The three-door Freelander SE3, which has been available in Europe since 1997, is coming to America for '03 to join the smallish sport/utility marketplace. Mechanically identical to the five-door Freelander, including its 101-inch wheelbase, the three-door has a 2.5-liter/174-horsepower DOHC V-6 and a five-speed automatic transmission feeding power through full-time all-wheel drive. The SE3 gets a full suite of standard electronic aids, including Electronic Traction Control, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, and Hill Descent Control. The SE3's solidly adequate, if not stirring, performance mimics that of its five-door sibling--and weighs the same, at 3577-pounds.

What sets it apart from its competitors? The detachable rear hardback. Releasing four latches frees the 60-pound top. Options include a folding soft-top and a tonneau cover. True to Land Rover heritage is the SE3's ability to clamber over obstacles. The SE3 has no low range, but its traction control works with an AWD system employing a center viscous coupling unit that directs power to the wheels with the most grip, letting the fully independent suspension scrabble past terrain you wouldn't normally walk through.

Inside, the SE3 is typical Land Rover: a mix of quality materials and quixotic control placement. Shoulder room is limited, but the removable sunroof panels give tall drivers relief. The standard harman/kardon sound system is top-shelf. Land Rover plans on importing just 2200 SE3s in the U.S. for '03, but the Freelander will get a midlife freshening for '04. This is a true Land Rover, idiosyncrasies and all.

2003 Land Rover Freelander SE3
Price $26,995
Vehicle layoutFront engine, awd, 3-door, 5-pass
Engine2.5L/174-hp V-6, DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
0-60 mph, sec10.5 (est)
On sale in U.S.Currently