cope with the wider vee
engine. The extra length has affected the approach angles, which we found to
be 21 degrees, although the manufacturer claims the same angle (30,5 degrees)
for all models.
In addition, the test vehicle had a nudge bar and lamps that did not affect
the approach angle, but added even more mass to the front overhang. The result
of all this is a dramatic change in the ÒfeelÓ of the vehicle.
Smaller-engined Freelanders are responsive in most situations, despite the above-average
effort demanded by the heavy power steering. In contrast, this model seemed
sluggish, even ponderous. The unfortunate effect has been to compromise the
compact feel of the Freelander.
Another complaint is the size and height of the front seats. Our long-term
four-cylinder diesel FreelanderÕs front seats (April 2001 CAR) had smallish
bases that did not quite accommodate the average male bottom, but the cloth
material and lower mounting made them comfortable. The front chairs in the V6
are of a similar shape and size, but the leather upholstery is smooth and shiny,
and the bases are thicker. The result is that males of average height cannot
sit upright because their heads would hit the roof, and cannot slouch because
they would slide off the seat.
The only transmission available with the V6 is a five-speed Steptronic automatic,
which has three modes. In the normal auto mode it changes gear at the usual
preset speeds and throttle openings, but the control unit features adaptive
programming that enables it to recognise situations such as towing, downhill
overrun, steepness and high altitudes to select the optimum shift patterns for
each situation. When the lever is moved across to the Steptronic position, but
left unhindered, the shift maps change to a sportier setting, so that the gearbox
then holds on to the lower gears longer and changes down more readily, to aid
acceleration. Finally, if the gearlever is moved forwards or backwards in the
Steptronic mode, it will change up or down, like many modern automatics.
The drivetrain retains the hill descent control, traction control and viscous
coupling between front and rear wheels that has enhanced the performance of
the earlier models under off-road conditions. The braking system has been revised
and all models now have an improved four-channel ABS system that features larger
front discs, wider rear drums, an improved handbrake mechanism and electronic
brake distribution, which ensures optimum front/rear brake balance. Our ten-stop
100-to-zero emergency braking test showed that retardation is efficient and
consistent, with no stop taking more than 3,1 seconds.
The suspension, by MacPherson struts front and rear, lower arms and an anti-roll
bar in front, plus a trapezoidal link at the rear, has been one of the major
plus points of the Freelander, giving it the sort of ride comfort that very
few other off-road models can match. This set-up has now been strengthened with
larger-diameter struts and revised damping and geometry.
The power steering has new valving and runs at higher pressure, to improve
response, but we were not particularly impressed, most likely because of the
increased polar moment due to the extra overhang. The steering is a lot heavier
than that of, say, a Toyota RAV4, but it imparts more feel than many of its
The two-door body style features a removable rear roof section, which can only
really be stored in situ or else in your garage, reducing its practicality.
The interior is outstanding in the way that it features light colours, cheerful
plastics and big windows to achieve a feeling of space and airiness that contrasts
favourably with the darker interiors of many other models. Its livability is
further enhanced by the many storage spaces that abound. There are lidded cubbies
on both sides of the dashboard, and large parcel-bins in the doors. Both doors
have substantial spring-loaded cup-holders.
The latest models have larger airbags, revised pre-tensioners, and new front
seatbelts with load limiters, while heating and ventilation has also been enhanced.
Instrumentation includes a rev-counter. Most people are aware that the Freelander
is not really a go-anywhere off-road vehicle, and the minimum ground clearance
of 186 mm hampers its ability to tackle rugged terrain. However, the traction
control helps to reduce wheelspin, and the hill-descent system eliminates the
need for a low-range transmission. On steep uphill sections the bigger engine
and the services of a torque converter are a great help, but they cannot take
the place of a low range transmission.
The viscous coupling in the transmission locks up when one of the sets of wheels
rotates faster than the other. The front and rear differentials have slightly
different ratios, giving just enough of a speed difference to take up any driveline
slack, but not enough to permit any worthwhile torque to reach the rear axle
if the front wheels are not spinning. However, the system becomes four-wheel
drive if the front wheels lose traction, with the electronic traction-control
also lending a hand.
The V6 Freelander does not cruise as silently as the bigger engine would suggest,
exhibiting a fair amount of transmission, road and wind noise. It grips the
road well, once youÕve come to terms with the steering response, aided
by the feeling of control afforded by the thick steering wheel, which is height-adjustable.
Original article from Car