Land Rover Freelander SE3:Fewer doors, more fun.
Car and Driver
BY BARRY WINFIELD
The introduction of Land Rover's Freelander SE3 in this country coincided with the trials for the company's global G4 outdoor adventure competition—basically, a renaming of the grueling Camel Trophy off-road challenge, which has run in impossible places such as Borneo. Thus, we were able to try out some of the driving sections set up in Nevada to eliminate contenders seeking a place on the U.S. team.
One was a narrow autocross track with a few berms and hills on it, another was an off-road course with steep hills and rutted, tortuous sections. Apart from weeding out contestants, the two courses helped convince journalists that the Freelander SE3 does indeed have some of the famous off-road capabilities usually considered to be Land Rover's heritage. That's perhaps a surprise in light of the Freelander's monocoque body (albeit with various underfloor box-section structures), full-time four-wheel drive, and lack of hard-core off-road devices such as low-range gearing or locking differentials. Instead, the Freelander makes do with a center viscous coupling, a low first gear, and ABS-managed hill-descent control.
It may surprise you to learn that once you've abandoned the low-range, locked-up off-road driving style and adapted to the somewhat faster hill-approach technique required of the Freelander, the little Landie gets over some pretty tough terrain.
Not that most of the sport-utility market cares. Hence the metamorphosis of what we used to expect of a Land Rover—a mud slogger with solid axles and transfer-case, low-range four-wheel drive—into what we get with the Freelander; that is, the same basic mechanical equipment as in a thoroughly house-trained Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, or Ford Escape, all rolled into a similarly cute, compact SUV package.
And now, to further reduce the utility of an already pretty small vehicle, the SE3 is a two-door, despite sharing nearly the same dimensions as the original five-door Freelander. Let's see, where else has this formula worked? But listen, the SE3 offers something status-conscious suburbanites will buy into, particularly if they live in a sunny, preferably coastal environment: detachable sunroof panels and rear roof section for open-top operation while surfing, boating, or just plain posing.
To adopt the look, you just pop out the sunroof panels, remove the roof-rack rails, and detach the rear canopy. That's at home, before you leave, of course. There's nowhere in this small vehicle to carry the stuff. But there is a softtop option that you could take along in case of rain.
Small it may be, but spartan it is not. The rear window is powered. Standard equipment includes a nine-speaker Harman/Kardon stereo with an in-dash CD player. A six-disc changer is also available.
The stock seats in the SE3 are black vinyl (Land Rover calls it Technical Fabric), which is something like the mutant's skin in the X-Men movie. They also look hose-washable, but waterproof seat covers are listed among the options, so they probably are not. Other than these few items, the SE3's equipment list reads much like that of its five-door sibling. Unchanged are the vehicle's 2.5-liter V-6, five-speed Jatco automatic with manumatic override, all-wheel-drive system with center viscous coupling, four-wheel traction control, hill-descent control, all-terrain anti-lock brakes, and power rack-and-pinion steering.
There are some revisions to the five-door '03 Freelander that the SE3 inherits. The ventilation system has been replaced with a unit that moves more air with less noise, and the gas tank has been enlarged to 16.9 gallons.
Naturally, we expect performance and handling from the convertible Freelander to be similar to that of its five-door sibling. Its curb weight slots within the range of the five-door's, and the gearing is identical. Well, no one will accuse it of being overpowered. Although the 174-hp V-6 needs to be spurred on to make decent time, the noises it makes are pleasant, and the acceleration is acceptably quick.
It makes little difference. The SE3 offers an open-air alternative to would-be Freelander owners along with the usual upscale trappings of a Land Rover. That ought to be enough, don't you think?
Land Rover Freelander SE3
Vehicle type: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 2-door truck
Base price: $26,995
Engine type: DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, Siemens MS43 engine-control system with port fuel injection
Displacement: 152 cu in, 2497cc
Power (SAE net): 174 bhp @ 6250 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 177 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic with lockup torque converter
Wheelbase: 101.0 in
Length: 177.7 in
Width: 71.1 in
Height: 69.2 in
Curb weight: 3600 lb
Zero to 60 mph: 10.2 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 40.3 sec
Standing 1/4-mile: 17.8 sec @ 79 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 109 mph
Projected fuel economy:
EPA city driving: 17 mpg
EPA highway driving: 20 mpg
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.....