Land Rover's new unibody Freelander 2 is based on body-engineering designs borrowed from Volvo, the first time the Brit 4x4-maker has shared technology to such an extent with a fellow Ford company, writes Julian Rendell.

The new Freelander, into production later this year, was engineered as part of a new joint Ford/Volvo platform, the EU CD, also the basis for the new S80/V70, Galaxy, S-Max and Mondeo replacement.

"This is the first time on a Land Rover that we've shared design like this with Volvo," says Mark Burnston, Land Rover's chief body engineer.

At the centre of the engineering design is a crash structure of two beams that feed loads into the A-pillars and side sills — standard Volvo practice. The previous generation Freelander was a modified Rover car platform that concentrated loads into the front bulkhead and floorpan.

"The crash forces are swept outboard which come from the platform engineering concept. Before you can share parts you have share concepts," says Burnston.

At 28,000 Nm/degree, Freelander's new unibody is stiffer than the Discovery and Range Rover Sport, which are based on the new integrated body-frame T5 platform, although the Range Rover, which has a unique BMW-developed unibody, is stiffer again at 32,000 Nm/deg.

"Over 50 per cent of the structure are high-strength steels, we have tailor-welded blanks in the A-pillar and dual-phase steels elsewhere," say Burnston.

The larger dimensions and stronger structure mean that the body-in-white is 75kg heavier than the old Freelander 1. "But given the greater cabin volume and performance, it's a much more efficient structure according to our internal measures," says Burnston.

Land Rover believes that apart from the Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover, the Freelander has the stiffest body of any SUV.

Overall around 40 per cent of the Freelander is common with other EU-CD- models, that's 20 per cent less than the 60 per cent figure typical for volume-produced models.

Shared parts in the body include the two front crash beams which are the same pressings as the Ford Galaxy, albeit beefed-up for the Freelander with a stiffening panel between the two pressings and the pressings from tailored-blanks that link the crash beams, front bulkhead and A-pillars.

Unusually, the floorpan pressings are common, too, as are most of the lower structure that supports the 'top hat' — Ford-speak for the outer panels.

But at the rear, the structure is unique to Land Rover. "That's because we have a different rear suspension," says Burnston.

Instead of the road-biased 'control blade' suspension used on Ford and Volvo cars, the Freelander retains a strut suspension at the rear.
Apart from ground clearance disadvantages, the control blade isn't rugged enough off-road, because its key part, a pressed arm, can't resist reversing backwards into an off-road obstacle.

At the front the Freelander's suspension also has some shared parts, like the rear part of the hydroformed subframe and suspension arms.

Julian Rendell

See also: UK: Land Rover reveals all-new Freelander 2