Best car Land Rover ever made? No. But it was impressively ahead of its time…
By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, 6 January 2023 / Loading comments
Typical. In the one week of the year that Shed downs tools, the shed of the decade pops up. Porsche Boxster 2.7, 135k, recent IMS bearing and clutch, £1,499. Sold the next day.
Ah well, sorry about that. Let’s get back to reality and the first shed of 2023, a Land Rover Freelander 2.0 T4 Adventurer Hardtop 3dr, a big name for what was at its launch in 1997 (and presumably always will be) LR’s smallest all-wheel driver.
Normally, when Shed sees the phrase ‘various parts of underbody corroded’ on a Freelander MOT certificate he’ll give it the same sort of swerve that he gives to Bob the binman when he’s out walking his pittie, but this one’s different. The mentions of corrosion to various parts of the underbody and suspension that appear on last September’s pass cert are the bits that the mechanic couldn’t be bothered to brush off after he’d plated up the holes on three of the car’s four corners that had caused it to fail the previous day.
Freelander suspension and seatbelt mounting points are well known for their susceptibility to rust so it’s good to know that at least three-quarters of the patching-up work has already been done on this one. It’s still not perfect – there’s some unintrusive windscreen damage, a small exhaust blow, and you might want to fit a new front brake disc and track rod end at some point – but if you can find a gen-one Freelander that is perfect and on sale at a sensible price you might want to nab it. With independent suspension and Hill Descent Control they were surprisingly handy little fellas for the money especially when, like this one, they came with the BMW 2.0 diesel, the moteur du choix.
Our September 2006 shed is one of the very last gen-one L314 Freelander 1s. Three months later the 1 was succeeded by the Forded-up L359 Freelander 2, a signifier of Land Rover’s determined shuffle upmarket. The F2 press event featured screeching tennis player and posh scent mule Maria Sharapova. Here we see her looking suitably embarrassed by the attentions of the slavering press.
There was no such nonsense for the F1 launch but that didn’t seem to affect the car’s success. It was Europe’s best selling AWD for a time. Only later did it become obvious that the petrol engines (1.8 K-series and 2.5 KV6) and general build quality weren’t the greatest in this application. Window switches packed in quite a lot and the electrics generally couldn’t really be trusted. One PHer on a previous F1 thread reported that the optional rear parking sensors on his dad’s car would happily let him reverse into solid objects because nobody at LR had thought to take the tailgate-mounted spare into account.
On the mechanical side though the TD4 cars took a lot of the heat out of the ownership experience, providing a less frenetic drive than the revvy but torque-poor petrols. Changing the timing belt could be a pain on the early diesels but this is a later one. Some say an auto TD4 is the ultimate spec but others might prefer the relative ease of pushing a dead manual. That’s assuming the clutch was working of course, which it didn’t always do. Rear diff mounts, centre propshaft bearings, intermediate reduction drive units also needed monitoring.
Like the soft top version, the hardtop was detachable. In fact on certain models the soft and hard tops were interchangeable, and having that separate top meant you didn’t have to worry about rusting tailgates. All three-doors had an integral roll cage and removable targa panels in the main part of the roof. Our car has a towball so you can haul 750kg of unbraked tat around, or 1,800kg if your trailer has brakes.
Apart from a few light scrapes round the back this 102,000-miler looks like a decent shout even at today’s apparently default shed price of £1,499. Especially when we tell you that Shed’s £1,499 Boxster was completely made up.
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