REYKJAVIK, Iceland _ Land Rover chose volcano-dotted Iceland to introduce the long-awaited North American version of the company's 2002 Freelander, newest and smallest member of the exclusive Land Rover/Range Rover family.
The Freelander goes on sale this fall, and will range in price from $24,975 for the base S model up to more than $31,000 for the line-topping HSE. The middle Freelander, the SE, will cost $27,775. All models have V-6 power, automatic transmission, four doors, seating for five and a generous helping of Land Rover prestige.
The Freelander, sold in Europe since 1997, borders on being the generic name for off-road vehicles in Europe _ much as Jeep is in the United States. As a result, Freelander became Europe's best-selling off-roader.
The Freelander has not come to the United States before now largely because Land Rover did not have the right engine. The 1.8-liter four-cylinder that powered the European versions would have been considered anemic in America, and would not, in any case, have worked well with an automatic transmission, an item every bit as essential to the U.S. car buyer as horsepower and air conditioning.
According to Land Rover, the 2002 model is 70 percent new. The important changes are the new powertrain, an all-aluminum 4.0-liter, 175-horsepower V-6 mated to a …