It was bound to happen at some point. The venerable 4×4 company, Land Rover, had let it known that they weren’t going to build a car-based SUV, unless it was also capable of excellent off-road action as well, but they were somewhat caught off-guard by the Toyota RAV4, which changed everything. Faster than you know it, Land Rover dusts-off a long-ago shelved project, the CB40 and introduces to the world, proud as can be, the 1997 Land Rover Freelander. It really wasn’t bad at all; it was based on a car, so the ground clearance was relatively limited, but besides that, it was just fine. It was available either as a five-door station wagon (kind of) or as a three-door semi-convertible soft-back (or a three-door hardtop, but what’s the fun in that?).
The original, 1997 Freelander was equipped with a 1.8-liter, 120 horsepower inline four-cylinder engine, which coupled to a five-speed manual transmission, gave it enough power to reach 60 in about 10 seconds, all the way to a top speed of 103 miles per hour.
The Freelander was clearly car-based, with a monocoque construction, and an engine and transmission derived from cars; it also behaved on the road enough like a car to satisfy its purpose, and was competent enough off-road to be a Land Rover. The 1997 Land Rover Freelander also has the distinction of being the last truly British Land Rover, as new owners BMW had no input.