AFTER nearly 20 years the popular Land Rover Freelander has been replaced by a new model called the Discovery Sport and the Freelander name has become part of Land Rover’s illustrious history writes Bryan Longworth.
The handsome seven seater Discovery Sport which is produced at the Land Rover factory at Halewood has just been launched with prices starting from £32,395 and it is larger than the model it has replaced.
It is a pity that the Freelander name has been dropped but Land Rover feel it is better to incorporate it into the Discovery range as Discovery Sport - the bigger Discovery will also be replaced with a new model in 2016.
Freelander was launched in 1997 when I drove it over a very demanding launch route in Spain being very impressed by it and it went on to become Europe’s best selling four wheel drive model being available with three and five doors and Freelander 2 was launched in 2006 with two and four wheel drive.
Land Rover’s Group Marketing Director, Phil Popham, told me that Discovery Sport not only marked the introduction of the first new member of the expanding Discovery family but it also brought the versatility of 5+2 seating to the compact premium SUV sector where rivals include the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60.
The current diesel engine will be replaced by the very efficient 2.0-litre four cylinder Ingenium diesel power unit with different power outputs which is now available to order with deliveries starting in September and two wheel drive will also be available as well as 4x4.
Discovery Sport owners will have the choice of the advanced ZF nine speed automatic transmission and a six speed manual gearbox.
A key feature is the new multi link rear axle that increases axle articulation and also reduces interior noise and minimises intrusion of the rear suspension turrets into the load space which has helped provide more load space and 5+2 seating.
The new car has Land Rover’s legendary off-road capabilities with a class leading wading depth of 600mm and the excellent Terrain Response system for traversing tough off-road conditions as standard.
Inside there is a premium ambience and in the centre of the dashboard an eight inch screen governs a new infotainment system that will eventually be used throughout the range.
It is closely related to the Evoque but Land Rover say Discovery Sport is better off road than either a Freelander or Evoque which will give it special appeal and attract more sales.
I wish they had retained the Freelander name rather than make it another member of the Discovery family which can be rather confusing but I understand the reason for the change is that the Freelander name was only popular in the UK and not other parts of the world where Land Rover has big markets which is why the company wanted a model name with more universal appeal.
There is no doubt that the Discovery Sport will be another success story for Land Rover because all their models are so popular and the company manage to get it right every time but it is still sad that the Freelander name has been axed.
Verdict: Discovery Sport is set to be yet another Land Rover star.
Model: Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Transmissions: Nine speed automatic and six speed manual.
Drive: 4x4 and 2 wheel drive.
Price: From £32,395.