2003Freelander SE3 Image isn't everything: But it's darned important for Land Rover
2003 Land Rover Freelander SE3
By MARK VAUGHN/AutoWeek
2003 LAND ROVER FREELANDER SE3
ON SALE: Now
BASE PRICE: $26,995
POWERTRAIN: 2.5-liter, 174-hp, 177-lb-ft V6; awd, five-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT: 3577 pounds
0-60 MPH: 10.0 seconds (mfr.)
SCOTT SILVESTRY, A cardiac, vascular and thoracic surgeon from Marquette, Minnesota, stood knee-deep in a foul-smelling pond containing mud, ooze, slime and (for all we knew) snakes in the hinterlands of Henderson, Nevada, trying to attach a winch cable to the front of a beat-up old Land Rover 110. Why was he doing this? Why were 28 other dynamic young adventurers out here freezing in their cross-trainer approach shoes for the amusement of Land Rover officials? Because Land Rover is about adventure, man! Healthy outdoor adventure, and if you buy a Land Rover, you too will be just like Silvestry, minus the snakes.
Land Rover brought us to Henderson for two purposes: First, to watch qualifying for the G4 Challenge, the new version of the Camel Trophy, a trans-global, eco-friendly, part-time four-wheel-drive adventure race and Land Rover marketing extravaganza that kicks off in March. The other purpose was to introduce us to its SE3.
The SE3 is a three-door, quasi-roofless version of the Freelander five-door, with roof panels over the front seats that pop out and a rear roof section that unscrews completely for that wind-in-the-hair feeling. The SE3 shares almost all the rest of its mechanicals—101-inch wheelbase; 174-hp, 177- lb-ft dohc V6; five-speed automatic—with the five-door Freelander. Like the Freelander, it relies on a viscous center diff to shift torque front to rear instead of a low-range transfer case. But it has Rover’s Hill Descent Control to allow safe creeps down long declines using automated ABS-like wheel control.
The Hill Descent Control functions nicely on steep downhills, each brake managed electronically to maintain optimum control without a heavy, cumbersome low-range transfer case. It also means your average on-road buyer doesn’t have to learn about transfer cases to enjoy the benefits of all-wheel drive. But getting up really horrendous rocky steep stuff is also out of the question. For 99 percent of SE3 buyers, that’s fine.
Not surprisingly, we weren’t led up any rocky steep stuff during the SE3’s intro. Save that for the Wrangler Rubicons of the world. The SE3 is set up for suburban comfort, with occasional forays into dirt. Hence the black vinyl “Techni-cal Fabric” seats (can’t wait to try them out in summer) and optional six-disc CD changer with steering wheel-mounted audio controls. It was roomy and comfortable, even fun to drive in an SUV sort of way.
Land Rover plans to sell 2000 SE3s a year in the United States, with prices starting at $26,995. They’re available now.
The G4 Challenge will help sell them. While Chevrolet might still sell Luminas if Luminas didn’t run in Winston Cup, and BMW would surely sell 760iLs if a BMW V10 didn’t power Williams F1 cars, would anybody buy Land Rovers if Land Rover hadn’t cultivated such a rugged brand image for its vehicles? Sure, but they might not buy as many.
Which brings us back to our man Silvestry, who was here for the fun of the competition more than the hope of winning a Land Rover at the end. “Yeah,” he chuckled, pond scum slithering out of his sneakers, “I figure I could take four weeks [to go on the G4 Challenge] or just work four weeks and buy one.”
Either way, Land Rover will be happy.
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.....