Land Rover Freelander L359, a car that started badly but finished well. If the Land Rover Freelander L359 were a series, it would be “The Office”.
Launched in 2006 after the Land Rover marketing department conducted a survey in between two pints, the Land Rover Freelander L359 wanted to be the Range Rover for the budget conscious, the compact entry-level baby Range Rover that more people could afford and which is not as intimidating size-wise because that is a problem for some potential buyers. They initially tried it with the first generation Freelander, but that car has too much off-road credit and too little on-road ability. Then came the Range Rover Evoque in 2011, which is too much on-road and too little off-road capable.
So where does the Land Rover Freelander find itself in all this line-up?
Weeelll you could’ve bought a Land Rover Freelander L359 with all-wheel drive, front and rear differentials, automatic transmission and a sturdy diesel engine. Or you could’ve also bought a basic front-wheel drive, manual transmission, petrol Freelander. Or an all-wheel drive, manual transmission, petrol Freelander.
And so the Freelander L359 has always been in a personality crisis, akin to an aspiring corporate worker who realized that his place in the company is no longer that important and that if he left tomorrow, someone else would warm his seat in within two days. It wasn’t an off-roader like the Range Rover, it wasn’t even as good-looking as the Evoque that followed.
But 2011 came and brought the Land Rover Freelander L359 a Katie Price grade facelift that solved most of the reliability concerns and that’s how it became perhaps the only modern Land Rover that is not dieing right from the factory gates. Usually when you drive a Land Rover you know that it can die at any moment, the only question is “when?”. But not in a Freelander L359 or a Discovery. However, the Freelander L359 already had a poor track record of reliability and was retired in 2014 by Discovery Sport. But the 2011 – 2014 facelift models are really the ones to go for.
Land Rover Freelander L359 Engines
- 2.0 EcoBoost of 243 horsepower – A more intense engine than even Rico Suave, this Mazda-sourced engine was made famous on the American version of the Ford Focus III and somehow ended up on the Land Rover Freelander L359. A fairly reliable motor that turns this wheeled-wardrobe into a wheeled-torpedo. Just make sure to replace the coolant pipe as it tends to crack prematurely and the thermostat won’t pick up the temperature rising and the engine will catch fire. All this trouble, for a 15 pound pipe.
- 3.2 B6324S5 of 233 horsepower – Moving on to the second petrol engine which is sponsored by Volvo, however it suffered from excessive oil consumption until 2011 when Volvo fixed the engine and the new and improved unit was good enough for the Ford group but they also strangely decided to retire it from the Freelander. Might’ve been the poor sales figures because this dodgy engine wouldn’t have been popular on the Freelander even if it were reliable in the first place.
2.2d Ford Duratorq PSA DW12 of 150, 160 and 190 horsepower – The famous 2.2 Duratorq from Ford (which is actually borrowed from PSA) came under the guises of eD4 (150 horsepower version), TD4 (160 horsepower version) and SD4 (190 horsepower version). Until 2011 they suffered from premature camshaft wear if low quality oil and/or low quality fuel was used. With the 2011 facelift a new and improved camshaft was used but it is still recommended to use quality 5W-30 engine oil as well as a quality diesel. Don’t be picky about diesel, you’re driving a Land Rover. Another special mention goes to the 190 horsepower version that has a bigger turbo hence the extra grunt, but the pipe connecting the turbo to the intercooler has not been changed to accomodate the larger turbo. The turbo spins, the temperature rises, the pipe expands and disconnects. The turbo is no longer connected to the intercooler, it stops working and sends the car into Limp Mode. And that’s how you’ll drag yourself home at 10 mph and reflect on the fact that you have a Land Rover.
Land Rover Freelander L359 Common Issues
- Pre-facelfit models rear differentials drop like the internet connection when you watch an online show that you genuinely enjoy. Moreover, the Haldex needs a general servicing every 60,000 kms / 40,000 miles.
- You won’t guess until what year there were issues with the automatic gearbox that gave up suddenly and inexplicably fries it’s motherboard and goes straight to the dumpster. The manual gearbox on the other hand is ok.
- The steering box and the steering column are two other aspects that you must pay attention to. If the steering has play or pulls to one side or generally doesn’t feel quite right, it means that either the column or the box are ready to spectacularly retire from duty from your Land Rover Freelander L359.
- And now to end it on a funny note: the fuel gauge sometimes gets stuck at 1/4 and you can end up with your pants down in the middle of nowhere and no fuel. If you see that the needle remains stuck at 1/4, no, you have not discovered the miracle of the perpetual motion machine, you just have an error. Or a Land Rover.
Land Rover Freelander L359 Verdict
Land Rover Freelander L359 was not a bad car. On the other hand, unlike many cross-over abominations from it’s day the Freelander is actually off-road capable and comes with the necessary equipment to tackle the Ben Nevis. It’s just that reliability issues from the previous generation and right up until the 2011 facelift made the car fade into obscurity and the eventual cancel from the Land Rover portfolio. That’s why they didn’t release the Land Rover Freelander III and came up with the Discovery Sport, because another Freelander wouldn’t have sold very well, especially since the 2nd generation Freelander wasn’t the best-selling car possible in the first place. It would have been as if Nigel Farage running for elections again.
Which engine do I recommend? Honestly for the Freelander the 2.2 Duratorq 160 horsepower diesel makes the most sense, mated to a manual gearbox. Wether you want all-wheel drive or not, that’s up to you. Yes, the car must be a post-2011 facelift model.