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What Car? says

2 out of 5 stars

For Its off-road ability and unique styling mark it out

Against The car is let down by reliability problems

Verdict It's easily the most able all-rounder in the class

Go for… Td4 GS 5dr

Avoid… 2.0 Di 3dr

Land Rover Freelander 4x4
  • 1. The 1.8-litre petrol engine can be noisy as it has to work hard, so later BMW-sourced diesel engine are better bets
  • 2. Blown head gaskets are a common problem on 1.8-litre petrol-engined models
  • 3. Damage to the suspension from off-roading could be expensive to repair
  • 4. The rear differential can fail with little warning
  • 5. Manual gearboxes can become noisy and fail
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Land Rover Freelander 4x4 full review with expert trade views

Land Rover brought all of its off-road expertise to the soft-roader sector with the first-generation Freelander. It was amazingly able in the dirt for this class. Thankfully, Land Rover also endowed it with excellent on-road comfort and handling that only the Toyota RAV4 could hope to match.

Full-time four-wheel drive gives the Freelander secure handling. And, while there’s too much lean in corners, the upside is a very supple ride and, when you venture off-road, the Freelander doesn't try to rearrange your internal organs.

There’s an excellent driving position and seating for five, while the boot is generous enough to cope with a family’s holiday baggage. The drop-down window in the rear door is a boon when reaching for lighter luggage.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Td4 is the best choice - 1.8 petrol struggles. Revised ’03s good

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The five-door version is much more practical than the three-door model, providing decent seat space in the back and a useful boot. But, whichever you go for, the Freelander is at its best with the later, BMW-sourced Td4 turbodiesel engine that arrived in 2000.

At the same time, Land Rover also introduced the 2.5 V6 petrol engine from the Rover 75, with 174bhp and a five-speed automatic gearbox as standard, but it's not worth consdering - not that fast or economical. The 1.8-litre petrol engine is the most common engine in used Freelanders and it does a decent, if noisy, job, but it's a clear second best to the diesel.

All Freelanders have permanent four-wheel drive and Land Rover’s Hill Descent Control for better off-road ability. However, steer clear of the base X models, which are sparsely equipped, and go for an XE instead.

The S, GS and ES trims arrived in mid-2000, and the GS includes alloy wheels, air-con, CD player and twin front airbags, while a face-lift in 2002 brought Range Rover-style jewelled headlights and a Sport model with slightly firmer suspension.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Lots of cooling problems on 1.8 petrol - high failure rates and big bills

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

The Freelander may be the baby of Land Rover’s range, but it has the appetite of a baby elephant. The 1.8-litre petrol engine is underpowered and average economy of around 27.0mpg can soon take its toll on the wallet.

The 2.0 Td4 diesel is the cheapest to fuel and the most reliable, turning in around 37mpg, and has proved a very durable engine. The 2.5 V6 is understressed and bears up well.

If only the same could be said for the rear differential and suspension, which both give trouble on many Freelanders. If you hear a grumbling noise from the rear of the car, move on to the next one on your shortlist.

Land Rover dealers are among the priciest to use, so an independent garage is a better bet for servicing. Thankfully, insurance and other running costs, such as tyres, are much the same as for the Freelander’s key rivals.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Td4 is the best choice - 1.8 petrol struggles. Revised ’03s good

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Blown head gaskets are a common issue with 1.8-litre Freelanders. It’s a well known problem and is caused by allowing the coolant level in the very small tank to get low. Water in the oil is a good sign of impending problems, but the good news is that the other engines have proved to be very reliable.

Any damage to the suspension from off-roading will be expensive to repair, while the rear differential can fail with little warning. Manual gearboxes can also become noisy and fail, but other failures are more likely to be electrical, especially the rear door’s window, which can drop unexpectedly. You should also watch for water leaks in the three-door models.

Face-lifted Freelanders from September 2002 are better built and suffer far fewer problems, and most came with a passenger airbag as standard. Anti-lock brakes became standard across the range in 2001.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Lots of cooling problems on 1.8 petrol - high failure rates and big bills

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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