Land Rover Freelander L314, the first attempt at the compact sector of the market from Land Rover. If Frankenstein had worked in the automotive industry, he would certainly have interned at Land Roer on the development of the Land Rover Freelander L314.

Land Rover Freelander L314’s story begins in the 80s when Rover wanted to make a compact SUV. They tried with parts from the Rover dumpster, but they broke down before they reached the assembly line. They tried to do a joint project with Honda but the Japanese said they didn’t want to deal with the slightly drunk and disorderly British workers and decided to make their own CR-V. The CB-40 project was in danger. But in the meantime Rover went bankrupt and was bought by BMW. BMW “borrowed” technology from the Range Rover and launched the first X5, and the CB-40 project received funding. And so the Land Rover Freelander L314 was born in 1994.

What made the first Freelander so good?

It had a difficult, painful and long birth by C-section, with many factories and development teams involved, but by 1997 Land Rover Freelander L314 was officially launched on the market and was the most popular compact SUV on the market. This is because it came in 5-door, 3-door, van body configurations. Front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, manual gearbox, automatic gearbox. Like when you go to a kebab place after drinking at the Wellington and you chug down 15 beers because you know that around Lozells you will definitely find a food place to your liking and within your budget and if you get food poisoning the hospital is nearby.

Moreover, Land Rover Freelander L314 was the first compact SUV that came with the entire off-road package: Transfer case, low-range gearbox, viscous coupling and Hill Descent Control. And, in true Land Rover fashion, all of this broke down 5 minutes after leaving the factory gate.

Land Rover Freelander L314 offroad almostcarreviews

Land Rover Freelander Engines


  • 1.8 Rover K-Series of 120 horsepower – An genuine Rover engine..sorry, I meant antique that was also used on the Rover 75 and the first generation Lotus Elise, this engine has been on it’s deathbed for a long time and good luck finding aftermarket parts so you will have to pay up for OEM stuff. Also this engine has always been on it’s last legs, leaking coolant in the oil pan because the head gasket was constantly burning.
  • 2.5 V6 Rover KV6 of 175 horsepower – Like any brilliant plan discussed in between 2 pints, this engine was drunkenly conceived by British engineers and slightly tweaked by the Germans. Serious issues with the thermostat, intake manifold and head gasket. More reliable than the 1.8 engine, but that means you are a bit more active but you are still slowly dying.


  • 2.0 DI L-Series of 98 horsepower – Another dying Rover engine when BMW took over, only that this engine was retired on the spot. The legend says that if you manage to keep this engine running for more than 3 days, someone will personally come from the Land Rover factory and award you.
  • 2.0 TD4 M47 of 112 horsepower – Finally a decent engine. The legendary M47 taken from the E46 320d and was generously donated to the Land Rover Freelander L314. A legendary engine that only suffers from the swirl flaps breaking and falling into the engine and the fact that you have to take your time on cold starts, don’t rev it’s pistons out immediatelly. No, wait half a minute and then you get moving. Yes, it is very important to buy the Euro 3 version, the one with Euro 4 has issues with the injectors and the turbo. Apparently, Land Rover engineers modified the engine to bring it up to the Euro 4 standards but somehow managed to ruin an engine famous for it’s reliability.

Land Rover Freelander L314 interior almostcarreviews

Land Rover Freelander L314 Common Issues

  • The JATCO automatic gearbox needs it’s oil changed every 50,000 kms / 30,000 miles. Good luck finding specialists who work on this JATCO gearbox though. And the manual gerarbox is not that much more reliable either.
  • The entire 4×4 buffet is full of issues and this includes the viscous coupling, the transfer case, the low range gearbox and the Hill Descent Control. They can all leave at the same time on Conga rhythms, or they can leave in turns. Special mention for the Haldex system that needs it’s oil changed every 3 years or 50,000 kms.

Land Rover Freelander L314 rear almostcarreviews

Land Rover Freelander L314 Verdict

It may not be as reliable as a Toyota Rav4 XA20, but the Land Rover Freelander L314  remains one of the most capable off-road vehicles at the moment, in it’s very limited budget range. Yes, it is not very reliable and some repairs will be so expensive that you will end up writing off the car, but as long as it works you will have a compact SUV which is genuienly off-road capable. If you’re only going to drive it around town though I recommend you buy something else. But if you intend to climb hills and mountains through mud, snow and beer pallets, then the Land Rover Freelander L314 is an excellent candidate for “my first SUV”.

Which engines do I recommend? By far the best one is the BMW-sourced, Euro 3 compliant 2.0 TD4 from BMW mated to a manual gearbox. I wouldn’t really bother with anything else. And if you do feel lucky and buy a petrol version, make sure to buy 2-3 spare headgaskets.