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Land Rover: 2001 Freelander

Freelander 2001 - Coming to the U.S.

Land Rover's new Freelander range for 2001 has a special significance as the first new model announcement since the company became part of Ford Motor Company's Premier Automotive Group on July 1. The expanded range includes new V6 petrol and Td4 diesel engines, Steptronic transmission, and extensive improvements in all areas from chassis engineering to feature levels. It has been planned and developed to build on the exceptional success of the Freelander concept, which took Land Rover into an entirely new sector of the 4x4 market at the end of 1997.

 

 2001 Land Rover Freelander
Click image for larger view

In its first two full years, Freelander helped to raise Land Rover unit sales by 28%. Now, with more powerful and luxurious derivatives, engineered for wider climatic extremes, Freelander is poised to help expand Land Rover's world-wide sales. New markets will include the Gulf States and Japan, as well as several cold climate territories. Entry to the important USA market is planned for late 2001. Forecasts indicate that Freelander will account for over 40% of Land Rover volumes as they increase towards 200,000 units a year.

 2001 Land Rover Freelander
Click image for larger view

BACKGROUND TO THE BEST SELLING 4 X 4 IN EUROPE

Right from its launch, the Land Rover Freelander has taken the high ground in every sense. Sales, predominantly in Europe, grew from just under 47,000 in 1998, its first full year, to nearly 70,000 in 1999 to make Freelander Europe's biggest selling 4x4 - and the numbers are still climbing.

For many Land Rover dealers in the UK, Freelander has, as forecast, already doubled their throughput. Part of the preparation for the 1997 launch involved re-organisation, expansion or even re-location for many UK dealers, who invested an average of 1m each in new premises. These processes will continue as Freelander contributes more and more to Land Rover's business growth.

Freelander's formula of offering the widest span of capability, from car-like handling to authentic Land Rover off-road ruggedness, proved irresistible to car buyers who were looking for something different. Research shows that around four out of every five Freelander sales so far have been to customers coming from conventional two wheel drive cars. Many of these sales were to people who were receptive to the concept of an adventurous but practical and stylish go-anywhere vehicle, but had been unconvinced by anything previously available in the small/medium 4x4 sector. Only with the launch of Freelander, a clear class leader backed by the unique credibility of the Land Rover brand, did this group of people - including many business users - feel that they had 'permission' to make the leap into a different kind of motoring.

Only Freelander offered such user-friendly technological innovation as HDC - Hill Descent Control - perfectly judged to reassure novices as they explored the extraordinary 'mountain goat' abilities of the vehicle. Further extending its appeal was the typically Land Rover breadth of choice - three distinctive body configurations in the practical 5 door Station Wagon and sporty 3-door Softback or Hardback versions, coupled with a first class petrol or diesel engine selection. The extensive menu of derivatives, options and accessories enabled buyers to make Freelander's their own.

Increased Competition

Land Rover knew that they could not be complacent about a product even as successful as Freelander. As the top seller in Europe, it was by definition a key target of rivals, and this has become evident in recent and forthcoming competitive product launches, from the latest Toyota RAV4 to new market entrants such as the US-designed Hyundai Santa Fe.

Land Rover has listened closely to feedback from customers and has combined this with its own internal development programmes aimed at keeping Freelander ahead of the competition - the innovations on Freelander 2001MY such as the new 5 speed, triple mode automatic transmission with Steptronic show that this has been achieved. The new Freelander 2001 adds new dimensions of power, refinement and luxury to the proven Freelander concept. It reflects, and indeed leads the classic fragmentation effect in a still fast growing worldwide 4x4 market, as products are tailored to the expanding variety of customer preferences.

"Several existing Freelander owners have said that they want to trade up to a more powerful vehicle, but want to retain the compact format, rather than move to the larger Discovery," says Matthew Taylor, Land Rover sales and marketing director. "The new V6 and Td4 engines both provide that extra power and the 5-speed automatic gearbox with Steptronic continues Land Rover's tradition of innovation."

Still more conquests are expected from two-wheel drive sectors, as the V6 will enhance Freelander's desirability for current users of multi-cylinder medium/executive cars and estates. The combination of the 3-door Softback or Hardback bodystyle with the V6 unit creates a package with extra sporting and youth appeal, again extending Freelander's market reach as an interesting alternative to sporting hatchbacks, coupes or even sports cars.

Freelander already had an advantage over several rivals in offering a diesel engine. The new Td4 engine sets a new standard for other manufacturers to meet. The technology embodied in the Td4 engine, such as common rail direct injection, 16 valve layout and Variable Nozzle Turbine (VNT) provides an exceptional combination of performance, refinement and economy that is unmatched in the sector especially when combined with the versatility of the automatic gearbox.

Another item identified on the shopping list of many existing and potential customers is automatic transmission. Land Rover set out to provide the best of both worlds with a 5-speed automatic that also offered a 'Steptronic' control arrangement. Such transmissions are becoming increasingly popular on sporting saloons, having been inspired by Formula 1 racing technology. Once again Land Rover introduces a significant innovation for Freelander - no other vehicle in its sector can offer a 5 speed Steptronic automatic, specifically developed for all-terrain use. This Steptronic gearbox is standard fit on V6 models, and is also available as an option on the Td4 diesel. The automatic Td4 is another important expansion of Freelander choice, and one that is expected to be very popular, particularly among serious off-road users, such as farmers and civil engineers .

Credible Luxury

With the new Freelander range, Land Rover reveals a new luxury trim level, the ES, in direct response to requests from several markets for a true flagship specification. In addition to previously optional features such as leather trim, the ES also has entirely new benefits, including heated front seats and powerfold door mirrors. The ES represents another important expansion of Freelander's market coverage, as a complete and credible luxury package, especially when combined with the V6 engine.

All pictures: Ford Motor Company


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