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Old 02-03-2003, 08:02   #1 (permalink)
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2003 Land Rover Freelander SE3

Fewer doors, but more spirit.
TheCarConnection
by Sue Mead 2/3/2003

LAKE LAS VEGAS, Nev.— What I see as I crest a steep rise of two-track is a view to be put in my mental 401(k) — a cloudless blue sky day bearing rouge and tangerine fruit at sunset, sandstone knobs outcroppings and canyons glowing with a common fecund vibe.

I think we’re alone here, though we’re just 30 minutes outside the vast glittering emptiness of Las Vegas. All the better. There aren’t many others to spoil what I think is off-roading at its best. And there aren't many to get in the way of evaluating the three-door Land Rover Freelander SE3, the new variation of a vehicle on sale for five years in Europe but in only its second model year in the States.

The best-selling SUV in Europe by far, the Freelander found its way to the U.S. in 2001 as a 2002 model with a price tag in the upper-$20,000 range. More expensive than others in its class but with real off-road heritage and tough stuff like Hill Descent Control (HDC), the tiniest Land Rover has been sales-challenged in the U.S. — hence the addition of the sporty three-door model.

Dirty minded

With its open-air body, rugged trim and upscale features, the Freelander SE3 is a neat fit in Land Rover’s lineup. Its size (177.7 inches length; 101 inches wheelbase) gives it nearly the same footprint as the Ford Escape and the Mazda Tribute. Starting just under $27,000, the new model combines full-time four-wheel-drive capability with sharp styling and a trimmed-out interior.

The SE3's body is apt to cause flashbacks among former Nissan Pathfinder and Isuzu Amigo owners. The newest Landie’s profile is akin to those vehicle's two-door models. The triangulation of the rear fenders is complemented here, though, by a detachable hardback. The lines are enhanced by a black composite A-frame brush bar, roof rails that trail down the back of the vehicle, and a silver underbody brush plate; plus edgy 17-inch Triple Sport Evolution alloy wheels and high-energy colors such as Borrego Yellow and Tangiers Orange.

Mechanically, the SE3 has the same powertrain as the five-door: a 174-hp, 2.5-liter DOHC V-6 engine with permanent all-wheel drive and the CommandShift five-speed automatic transmission sits under the hood. It’s matched with four-wheel electronic traction control (4ETC), anti-lock brakes (ABS), and Hill Descent Control (HDC).

On the road…and off

Not surprisingly, the new SE3 handles quite like its four-door stablemate, with responsive steering (rack-and-pinion with a 38-foot turning circle), capable brakes (power-assisted front disc and rear drums, designed for good hill-holding along with the parking brake) and an engine with ample power for its size that joins the company of V-6-powered small SUVs.

More significant, however, is the standard five-speed automatic transmission, which employs the latest in adaptive shift patterns and can recognize driving style and terrain conditions, then adjust gear selection accordingly, and also can be shifted manually through all five speeds.

The Freelander already was the first Land Rover to be built with unitized body (monocoque) construction, which makes it both strong and lightweight, and gives it a solid — and nimble — feeling on the road. It drew another new line in the sand for Land Rover as the first model created without a low range set of four-wheel-drive gears. Instead, it has a viscous-coupling unit that splits the engine's power between the front and rear axles. While largely a front-driver on good roads (close to 90 percent of engine torque can be sent to the front), its AWD system makes fairly seamless transitions to the rear, and can split up to 40/60 for climbing steep grades and traction-compromised situations.

Also unconventional for this British marque is the Freelander's fully independent suspension (front: MacPherson struts, lower arms, coil spring, anti-sway bar; rear MacPherson struts, trapezoidal links, coil springs). Ride quality and wheel travel are greatly improved over the solid-axle arrangements that adorned Land Rovers of the past. Adding to the mix of technological win-wins is four-wheel electronic traction control, which provides go-power, even when only one wheel has traction, which was sometimes the case with the sandstone and shale tracks on the off-pavement trails near Las Vegas.

A major innovation for the lands beyond — although others such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Lexus have now joined the Go Slow Down Steep Hills Club — is Land Rover's electronic Hill Descent Control (HDC). HDC, which allows a controlled descent, can be engaged by pushbutton control, when the vehicle is in either first or reverse gear. The driver steers only and adopts a unique “no-feet” style of descending a steep off-road track or icy slope, since Freelander's brakes automatically act upon the wheels with traction to maintain a speed of between 4.4 and 5.6 mph. Applying either throttle or brakes disengages the system, although it remains active until it is manually turned off.

