January 10, 2001
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Detroit auto show:
Freelander lands in North America
The smallest Land Rover, the Freelander, debuted Tuesday at the 2001 North American International Auto Show. With the Freelander, Land Rover is entering the rapidly expanding small sport-utility segment. At a press conference held today at the auto show, Land Rover chairman and chief executive Bob Dover detailed plans to develop this niche and significantly increase Land Rover’s North American sales in calendar year 2002. Mr. Dover called Freelander a new, small, premium sport-utility targeted at driving enthusiasts. The new Freelander will be launched in North America in the fourth quarter of 2001.
“Freelander, with its capability on any road, will speak to people who know and use sport-utility vehicles. It will appeal to customers who appreciate light and quick European handling along with true go-anywhere capability,” noted Mr. Dover, who was named chairman and chief executive of Land Rover on July 1, 2000.
Kalahari and Kensington, the two extreme Freelander concept vehicles shown at the press conference were developed and built by Land Rover Special Vehicles in Solihull, England. The utilitarian Freelander Kalahari, painted Molten Orange, and the luxurious Freelander Kensington, finished in Black Cherry, visually demonstrate the breadth of capability at the heart of every Land Rover.
At launch, Freelander will be offered as a five-door model and will carry a price below U.S.$30,000 (Canadian prices not announced). Cloth and leather interior trim packages will be offered. Land Rover is also considering the possibility of launching a three-door Freelander model in North America at a later date.
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Freelander is the first Land Rover in history to combine unibody construction with a fully independent suspension. The basis of the suspension is a MacPherson-type strut arrangement for each wheel, with steel subframes mounted rigidly to the body at the front and rear. Generous amounts of wheel travel are provided: seven inches (180 mm) at the front and a full eight inches (204 mm) at the rear.
The engine for the North American market is Land Rover’s KV6 engine, a 2.5-liter, 24-valve, double overhead camshaft (DOHC) unit developing an estimated 175 bhp and 177 lb.-ft. of torque. Final ratings for the North American-specification Freelander have not yet been established. The engine will be mated to a Jatco five-speed Steptronic automatic transmission that offers either the smooth ease of an automatic or the responsive precision of a five-speed manual shifter. All Freelanders sold in North America will also feature permanent all-wheel drive; a centre viscous coupling unit (VCU) similar to that of Range Rover; four-wheel Electronic Traction Control (4ETC); Land Rover’s patented Hill Descent Control (HDC); and an all-terrain Anti-lock Braking System (ABS). No other vehicle in the segment offers this level of innovation.