Introduced in 1997, the Freelander was a major departure from traditional methods of construction that Land Rover had used in the past, with monocoque body shell mounted to sub-frames and independent wishbone suspension. 1.8 K-series petrol engine or 2.0 Litre L-series Diesel engines were offered, with a choice of either 5 door or 3 door with removable hardtop or soft top bodies. Permanent four wheel drive was delivered through an all new Intermediate Reduction Drive (IRD) transmission with a viscous coupling unit between front and rear propshafts. The body panels were made of a plastic composite and the bodyshell rust-proofed so corrosion never really becomes an issue.
The V6 petrol engines were popular, especially in export markets. The BMW Td4 engine was introduced in 2000 alongside the V6 and new Automatic gearbox, and has proved mostly reliable, with occasional injector and fuelling problems. A styling facelift in 2003 modernised the bumpers and headlights, and various special editions such as the Serengeti, Sport, and HSE models offered higher levels of comfort and luxury.
Popular as an 'entry level' Land Rover, the original Freelander offers Land Rover badging at a bargain price. Beware, however, of various issues which may risk spoiling your love affair with the brand; lack of maintenance of the drivetrain can lead to costly bills to replace the viscous coupling unit which, if left unchecked, can lead to rear differential and/or IRD failure. Window regulators and sunroof runners can break or seize, and the 1.8 petrol engines were notorious for expensive cylinder head gasket failure, sometimes resulting in total engine replacement. Production ended in 2006 with the introduction of the totally new Freelander 2, and the original Freelander remains ever popular to this day.