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FREELANDER 1 AND 2 buying guides


by Ed Evans, 26th May 2016

Introduced in 1997, Freelander soon became Europe's best-selling 4x4

The two Freelander types do not share a single component, but they are identical in essence and in the job they perform. They both represent medium-sized entry level modern Land Rovers. They’re both highly practical, comfortable, enjoy modern safety standards and are easy to drive for everyone.  They also share a transverse engine layout and front wheel drive, with the rear wheels automatically adding drive when the terrain demands.

Freelander 1, introduced in 1997, was Land Rover’s first move from the traditional chassis with beam axles formula to a monocoque body with independent suspension and a transverse engine mounted on steel subframes. Freelander 1 and 2 are mainly front-wheel drive cars in which the rear wheels will drive if the fronts lose grip. In Freelander 1 this is achieved by a viscous coupling which connects the rear drive shaft when needed and, in Freelander 2 an electronically controlled hydraulically operated coupling at the rear differential.


Freelanders DO not have a traditional twin-speed transfer box, so there is no low range gearing for off-road use. But the introduction of Hill Descent Control which automatically co-ordinates engine speed with wheel brakes ensures safe off-road descending. Slow and tricky off-road driving requires some slipping of the clutch when first gear is too high, which is why the automatic versions (whose torque convertor allows engine revs to stay up when progress is slow) are more suitable off road.
Comparisons Freelander 1 has evolved into a classic shape that  doesn’t look out of date because there’s nothing else like it around. It’s the driver’s Freelander and its only off-road restriction is the lower ground clearance (suspension lifts available). They are also cheap to buy, but remember that post-end March 2006 models come in for higher road tax.

Freelander 2 must surely hold the road better than its forbear, and safety, comfort and sound levels are much improved. But the driving experience is not as engaging as Freelander 1 and it suffers from front wheel torque steering when driven hard. Drive a 2 to arrive rested but bored, drive a 1 to engage with the vehicle and enjoy the journey. Most Freelander 2s have terrain Response. For reliability, Freelander 2 has it by a mile. But a well looked after Freelander 1 will give few issues if maintained.


This is the driver’s car, giving great feedback on the road. It is fun to drive briskly and easy to drive at a relaxed pace. Steering is precise and the car’s reaction to driver input is predictable. It’s fun even with the docile early Rover diesel engine. The Td4, equally frugal at around 37 mpg, adds more punch, and the Honda-derived thirsty V6 petrol engine is smooth and swift. The 1.8-litre petrol engine is also smooth unit but lacks the economy of the diesels. Freelander 1 gives a choice of body styles including the prolific five-door station wagon, a three-door soft back, three-door (detachable) hardback and a commercial van option. 


It’s a comfortable quiet cruiser that’s boringly easy to drive. There is just one five-door body, though a commercial version was available in the early days. Now out of production, the styling is looking chunkier and more Land Roverly. It is a superb off-roader that’s ideal for family greenlaning with a decent set of all-terrain tyres fitted. Most have the 2.2-litre TD4 four cylinder diesel engine and manage around 38 mpg, but later improved versions with the stop/start engine system move the consumption to low forties. The early six-cylinder Volvo 3.2-litre i6 petrol engine version is now a rare and thirsty commodity.


Freelander 1’s early Rover 2.0-litre diesel is good as gold. Nothing happens. The BMW Td4 (a short version of the Range Rover Td6) likes good servicing so check the record. Exhaust smoke and oil mist in the engine bay may need just a routine crankcase breather filter change, which is often overlooked. An instrument panel warning lamp on is likely to be an engine sensor issue, but don’t buy until it’s fixed. Early overheating issues with the 1.8-litre petrol engine have long been sorted. But it is wise to test any engine over a drive long enough to see the temperature reach working level and stay there. The 2001 1.8 Freelander received a revised cooling system, and the plastic dowels locating the cylinder head on the block were replaced by steel versions, which prevented head float. Since then a modified head gasket has become available, curing the overheating issue. So a cheap 1.8 can be a bargain. Freelander 2 engines just run.
Running gear
Freelander 1’s suspension is tough, but listen for rattling anti-roll bar linkages. A thump from the rear is likely to be a failed front mounting on the rear differential. The viscous coupling normally exerts restriction on the drive when manoeuvring slowly on full lock. If the coupling is failing, the handling at 30 mph plus will be poor and the steering will not self-centre as expected. Problems here, or noises from the drivetrain, mean the car probably needs work, though a whirr from the rear underside may just be propshaft bearings. Some cars have had their propshaft removed to eliminate transmission problems, so look underneath to see if it is there. Lack of rear drive means the ability to deal with mud, snow and ice is lost and it may cause stability problems, especially on Td4 and V6 models. Freelander 2 may develop a whine from the rear differential pinion bearing after high miles, but similar sounds can be caused by an unevenly worn rear tyre. The car should drive firmly and quietly – they’re no trouble.
Body and Chassis
Freelanders have never suffered from rust, except for a few elderly Freelander 1s showing surface rust on the underbody and subframes. A clean off and coat of wax preservative will look after those vehicles for the future.

Both types are simple to service and garages are familiar with them. But a Freelander 1 with drivetrain issues is best taken to someone with experience of them. Service and routine replacement parts are cheap and widely available. 


Freelander 1
• Petrol: 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol, 118 bhp, 121 lb-ft; 2.5-litre V6 petrol, 177 bhp, 177 lb-ft torque
• Diesel: 1997-2000. 2-litre Rover four-cylinder turbo diesel, 96 bhp, 155 lb-ft torque. 2000-2006: 2-litre BMW Td4, 110 bhp, 192 lb-ft
Freelander 2
• 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, 150 bhp, 295 lb-ft torque. Six-speed manual gearbox with optional stop/start (eD4)  or six-speed automatic.
• 3.2-litre i6 six-cylinder petrol engine


Freelander 1
Project: £400 – £700
Average: £700 – £1900
Good: £1900 – £3300
Excellent: £3300 – £6000
Freelander 2
Poor: £6000 – £7000
Average: £7000 – £9000
Good: £9000 – £14,000
Excellent: £14,000 – £32,000


  • Configuration:
  • Aspiration:
  • Fuel:
  • Transmission:
  • Wheelbase:
  • Weight:

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