Other features that enhance the SE3’s off-road capability are its angles of approach and departure and its ground clearance, which ranges from 7.2 inches to 8.7 inches, more than enough for our two days of backcountry driving in Nevada and for most locations.

Finishing touches

The standard interior seat finish is black “Technical Fabric” vinyl with heated black or beige leather seats optional; heated leather also is an option. The leather-wrapped steering wheel includes cruise control and audio system controls, and the 240-watt, nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system includes a single, in-dash CD player. A six-disc CD changer is available as a factory or dealer-installed option.

The Freelander SE3 comes with air conditioning, power front windows, cruise control, power steering, heated front windshield, side view mirrors and rear window. The interior has room for five, with supportive front bucket seats, a 60/40 split rear bench and convenient storage space throughout the cabin. With the rear seats folded, 46.6 cubic feet of cargo space is available. Carrying capacity increases — vertically, at least, when the hardback panels and twin sunroofs are removed and stowed in their specially designed storage bag included in the rear load space.

Additional cupholders, a full-size glovebox and other storage options abound in the SE3. Keyless entry, central locking and a vehicle security system are all standard.
Safety is attended to in the usual ways, with front airbags, three-point seatbelts for all seating positions and LATCH child seat tethers. ABS is standard, as is traction control; brakes are front disc/rear drum.

Allowing for an open-air driving experience and boasting the same powertrain as its five-door stablemate, the Freelander SE3 is capable, fun to drive, and ruggedly handsome.


2003 Land Rover Freelander SE3
Base price: $26,995
Engine: 2.5-liter 24-valve DOHC V-6, 174 hp/177 lb-ft
Transmission:Five-speed electronically controlled automatic, all-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 101.0 in
Length: 177.7 in
Width: 71.1 in
Height: 69.2 in
Curb weight: 3577 lb
Fuel economy: 17/20 mpg (preliminary EPA estimates)
Safety equipment: Dual front airbags, child safety tethers, three-point safety belts
Major standard features: Air conditioning, AM/FM/CD player, steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, roof rails, leather-wrapped steering wheel, ABS, Hill Descent Control, traction control
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles
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Old 02-06-2003, 07:04   #2 (permalink)
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Smallest Land Rover attracts the affluent

BY JIM MATEJA
KNIGHT RIDDER/ Chicago TRIBUNE
February 6, 2003



Can Volkswagen sell a $200,000 Bentley?

Can Land Rover sell a $25,000 Freelander?

Some would say a $200,000 sedan from Volkswagen, maker of the Beetle, seems a tad out of character.

And some would say a $25,000 small sport-utility from Land Rover, maker of the big $70,000 Range Rover, would seem equally out of character.

For the 2002 model year, Land Rover brought out the Freelander, an entry-level sport-utility vehicle designed to get folks who usually would venture into a Jeep dealership into Land Rover showrooms instead.

Years ago, Porsche tried luring wanna-bes to the brand by offering a low-cost 924 starting at less than $25,000. If Porsche wanted to grow in the United States, the automaker thought, giving folks discount entry to the prestigious nameplate would pay dividends when those folks earned more money and moved up to the higher-priced offerings in the Porsche lineup.

Only trouble is that those who owned Porsche sports cars that cost $10,000 to $15,000 more than a 924 took issue with rubbing shoulders with the unwashed masses. Of course, in addition to the low price, offering a car with a liquid-cooled Audi engine upfront didn't please Porschephiles, who bow only before air-cooled engines housed in the rear.

For $25,000, it was thought, folks could gain discount membership into the Land Rover club.

Land Rover sold 15,000 Freelanders in '02, its first year in the market, accounting for about 20 percent of its U.S. sales. It expects sales to hold at 15,000 for '03, even with a new addition to the lineup, the SE3 two-door companion to the current four-door. The SE3 features twin sunroofs that can be removed for open-air motoring.

Freelander buyers are hardly down-and-outers. The median income is $87,500 and the median age is 46. So these are young, somewhat affluent people.

Land Rover says those attracted to a Freelander are looking for "a rugged, yet sophisticated image in a comfortable size for both urban and suburban use."

