WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. — Most local residents here probably have seen a Land Rover Freelander, along with Range Rovers and Discoverys. Not because this slice of “almost heaven” has great demographics, but because The Greenbrier resort is home to the Land Rover Driving Experience.
You, on the other hand, no matter where you live, may never have seen a Freelander on the road, because only 30,000 have been sold in the two years it’s been available in the U.S. With the introduction of the revised, restyled updated 2004 Freelander, those numbers should increase. Land Rover spent $36 million to “significantly update” Freelander with “more than 700 changes that aim to enhance the customer’s ownership experience.”
The most visible changes were styling cues borrowed from the Freelander’s larger upscale sibling, Range Rover. “When we showed the new Freelander to our retailers, they were ecstatic,” reported John Landre, Freelander’s U.S. model manager. “With its new styling, now they think the Freelander fits in with the rest of the Land Rover family.” Yes, the “hippo look” front end has been banished, replaced by a Range Rover inspired twin-pocket, clear lens headlamps (a whopping 70 brighter than last year’s Freelander), redone front bumper and grille. Front and rear bumpers now are body colored, but front fenders still are thermoplastic to resist minor dings. In fact, all exterior plastics are colored all the way through, so if they pick up a gouge or two along the trail you won’t notice as much.
Dirty deeds, not so cheap
Unlike the vast majority of sport-utes, the Freelander and its siblings actually get dirty putting their off-pavement prowess to the test. “Our figures say 40 percent of Land Rover customers go off-road, vs. 10 percent for all SUVs,” Landre told us. But there’s lots of variability in what constitutes ‘off-road.’ When we ask about rocks, mud, or wading through water, our numbers drop down to 25 percent. Clearly we’re selling to a larger percentage of customers using their vehicles that way.”