NEWS
Freelander II News Part 3
Mar 20,2005  •   824 views
At the end of 2006, the Freelander will be nine years old, a long life for a vehicle conceived in the dark days of British Aerospace’s ownership of Rover and Land Rover. Today’s Freelander is loosely based on the archaic Rover 200 platform. The new model will be a very different beast with a new platform, state-of-the-art powertrain, clean, crisp styling and, hopefully, unprecedented build quality thanks to a switch to Jaguar’s Halewood plant.

The most noticeable change for the new Freelander is its chunkier proportions. The car sits on a much longer wheelbase and is wider, too. Overall length is very close to today’s 4.4m but, with the wheels pushed closer to the corners, insiders report that the car’s stance is much-improved.

‘Overall, the look is not quite as style-minded as the new Discovery,’ said a source familiar with the car. ‘We have to remember that most people come to the Freelander from cars, so we’re not trying to be a small Discovery.’

Key details like the one-bar grille and stepped roof will remain. Other important features are the absence of body cladding and a strong styling swage line along the car’s front wings, retaining the Freelander’s clean and classical styling. The beltline rises towards the rear haunches, like on many cars.

Just a single bodystyle – a five-door hatchback – is currently being engineered. Low sales have killed the three-door soft-back model.

Codenamed L359, that five-door will be based on a development of the new Focus platform. Known as EU CD, the same platform will underpin the replacement for the Volvo S60, XC60 soft-roader, Ford Galaxy and Ford soft-roader, dubbed MAC.

Like on the Ford Focus/ Mazda 3/Volvo S40 project, the term ‘platform’ is really shorthand for a component set that each brand’s designers can delve into when creating their own distinct vehicle, providing commonality of parts hits around 40 per cent. Usually, the target is 60 per cent, but Land Rover’s specific engineering needs have reduced this figure.

The new Freelander will stick with a car-derived four-wheel-drive system that eschews a separate low-range transfer gearbox, an omission that saves both weight and complexity. But this second-generation off-roader is expected to be more sophisticated than the current Freelander and is rumoured to include an optional limited-slip rear differential.

Engines will be picked from within the Ford empire and tweaked for a torquey SUV application. Land Rover will be able to choose from three four-cylinder petrols: a 115bhp 1.6 litre, 130bhp 1.8 and 145bhp 2.0, which replace today’s single choice of a Rover-derived 1.8. The platform is engineered to take Volvo’s five-cylinder units across the engine bay, although Land Rover will prefer a Ford V6 petrol for the US market.

Common-rail turbodiesels from the Ford/Peugeot ‘Lion’ family will replace the BMW 110bhp 2.0-litre unit. An entry-level 115bhp 1.8, mid-range 136bhp 2.0 and 173bhp 2.2-litre are all potential choices for Land Rover’s engineers. A version of the 2.7-litre V6 TD is also under consideration.

The chief weakness of the current Freelander is its cabin quality, despite a clever revamp in 2003. Expect higher-grade plastics and fabrics to bring a more quality feel to the cabin. The design itself is understood to be a little less formal than the Range Rover’s and Discovery’s, in a bid to appeal to car buyers who have to be teased out of their hatchbacks and saloons.

The Freelander will be pitched as one of the few junior SUVs with off-road ability, but Land Rover is also keen to stress its ability on Tarmac, where most will spend the majority of their time. The car-derived rack-and-pinion steering should make the new Freelander a sharper drive. And, although the exact suspension set-up is still secret, it is reasonable to assume that the EU CD platform’s suspension of front struts and rear multi-link will be heavily upgraded for 4x4 applications.

New Freelander’s wider stance and revised four-wheel-drive system should bring welcom
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