GAYDON, England -- Land Rover's first SUV from a shared car platform is expected to be in European showrooms early next year.
The new Freelander will share a platform and key components with the Volvo S80 medium-premium sedan, Ford Mondeo upper-medium sedan and Ford Galaxy large minivan.
Like Land Rover, Volvo is part of Ford Motor's Premier Automotive Group.
Land Rover's Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Discovery SUV's do not share platforms with cars. But the three models switched from body-on-frame to unibody construction when they were redesigned over the past few years. Unibody designs offer almost car-like handling and comfort.
For the new Freelander, Ford did not present Land Rover with an existing car platform and tell the brand's developers to create an SUV from it. Rather, Land Rover was present from the birth of Ford's architecture for lower- and upper-medium vehicles.
Being involved from the beginning ensured that the new Freelander got sturdy underpinnings, while Ford and Volvo received structures to satisfy the needs of their distinct buyers, said Andrew Foster, Freelander chief program engineer, at a press event here.
Previously, similar cooperation resulted in the Volvo S40, Mazda3 and Ford Focus sedans from Ford's smaller C1 architecture. But using the same architecture for an all-wheel-drive SUV and front-wheel-drive sedans was a much more complicated task.
In the engine bay, for example, the Freelander shares with Ford and Volvo a common crash structure in the longitudinal beams and spring towers. Parts of the engine-mounting subframe are shared.
But the Freelander has tougher subframe mountings, bumper armatures and suspension knuckles. It also has numerous crossbeams for more stability and stiffness.
Volvo contributed the 230hp, 3.2-liter inline-six engine that powers the Freelander. Volvo also performed some safety and crash-test engineering. The vehicles' shared floorpan is stamped in Sweden.
But other parts remain distinctly Land Rover. The Freelander will have the "terrain response" off-road traction system shared with the rest of the brand's lineup. It also will have Land Rover's roll stability control and hill descent control as standard features.
The Freelander will be the first Land Rover not produced at its Solihull plant in central England. It will be built alongside the Jaguar X-Type at Jaguar's Halewood plant near Liverpool.
Wim Oude Weernink contributed
You may e-mail Mark Rechtin at [email protected]