The Freelander Discovery was launched in October 1997 to universal press acclaim. The body choice included three or five-door bodyshells: those who went for the three-door had the option of either 'Softback' or 'Hardback' bodystyles. In Softback form, you could fold the roof back like a convertible, while the Hardback offered removable panels.
There was initially a choice of two engines; a 118bhp four-cylinder 1.8-litre 16v petrol unit (from the MGF) and a 96bhp 2.0-litre turbo diesel. A 2.5-litre V6 was developed for launch in September 2000. There were three trim levels on offer - standard, Xi and XE - and Land Rover also added a Commercial van version in 1999.
Basically, the Freelander was what the Discovery wasn't; an all-new model. Instead of being put together with parts from the corporate sales bin (the Discovery for example, was originally based on the old-shape Range Rover), the Solihull-based design team had, in this instance, the cash to do things properly - some £450 million. And a new factory to build the car in. It made all the difference.
In autumn 2000, a revised range was launched, with an all-new Td4 diesel engine and a top-line V6. Minor interior and exterior improvements were included into a revised range structure of S, GS and ES.
In late 2003 the Freelander was comprehensively updated. There was a completely revised interior (by far the old car's weakest link) and a major external restyle including a fresh face and tail. The range also benefited from the addition of the Freelander Sport version, a model which the Solihull company claimed was their sharpest handling and sportiest offering to date.
In early 2006, the range was slimmed down with the arrival of an all-new model looming. Only the Td4 diesel engine remained and it was offered with four generous specification levels called Adventurer, Freestyle, Sport and HSE.