Land Rover continues the Freelander into 2005 with almost no changes; the top-level HSE has been discontinued.

The Freelander comes as a four-door SE or two-door SE3 with lift-off hatchback. The SE can be ordered with a new premium package of options, including leather interior, Harman/Kardon six-disc CD system, 18-inch wheels, cargo cover and illuminated vanity mirror, which brings it to the same specifications as the discontinued HSE. Both models use a 2.5-litre V6 with a five-speed automatic transmission, and an all-wheel-drive system with electronic traction control, ABS, electronic brake force distribution and hill descent control, which gives it more flexibility for off-road use.

Both models include power locks with keyless entry, heated power mirrors, front and rear fog lights, CD player with eight speakers and wheel-mounted controls, air conditioning, cruise control, leather-wrapped wheel, power windows (including the rear window on SE), variable intermittent wipers, and roof racks.

Unlike many of its sport-compact competitors, the Freelander really can handle itself off the beaten path; it has 186 mm of ground clearance, an aluminum skid plate over the oil pan, and a plastic shield to keep guck out of the driveshaft. It takes two people to lift off the SE3’s rear hardtop – and you’ll need a place to store it – but once it’s off, it makes for an entertaining, open-air experience. The AWD system uses a viscous coupler and is 95 per cent front, five per cent rear under normal conditions, but transfers to 50/50 or more when required.

Without a low range or a locking differential, the Freelander can’t go quite as far into the bush as a Jeep TJ, but it has better manners on the asphalt; the ride is solid and sturdy, and body roll is slightly less than you’d expect. Acceleration is average, given the weight that V6 has to pull around. The seats are comfortable and the interior is up to the quality expected from this marque, with intuitively-placed controls. As the entry-level model into the Land Rover family, and at $26,000 under the next-level LR3, this is the answer for people who want a Land Rover but who can’t break the $40,000 barrier.

The Freelander is built in Solihull, England.

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