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by Tim Beissmann

The new generation of Land Rover’s smallest and most popular SUV will ditch its Freelander badge and adopt styling inspired by the stylish Range Rover Evoque.

CarAdvice’s spy photographers captured Land Rover engineers testing this right-hand-drive prototype of the British brand’s third-generation premium mid-sized SUV on public roads in the UK.

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Despite being obscured from grille to tailgate with a camouflage wrap, the images give an almost unrestricted look at the new SUV’s dimensions and key elements of its overhauled design.

The influence of the Evoque and new Range Rover Sport is obvious in the next-gen baby Land Rover, which features shorter front and rear overhangs, slimmer headlights and tail-lights, and a raked roofline and tailgate glass that create a more athletic profile than that of the boxy Freelander 2.

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Codenamed ‘L550’, the Freelander successor is tipped to be repositioned in an expanded Land Rover Discovery family, potential adopting the ‘Discovery Sport’ moniker to mirror the naming structure of sister company Range Rover.

Unlike its larger, aluminium-based Range Rover cousins, the baby Land Rover will ride on stretched version of the Evoque’s steel chassis (itself adapted from the underpinnings of the Freelander 2), though the use of aluminium and composite body panels will help reduce weight. A circa-150mm-longer wheelbase than that of the Evoque will create more interior and cargo space, and potentially give Land Rover the flexibility to add a third row to expand its seating capacity to seven.

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Set to launch in early 2015, the Freelander successor will be powered by Jaguar Land Rover’s range of new turbocharged four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines that will be produced at the company’s new Wolverhampton plant. The nine-speed automatic transmission that debuted recently in the Evoque will also feature in the mid-sizer, driving either the front or all four wheels.

The current-generation Land Rover Freelander 2 is now eight years old, having launched in 2006.




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