Saturday, December 1, 2018

2004 Land Rover Freelander Soft Top - A Very Cool Vehicle. A Reliability Nightmare

Oh, man. I remember when these came out. I wanted one. Badly. I thought it would be the perfect car for me. A small, modestly priced Land Rover with a soft top. It would go through New England snow in the winter. It would offer open air motoring in the summer. What could be better?

I learned some lessons about buying a new car and depreciation when I was younger. I figured that I would wait a couple of years and buy one when they started coming off lease.

A couple of years went by and they started coming off lease. They also started coming off the road. The Freelander was quite possibly the most unreliable car ever sold in North America. I am so glad I didn't buy one.

The Freelander was introduced in 1997. Although BMW had purchased Land Rover in 1994, many of the Freelander parts came from older British Leyland products, most notably the Austin Maestro. It immediately sold well in Europe and for awhile was the best selling 4WD vehicle there.

The list of problems with the Freelander are almost endless. Engine problems? Yep. Lots of them. Transmission issues? Uh-huh. Brakes and suspension? You bet. Electrical problems? Of course. There is an entire forum on Edmunds.com dedicated to problems with the Freelander. It goes on for 5 pages. There was even talk of a class action suit, but I am not sure what became of it.

On the plus side - while you wouldn't want to take this Land Rover on a jungle safari - it did go through snow very well.

With many older cars the owners and the aftermarket come up with solutions to common problems. For the most part, that hasn't happened with the Freelander. Most Freelander owners - brave souls that they are - just seem to accept that certain things will fail on their vehicles. Over and over and over again.

To Land Rover's credit, the later Freelanders were better built. They were probably as reliable as a Sterling or 1980s / early 1990s Jaguars. Still, that’s an improvement over the early ones.

The Freelander was a brilliant idea. We were buying up RAV4s, CRVs, Suzuki Sidekicks, etc., as fast as the companies could build them. A small, semi-luxurious SUV with a soft top and the legendary Land Rover name would likely have been a huge hit, if only they were better built. (A 4 door was also available. It had all the same issues. If you're going to put up with all the Freelander's problems, go for the better looking, more fun 3 door soft top.)

This Freeland was "recently donated to a national charitable organization." Usually that means the owner realized it was worthless in trade and it had too many issues to sell outright.

Except for some rust on the right rocker panel, it looks to be in good condition. The seller claims to have road tested it and everything works fine. For now.

Despite everything I wrote above, seeing this one kind of makes want to own one. I just don't have the time, money and knowledge to maintain one. But, if you do, this would be a very cool, relatively obscure vehicle to cruise around in on a nice, warm summer night. Just make sure your AAA membership is paid up.

Located in Riverside, CA, click here to see the eBay listing.

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