Our Cars : Getting to know the Freelander

Keith Adams

Freelander (2)

It’s funny that, for a car that’s been out of production for so long, many people still seem to have strong opinions about the Land Rover Freelander. The early ones, especially, have a reputation for biblical unreliability and fragility – as a consequence, when I announced to the world that the new AROnlinemobile is a 2001 Freelander TD4, friends, readers and acquaintances either congratulated me for my bravery, or commiserated with me for a gross act of stupidity.

Much of the Freelander’s reputation for unreliability is justified. It might be a clever concept, but the build quality left something to be desired – and, when you’re sinking your own (or your company’s) money into a premium-priced product like this (when new), dependability and quality should be a given. However, 15 years on and at banger money, one’s expectations are a little bit lower, and the odd bit of flakiness here and there can easily be forgiven.

The first thing I should say in response to the comments on the original posting for this car is that it is front-wheel drive only, and the work has been done by a Land Rover specialist. It was done in the hands of its previous owner and, as such, I am happy to proceed with the car in this form – even though winter is on the way and its boosty turbo was prone to deliver plenty of wheelspin if you were injudicious with the throttle. I speak in the past tense about this, as the seriously worn front tyres have been replaced by a new set of Bridgestones, which have restored the car’s planted feel.

In the month or so that I’ve had it, around 1000 miles have been racked up, and so far there have been no maladies, no breakdowns and nothing has dropped off. In fact, it’s quietly impressing as a roomy, capable and pleasurable hack that’s both good to sit in traffic in and cart the dog to muddy fields. Since I picked it up, I’ve rewired the stereo, fitted a new head unit, and – as previously stated – stuck on some decent Bridgestones.

There are a few little bits and pieces to do, such as replace a broken dashboard switch, fit a new engine cover and get some bumper care on those huge swathes of grey plastic used for the bumpers and wheelarch extensions. The front door speakers are also inoperative and the aerial is missing – both common failures for Freelander MkI owners. For those expecting reams and reams of copy about how rubbish Freelanders are, this might prove to be a little disappointing.

And long may it stay that way.

Freelander (1)


Keith Adams


  1. What I remember about these is the lane change test on 5th gear which scared the crap out of the presenters. A car with high speed instability and lacking four wheel drive, which is frank its only advantage over a much better driving estate.

    Sorry, but I can’t see the appeal.

  2. Bought a 2004 “sport” 3 door 18 months ago as a dog carrier. Perfect to keep a mutt cool and carry long lengths of timber etc. with the dropping back window.
    After sorting out a few bits of creaky trim and some sound proofing, it has turned out to be a reliable workhorse. Loaded up many times during a house move and towed (probably) more than it should without complaining. Only problems were propshaft centre bearings and diff mounts, but these were nasty cheap parts fitted by previous owner. The price of a decent one of these does not reflect the alleged reliability.
    The 3 door is a distinctive and quirky concept which has some advantages if the back seats are not needed too often.

  3. Surely the ones left have been sorted, I bought one in 2014, at auction, 2000 SW 5D MKI with the old engine for £900, pig to drive, very underpowered and handling was not there. Bought on a wed, sold £1300 the Saturday on gumtree. The Tucson that replaced it was much better despite the lazy self-shifter, still quite thirsty beasts for the speed you get, 35mpg at best but I’m not a big fan of these small Jeeps. At least, they’re quite efficient when the going gets tough..

  4. The funniest comment I ever saw on HJ was about these cars. Someone wrote in asking about buying one to tow a double horsebox, HJ’s response was they’d be better off using the horses to tow the Freelander

  5. I had a 3 door basic Td4 as a company car in 2001 Fuel pump failed a couple of times. Used it to tow a horse box however my wife thought it was a great ” off roader ” as it always had something wrong with it and was in the the garage for repairs.

  6. Love the looks of these. At the 10-15 year old end of the market, they are mistrusted and are consequently a great bargain for someone with decent tools and mechanical skills.
    Unfortunately, I’m not that person, so I bought a CRV when looking for a beater a few years ago, despite it costing a grand more than an equivalent age/mileage Freelander. It was perfectly reliable, and I’m now a massive Honda convert.

  7. I’ve got one as a 2nd car. The ird went so it’s now just a 2wd load lugger. It spins it’s front wheels as described and the front speakers also needed attention.

    However, the 1.8 engine is sprightly enough and as an lpg converted (by the previous owner) it gets me 200 miles for £14. There is the daily lottery of the fear of a HGF but that back door pocket was designed for a deionised water bottle, antifreeze and of course a bottle of oil as I’ve become obsessive about fluid levels.

    Over the 3 years of owning it, it’s cost very little money as most of the mechanical interventions have been to remove things plus a few bushes and drop links, we also have a BMW X3 which has cost far more in garage bills.

    The £850 purchase price for a 2004 face-lifted ‘s’ on basic alloys with winter/all terrain tyres has had £100 of prettier alloys added and £100 of leather interior has made it a nice cabin and good to look at.

    All in all, it’s equivalent to a comfortable pleasant and roomy 70mpg car for just over a grand.

    The prop shaft is still in our cellar waiting for the decision to go back to the 4wd but I don’t think that’s happening.

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