Translated, that means they're looking for a small SUV with a more prestigious name than a Jeep Wrangler, Toyota RAV4 or Hyundai Santa Fe.

We tested the '03 Freelander SE, which comes with full-time all-wheel-drive designed for optimum on- or off-road capability. Land Rover insists that a Freelander can go anywhere the larger ($34,000) Discovery or largest ($71,200) Range Rover can go -- off-road or through upscale suburbia.

To help get you wherever you are going, the fuel tank can hold 16.9 gallons. Should you wander off-road, body-side moldings have been added to protect the panels. While a little noise is tolerated when off-road, it isn't on the road, so the air-conditioning system has been tweaked to operate a little more quietly.

Freelander is powered by a 2.5-liter, 175-horsepower V6 with five-speed automatic and CommandShift, which gives you the choice of manual shifting without fiddling with a clutch pedal.

Some might say the 2.5-liter engine could use a few more horses, some might argue it could use a little more torque, while others might argue that with a 17 m.p.g. city/20 m.p.g. highway rating, it could use a little more mileage. Have to suspect those arguing for better mileage prompted the 16.9-gallon to increase driving range.

For the benefit of off-roaders, Freelander features four-wheel anti-lock brakes with traction control as standard teamed with Hill Descent Control (HDC) to better manage travel down steep slopes. HDC uses the ABS sensors to rapidly pulse the brakes to limit steep descents to a maximum of 5.6 m.p.h. And the standard 17-inch radial tires are designed for sure grip.

Nice touches include a wide-opening rear cargo door for easy loading/unloading, plus added storage space in the door. The rear cargo door also comes with a power window, but a button in the front console must be pressed for it to function, which sacrifices some of the convenience.

Couple of gripes: To ensure down-the-road visibility, the driver's seat sits high. But the roof line is low, so taller drivers may want to wear a helmet to enter. And why is the ignition key so difficult to fit into the opening?

Also, the greenhouse (the glass on top) is pinched and unnecessarily makes Freelander look very narrow. The power window controls are on a vertical plane low in the center console, where they are difficult to reach and use. And the button that locks the rear windows to keep the kids safe inside is just below and too close to the driver's side power window button. It sometimes takes a couple of attempts to strike the right one. A power plug serves rear-seat occupants, but it would be nice to have one upfront as well.

One questionable feature is the dual pop-up cupholders dead center in the top of the dash.

The owner's manual, obviously authored by Land Rover's legal staff, warns:


"The driver should not drink and should not use the cupholder while driving."

Only "suitable drink containers" and neither "open-top or sealed-top" containers nor "cups made of china or glass" should be placed in the holders.

Spilling a hot drink while driving or in a collision could not only "cause personal injury" but also "damage upholstery, carpeting or electrical systems" as well.
With so many don'ts, you have to ask why Land Rover put the cupholders dead center in the top of the dash. Of course, you also have to ask why a person who puts 12 ounces of boiling hot coffee in an open-top china container in a vehicle meant for off-roading and then worries about damaging the carpet when it spills would be allowed to carry a driver's license.

But we digress.

The base Freelander starts at $25,600, while the top-selling SE model we tested starts at $27,775. Standard equipment includes power windows, locks and mirrors (heated), air-conditioning, AM/FM/CD, leather seating surfaces and tilt steering.

Two options on the test vehicle were heated seats at $300, which were used often and worked well in the recent freeze, and a power sunroof at a hefty $875 that we didn't attempt to use because the manual warned not to even try in a freeze.

Besides, we didn't want the coffee in the open-top china cup in the center of the dash to cool off.

Pluses: Lets you gain entry into the Land Rover family for less than $30,000. Meant for rugged off-roading and ability to go anywhere the larger Discovery or Range Rover can go.

Minuses: Inexpensive for Land Rover, but not as low-priced as other small sport-utility vehicles. Only way to make window controls less accessible to driver would be to put them in backseat.

Specifications

Price: $27,775
As tested: $28,950. Includes $300 for heated seats and $875 for sunroof. Add $625 for freight.
Wheelbase: 101 inches
Length: 175 inches
Engine: 2.5-liter, 174-horsepower 20-valve V6
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 17 m.p.g. city/20 m.p.g. highway
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My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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