FREELANDER V6 IS REVEALED AS POWERFUL ADDITION TO THE FREELANDER MODEL RANGE

Since its launch in 1997, Freelander has been acclaimed by press and public alike and is currently the best selling 4 x 4 in Europe. Now the Freelander V6 is revealed for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show and will go on sale the last quarter of 2000.

A powerful and refined addition to the existing Freelander model range, the Freelander V6 is powered by the 2.5 litre all-alloy 130 kW engine as used in the Rover 75. The new model will spearhead Freelander expansion in the Middle East, Far East and the United States.

The Freelander V6 features a five-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic - the first time such a transmission has been fitted in a four wheel drive vehicle in the small/medium segment. The only other 4 x 4 with a similar system is the BMW X5. The gearbox gives the driver maximum flexibility with a choice of normal or sport automatic modes as well as Steptronic gearshift for more active control.

The Freelander V6 is available in both body styles - 3 door softback or hardback and 5 door estate. With the packaging requirements of the V6 engine the opportunity has been taken to refresh the front end styling of Freelander that now features a longer profile to the front bumper. With other changes this means that over 40 percent of the vehicle content is new. Freelander V6 retains all the four wheel drive technology introduced when Freelander was launched. This includes Intermediate Reduction Drive (IRD) with viscous coupling controlled drive sharing to the rear wheels and Hill Descent Control, a world first for Freelander which has subsequently been fitted to the Land Rover New Discovery and the BMW X5.

As a further refinement cruise control will be offered as an option.

2.5 Litre V6 Engine: The Freelander V6 shares the same 2.5 litre V6 all aluminium engine as the award winning Rover 75. It develops 130 kW at 6500 rpm and 240 Nm at 4000 rpm. The engine features a Siemens fuel injection and engine management system first introduced on Rover 75. The injection configuration uses a simple 'air-assisted' principle that improves fuel atomisation and the advanced Variable Induction System (VIS) has a high precision plastic moulded upper manifold and plenum. These features improve torque which enhance driveability, towing and off-road performance.

A profiled cam in the throttle system gives fine control at low engine speeds but quick response on the open road. There are many features to ensure reliability and to reduce cost of ownership including multi-layer steel cylinder head gaskets and platinum tip spark plugs with 60,000 mile replacement cycles.

The torque-axis mounting system of the transverse engine is designed to improve refinement by reducing engine vibration and noise levels. The engine meets EU3 passenger car emission requirements in Europe.

Five-Speed Automatic Transmission with Steptronic: Unique in its segment. Freelander V6 offers as standard a five speed automatic gearbox with Steptronic. The five gears provide a wide ratio spread that gives enhanced responsiveness and economy when exploiting the on road handling and pace of the Freelander V6. The gearbox is equipped with several drive modes for maximum control.

'Normal' mode provides for normal automatic change while moving the selector lever into the Steptronic gate gives a 'Sport' mode which has unique shift maps. This makes the gearbox change down more readily and hold onto lower gears longer in order to aid acceleration and improve responsiveness.

This part of the selector gate also provides the Steptronic control. A brief forward or backward movement of the lever gives up or down gear shifts with maximum ease. Steptronic allows fast, smooth gear changes and improves off road performance by giving more control to the driver and reducing power and traction loss.

Copyright Landrover UK, June 2000, Official Press Release

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So much the official text. I believe The Freelander will appear in the US in the first months of 2001 thus giving Ford some time to adjust their advertising campaigns. If the Freelander is to hit a real broad market that the SUV's represent it needs are larger dealership than the more or less exclusive bunch Landrover has now. So I think it will be distributed through the Ford dealership in long term. But if built quality will not be much improved the consumer organizations will sink the whole project.

The car seems otherwise nice, especially the Steptronic is a good addition. It melts all the advantages of a manual and an auto box without most drawbacks. On the addition of a plastic intake manifold... I'm not enough informed to judge about it but I still prefer cast iron.

But let's wait for the price. The Steptronic alone will raise the end price by more or less 1200£ (a guess), the engine and all its additions may add for another 2000£ and smog equipment probably will add another 1000£ so I guess the sale price will be around 31.350€ which is almost the same in US$. This is based on the highest spec XEDi model as it makes no sense to introduce a basic model with such an expensive engine.

MORE THAN 31.000 $. For an SUV. It has to be really damn good to make a hit.

But I may be wrong on all this. July 4th, 2000. Alain Hoffmann