1997-2006 Land Rover Freelander 1 4×4 Review

Read our concise review of the 1997-2006 Land Rover Freelander 1 4x4...

1997-2006 Land Rover Freelander 1 4x4 Review

by Calum Brown |

Everyday use: ★★★★★

Off-road ability: ★★★☆☆

Spares: ★★★★★

Kit & accessories: ★★☆☆☆


Theft of: ★★★★☆

Theft from: ★☆☆☆☆

What to consider when buying.

Here are our top tips on things to consider when buying a Freelander. Discuss prospective buys on our message boards and for the definitive view, get an LRO buying guide. See below for details.


Head gasket failures. The radiator needs to be in good condition to prevent overheating and potential head gasket failure. Check the oil filler cap – any signs of a thick gooey white mixture from oil and water combining inside the engine, can indicate head gasket failure.

Service history. The 1951cc BMW M47 Td4 engine is generally reliable and economical but check for oil leaks and clogged air filters in need of replacement to verify its service history. Also check the service history with regards to fuel filters – if they have not been changed regularly, there may be problems with the fuel injection.

Intercooler hoses. Prone to internal delamination and collapse causing much reduced performance, but replacements are readily available.

Rear silencer mounting. V6 Freelander 1s are prone to the rear silencer mounting rubber splitting, which can cause the silencer to drop on to the rear suspension.

Catalytic converter. Poor running engines will destroy the cat. If it rattles it will probably require expensive replacement.


Viscous coupling unit (VCU). The Freelander 1's four-wheel-drive system is reliant on the viscous coupling unit, the bulbous component located part way along the propshaft. It comprises two sets of vanes and is filled with a viscous silicone fluid. The viscous silicon fluid thickens with prolonged use and gradually makes the viscous coupling progressively harder to rotate. This increases the strain on the powertrain – failures of the intermediate reduction drive (IRD) unit and rear diff eventually follow. If the vehicle makes clonking or grinding noises when accelerating, lifting off or cornering, or loses drive with bangs and grinding noises, it is likely the IRD is failing. This is usually caused by a faulty VCU, so it makes sense to change both at the same time.

Rear diff failure. Not as common as IRD failure, but still a weak point as the result of a faulty VCU. Distinctive clunks from the rear axle and driveline vibration when driving can indicate that the mounts have worn out. Replacements, however, are straightforward.

Drivetrain. Unmatched tyre sizes can create the same effect as a seized VCU, and can damage the drive train in just a few miles. It is crucial to make sure you match tyre manufacturer, type and size on all four wheels – the tolerance level is only 5mm.

Unusual tyre wear. A failing VCU can cause unusual tyre wear, often round the edges or on alternating blocks. Check the temperature of the VCU after you have driven it for a few miles. It should remain cool to touch, but if the tyres are mismatched, it can become very hot. If it's too hot to touch, it's putting strain on the drivetrain and the tyres need sorting ASAP.

Beware of suggestions online. It has been reported on some websites that if you jack one back wheel of your Freelander 1 without the handbrake applied, you should be able to turn the rear wheel, and that if you cannot turn the wheel your VCU has seized, but this is total rubbish. You would hardly be able to do this by hand, as you would need to stand on a two-foot breaker bar. The wheel will move very slowly, but this still does not indicate whether the VCU is any good, as all wheels will turn, regardless of the VCU’s condition.


Vibration mass damper. A metallic noise may be heard near the steering wheel and driver's air bag on Td4 variants when driving on rough surfaces. This is the damper coming into contact with a fixing on the underside of the airbag. Some vehicles had the modification – which involves filing a chamfer on to the vibration mass damper. It's a straightforward job, but when filing, take care to prevent distortion of the damper mounting plate and damage to the rubber damper supports.


Underside. As a soft-roader, the Freelander 1 has limited ground clearance, which often puts serious off-roading beyond it. Check for signs of damage on the underside.

The vehicle's structure is strong and long-lasting, and the model is not prone to excessive corrosion.


Air conditioning. Check it works; it can fail or may need re-gassing.

Electric windows. The mechanisms can fail, particularly the one in the rear door that makes the glass in the tailgate drop an inch automatically to allow the door to open. This is usually because the tail door glass regulator cable has failed and, although the glass does not raise or lower, the sound of the regulator mechanism may be heard. Replacement is fiddly, but not beyond DIY work.

Sunroof. They can leak – and water finds its way into the interior light.



For detailed pricing info see the latest issue of Land Rover Owner International magazine.



Fastest 0-60mph: 10.1sec

(2000-2005 2.5 V6i SE 5-door)

Slowest 0-60mph: 15.1sec

(1997-2000 2.0Di 5-door)

Fastest Top speed: 113mph

(2000-2005 2.5 V6i SE 5-door)

Lowest Top speed: 93mph

(1997-2000 2.0Di 5-door)

Highest Power: 177bhp at 6250rpm

(2000-2005 2.5 V6i SE 5-door)

Lowest Power: 96bhp at 2000rpm

(1997-2000 2.0Di 5-door)

Highest Torque: 192lb ft at 1750rpm

(2003-2005 Td4)

Lowest Torque: 121lb ft at 2750rpm

(1997-2000 2.0Di, 2000-2003 1.8S 5-door)

Best Fuel economy: 29.7mpg

(1997-2000 2.0Di 5-door)

Worst Fuel economy: 24.6mpg

(2000-2005 2.5 V6i petrol)


Length: 4382mm width: 1809mm

Height: 1828mm Wheelbase: 2558mm/100.7in

Weight: 1425kg Load space: 473 litres (seats up)

Fuel tank capacity: 59 litres


Approach angle: 30º

Departure angle: 34º

Ramp breakover angle: 156º

Wading depth: 400mm

Towing capacity: 2000kg


Co2 emissions: 240g/km

VED rate: £270

Insurance group: 10

LEZ compliant? Yes

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