Work on Land Rover’s next Freelander is said to have been hit by delays, although the company says it is still planning a late 2006 launch. Early development cars were photographed towards the end of last year, but these pictures, taken at the Nürburgring circuit in Germany last week, show that the project seems to have hardly moved on since then.
This development car reveals extended dimensions, with a wider track than the existing car and stretched rear doors to accommodate a longer wheelbase. The hold-ups are being blamed on a revamped rear suspension set-up, recently added to the test vehicles. Our sources have suggested two reasons for this late change. The first is that the Freelander will share its platform with a forthcoming Jaguar ‘crossover’ vehicle, and the suspension has been redesigned to accommodate that car’s need for seven seats. Originally the Freelander shared a platform with the forthcoming Volvo XC50 4x4, but our sources say Volvo’s requirements for a small four-wheel drive differ from Land Rover’s, so the two vehicles are being kept separate. The other, more radical potential reason for the Freelander’s slow progress is that engineers have had to redesign the vehicle around the possibility of petrol-electric hybrid power being fitted in the future. Conventional engines will come from the Ford empire, including those used in current Jaguar, Land Rover and Ford models, and insiders say the 2.8-litre Volvo straight six will fit across the engine bay. The 272bhp unit would provide significantly more power than the current range-topping 175bhp 2.5-litre Rover V6.
The new Freelander is likely to be more expensive than the current model. It could also be called LR2 for the US market, after the Discovery was rebranded LR3 to disassociate it with its unreliable predecessor.