Today’s rewind is on open-air Land Rover models that were available in the US. Unfortunately, this isn’t about the Land Rover Defender, which was excellent in every way and has held its value steadily for the last twenty years, to my chagrin, which is why I’ve been searching to the ends of the earth for a good P38 Range Rover, which is much, much cheaper.
When the announcement for the Freelander SE3 came at the end of 2002, the Defender had not been exported to America for five years. So Land Rover probably felt that Americans would welcome the Freelander with open arms and find it cheaper than the Defender was and a viable alternative to the Jeep Wrangler.
The SE3 had removable roof panels and the hardtop over the rear passengers could be taken off. The ridiculous external roll cage at the back could not, perhaps due to liability concerns, though I’m sure some people resorted to taking off the cage on their own.
Also, when the Freelander SE3 launched, the MSRP was $27,000. I am certainly sure that number is much less than what a comparably equipped Wrangler would’ve cost. However, there were a lot more high-tech features standard (that likely went wrong within the first three years of ownership).
Now, normal four-door Freelanders are difficult to find, let alone the SE3. Much of that is due to the fact Freelanders were comically unreliable, especially in the US. On my local Craigslist, I found one of the things, and it turned out not to be all that local. Autotrader came up with none, even within 300 miles of me. So clearly, the Freelander SE3 didn’t really take off in the United States.
I ended up doing some research on why Freelanders weren’t all that popular. When I went to Google and typed in “land rover freelander reliability,” the results included links to numerous forums and webpages with people writing about how many times their Freelander has been in the shop. I clicked on one of these links, and was promptly introduced to the world of hurt that a Freelander owner has to endure, even on the V6, which was considered gas-guzzling and had its own share of problems.
Freelanders also weren’t capable of performing as well off-road as the Wrangler due to no low-range gearbox and no locking differential. However, the Freelander did have Hill Descent Control (and was the first Land Rover to have it), to be used presumably after the Freelander had been airlifted to the top of the summit.
Unfortunately, despite their rarity, I don’t think Freelanders will shoot up in value like the Defenders did. Much of that is probably perceived as not being as boxy and as imposing as a Defender. Another large part is the fact it may not be as good off-road. The Defender is easier to work on and much simpler to discover parts for. And reliability is a major factor.
Personally, I think Land Rover would rather you forgot the Freelander SE3, while Land Rover mechanics would love you to remember it. Though if it’s not a collector’s item, I see no reason to get nostalgic about this particular Land Rover.
Press release source here.