Let us take a look at one family of Brits living in California--Land Rover--by way of another--the Osbournes. The Range Rover is the Ozzy of the Land Rover clan: been everywhere, done everything--the real deal. The Discovery is wife Sharon: also been everywhere but wouldn't have gotten there without you-know-who. The four-door Freelander, which debuted here late in 2001, is daughter Kelly: happy to peddle her famous name but a bit wanting in the talent and authenticity de-partments. The newly arrived two-door Free-lander SE3, then, is son Jack: functionally identical to his sibling but, well, goofier.
The Freelander's look, first sketched way back in 1992 by Gerry McGovern (now Lincoln's design chief), remains reasonably fresh, although ergonomics and materials are behind the times for such a high-end brand. The 2.5-liter, DOHC V-6 produces 174 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, paired only with a five-speed manu-matic transmission and permanent four-wheel drive. The transfer case is of the single-speed variety, but the range of off-pavement possibilities is broadened by four-wheel traction control, all-terrain ABS, and Hill Descent Control. On a fairly tame trail drive through the crusty Nevada desert, our little SE3 did its green oval proud.
At $26,995 ($1400 more than the base four-door), the Freelander SE3's real claim to fame is its fair-weather friendliness, made possible by a two-pane lift-out sunroof and a removable hard top (a soft top is a $1200 option). Liberating the 55-pound hardback is no small feat, however, requiring a complete bolt-off of the L-shaped roof-rail assembly. The whole process isn't quite as tedious as removing a Jeep Wrangler's soft top, but a helper is mandatory, and the end result isn't half as rewarding. The Land Rover's passengers get sadly little breeze at full aperture (the cargo area is where the party is--our backpacks had a great time).
Land Rover North America expects to move only 2000 Freelander SE3s this year, which amounts to about one car per dealership per month. With little to recommend it over the four-door model, we think they'll do well to sell that many. Then again, America loves the Osbournes. Anything is possible.