Buy one, or don’t bother? The Land Rover Freelander

If you’re looking for a 4×4, you shouldn’t rule out Land Rover’s 2000s compact off-roader.

Tested/Referenced Model: 2002 pre-facelift Mk1 Freelander TD4

Some History

After British Aerospace acquired the Rover Group in 1988, the idea of creating a compact Land Rover became more realistic, and the Freelander project (codenamed CB40) was born. The car got its name from the combination of ‘Freedom’ and ‘Lander’ Despite being planned as LR’s small car, at launch the Freelander’s wheelbase was 2.5cm longer than the outgoing first-generation Range Rover. Prices started around £20,000 and the original Freelander lasted nine years on sale, becoming Europe’s best-selling 4WD vehicle from 1997-2002.


In 1997, the Freelander was to the Defender what the Discovery Sport is to the Discovery today: the softer, family-suitable version of the full-fat car. On the outside, the Freelander is glassy, has lots of black plastic elements and is curvy rather than angled. The interior is comfortable, mostly fabric and plastic (although leather was eventually available on other models), had a radio, tape player, digital clock and five electric windows (including the one in the rear door). With rear seats up, the boot (accessed by the rear door) has a capacity of 546 litres, which becomes 1319 litres with seats down. In 2004, the Freelander was facelifted, being given a new interior and an updated front and rear.

Drive and Durability

My grandfather has owned a 2002 Freelander TD4 since new, and provided his views on how he thinks it has performed in its 22 years of life (with some of my thoughts mixed in).

The Freelander provides an interesting contrast between modern compact SUVs. While a number of newer examples have firm suspension, it has a far softer ride, although this could, in part, be due to deterioration owing to age. BMW still owned Land Rover when the Freelander was first released, so the TD4 model is fitted with BMW’s M47 engine, a 2.0L straight-4 diesel, which was also used in the Rover 75, MG ZT and, once updated, the BMW X3 and 320d. The engine stands the test of time and, other than the occasional fuel leak, has not had any major failures. The particular model that my Grandfather owns is in fantastic condition: only 85,000km on the clock, has been taken good care of and he keeps it in Portugal, so the engine rarely gets too cold (this, paired with a very powerful air-conditioning is a winning combination). It is ‘comfortable, spacious and is a good workhorse. It’s capable offroad and has hill descent which actually works (provided you’re brave enough to take your foot off the pedal!).’ The only persistent failure the car has seen in recent years is electric: the motors in the rear windows got jammed and would not open, and the rear door would not open because the window (which is supposed to go down an inch or so to let the door open) would not move.

Should you buy one today?

It might not be the best car Land Rover ever made, but it’s also not the worst. 5 seats, decent boot space, and up to 2,000kg of towing capacity all combine to make a decent workhorse or people mover – whichever you need. It’s certainly not an ugly car, and, if you spring for the TD4 model it has everything you could possibly need, except for an up-to-date infotainment system (people still have cassettes, right?), a satnav (a compass would only set you back £20), any driver’s aids (who needs reversing sensors when you’ve got mirrors?) or potentially a valid MOT (no defence of that one, any 22-year-old car is going to have problems). Prices in the UK are pretty good. A 2004 Facelift TD4 with only 41,000 miles on the clock would fetch about £6,000, and higher-mileage options would be even less, with some of the 100k+ mileage models potentially costing you just a three-figure-sum, and who would pass up a Land Rover for under £1,000? I certainly wouldn’t…

Would you consider buying a Freelander?

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