John Evans is a long-time motoring journalist and editor from titles such as What Car?, AutoCar and Practical Caravan.
The Land Rover Freelander was warmly received when it arrived in 1997. Here was a roomy, urban take on the Land Rover legend in three-door ‘softback’ and five-door body styles complete with clever Hill Descent Control system that made up for the model’s relative lack of gung-ho, off-road kit (it had no lo-range gear selection or lockable diff, although it was still the best mud-plugger in its class).
There were two Rover engines at launch: a 1.8 petrol and a 2.0 diesel. In 2001 the diesel was replaced by a much better 2.0 BMW motor (badged Td4 and the best engine of them all), while the petrol gave way to an extremely thirsty 2.5 V6 with an automatic gearbox.
Unfortunately, the model’s warm reception turned distinctly lukewarm as tales of poor reliability began to circulate. The 2003 facelift couldn’t come soon enough. It brought a refreshed and updated interior and improved build quality, albeit in Freelander terms…
Common problems with the Land Rover Freelander Mk 1
The Land Rover Freelander Mk 1 is certainly no model of reliability. Head gasket problems plagued the 1.8 petrol while differentials and gearboxes are weak, the HSC is prone to problems and the electrics are temperamental. Pre-facelift versions in particular experienced many serious, official safety recalls [check the government recall website here].
Major vehicle areas
K-series 1.8 petrol at all years suffered poor performance, fluctuating idle speed and power loss. Check and replace possibly damaged ignition leads. Modify their routing to prevent chafing.
BMW 2.0 Td4 engine from 2000 to 2006 experienced difficult engine start, poor engine performance, fluctuating idle speed, power loss above 3000rpm and vibrations at idle. Check fuel pressure regulator, fuel pressure sensor and control valve, fuel pump and faulty turbocharger pressure control solenoid, and faulty injectors causing erratic idling.
No recorded problems
Steering and suspension
Versions of K-series 1.8, BMW Td4 and V6 petrol recalled for incorrect rear subframe mount welds, and missing frame-to-body fixing bolt.
All models and years experienced intermittent illumination of ABS/ESP warning lights due to a faulty brake pedal switch. Check for fault code C1222. Best fix: replace switch.
Exterior and interior
Most models and years recalled for failure of the left-hand, rear door, child safety lock, as well as its disengagement.
Most models bar 2.0 TDi recalled for poor performance of the passenger side airbag. New deflector panel fitted.