Those who had been attracted by the Land Rover Freelander but put off buying it because it had no automatic transmission will be pleased to know that the model is now available with it. That’s the good news. The bad news is that automatic transmission will only be offered with a 2.5-litre V6 engine which, in Malaysia, will mean not just a higher import tax level but also higher roadtax and insurance.
The new variant, which will makes it Malaysian debut at the Land Rover Malaysia stand during the KL International Motorshow, has a slightly different nose: packaging requirements of the V6 engine required a longer profile to the front bumper.
It uses the all-aluminium 24-valve DOHC engine that powers the current Rover 75, meaning it develops 130 kW (177 ps) of power at 6500 rpm and 240 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm. The engine features an advanced electronically-controlled Variable Induction System which improves torque while a profiled cam in the throttle system gives fine control at low engine speeds but quick response on the open road. The torque-axis mounting system of the transversely-mounted engine is designed to improve refinement by reducing engine vibration and noise levels.
Upholding tradition as the leader in its segment, the new Freelander V6 has, as standard, a 5-speed automatic gearbox with Steptronic. It is the only vehicle in its segment with such a transmission – inspired by usage in F1 racing cars – and in fact, the only other SUV (sport-utility vehicle) with such a transmission is the BMW X5. It is likely that the reason for this similarity is that the Freelander V6 was developed while Land Rover was part of the BMW Group (it is now part of the Ford Group).
The gearbox is equipped with several drive modes for maximum control. ‘Normal’ mode provides for normal automatic change while moving the selector lever into the Steptronic gate gives a ‘Sport’ mode which induces changes of downshifts more readily and also holds onto lower gears longer in order to aid acceleration and improve responsiveness. This part of the selector gate also provides the Steptronic control. A brief forward or backward movement of the lever gives up or down shifts, allowing fast, smooth changes. The extra benefit is that during off-road driving, the driver has more control and power and traction losses are also reduced.
The Freelander is the second Land Rover model after Discovery II to exploit the benefits of digital multiplex communications between the various electronic control units (ECUs) around the vehicle. Multiplexing allows complex and ultra-rapid co-operation between the ECUs for the engine, automatic transmission and ABS, to achieve maximum performance, refinement and safety. Multiplexing transfers huge amounts of data, quickly and reliably through a far simpler wiring system than any equivalent conventional harness.
The Freelander V6 has all the 4WD technology introduced when the model was launched. This includes Intermediate Reduction Drive (IRD) with viscous coupling-controlled drive sharing to the rear wheels and Hill Descent Control, a world-first for Freelander which has subsequently been fitted to the Land Rover Discovery II and is also used in the BMW X5. As a further refinement cruise control is available as an option while Electronic Brake Distribution is added to the new ABS unit. Suspension revisions include larger diameter struts, plus revised damping, geometry and bushing, while the power steering has new valving and higher operating pressure for improved response
Details of pricing and availability in Malaysia are not known yet although it is certain that the new variant, being imported Completely Built-Up (CBU) and having a 2.5-litre engine, can’t cost less than RM200,000. It is likely that Land Rover Malaysia will also display the updated versions of the Freelander 1.8 and Turbodiesel which are said to have some 40% of components new or modified.