Like many people… I hate changes to routines and way of life. On the other hand, I do embrace new ideas and modern twists on traditional themes – if they work and justify the changes. I still cant get used to the new MINI – its bigger than the old Maxi, our telephone kiosks (should you be able to find one) are silver and no longer red and if I ask my local shopkeeper for a packet of Opal Fruits – he thinks I have gone insane. They say nostalgia is not quite what it used to be, so on a recent invitation from Jaguar Land Rover to the expansive Hampton Manor Hotel retreat nestling in the Warwickshire countryside to try their wares, I was pleased to bump into a dear old friend – the Land Rover Defender.
In a sea of high tech high adrenalin metal including the truly mouthwatering Jaguar F Type and the disturbingly effective XF-R – a car I have also spent some time with and left me utterly spellbound, the Defender was the perfect antidote to screaming superchargers, leaping cats and Range Rovers. Its incredible to think that the iconic Land Rover has traversed the tropic and boldly gone where even James T Kirk would fear of beaming down to for almost 65 years. Even more impressive is the fact that mid way through its seventh decade, nothing else seems to hold a candle to the Defenders image or capability. Just like the original Austin Mini, the Defender is a rare kind of creation that looks equally at home wherever you park it.
…a nice walk back into the past proving that some things cannot be changed – only improved.
Having owned a Discovery Series 2 Td5 and a Freelander HSE Td4 as well as spending a good few hours digging in the dirt, I am aware just how capable anything with that reassuring green oval badge can be. After driving a whole host of cars that bristled with technology, the Defender was a nice walk back into the past proving a point that some things cannot be changed – only improved upon. Tugging on the door handle you would have found on many vehicles of the past including a Freight Rover K1 Sherpa (even the key is the same blank as most of the old BL range) entering the lofty cab is not the most elegant task. After some heaving huffing and puffing you are eventually as snug (as is possible) into the drivers seat.
The door closes with a reassuring clunk and your right knee is immediately intimate with the door pull and your same shoulder tenderly kisses the top of the door panel. You momentarily curse as you try to insert the ignition key into the barrel which is fitted on the other side of the column and feel restless because the drivers seat will not slide backwards enough to adopt a true car driving position. But this is NOT a car and you forgive these shortcomings as you look down at the clutch and brake pedals that are larger than beer mats. The long stroke Ford based diesel coughs into life and settles down to a most uncharacteristically refined thrum, the lack of vibration being a gulf apart from past pilots of the old 200 / 300 or Td5 models.
The massive clutch pedal requires less effort than at first thought, the long imposing gearknob snicks into bottom with impressive rifle loading precision and you’re away. The long and illustrious Defender history has been one of ‘evo’ rather than revolution and these latest models are not just good to look at but also quite pleasing to drive. Round town the brakes are progressive and the ride is on the right side of acceptable – even the gearchange requires no more than average effort. Driving at average speeds on urban roads or country lanes you soon forget you are at the helm of the worlds most respected off road vehicle. The refinement is actually quite good and a co-passenger conversation or a 10.30 weekday popmaster can be enjoyed without tilting your heard or turning up the volume.
Throw on some more coal and the Defender builds up speed as much as its 122PS 2.2 diesel allows, its not quick by any means but nor is it achingly sloth like either. Even up to 60 mph it feels unruffled and if the road surface is smooth and flat the high profile tyres coupled to the long travel coil springs offer a decent environment. The model tested came with electric windows, a really impressive heater with air conditioning, powerful Alpine head unit, alloy wheels and nicely applied silver metallic paint. All the aforementioned trim play their part in making you soon forget you are not driving a car but of course there are certain drawbacks. The low geared steering offers a poor turning circle, the handbrake which locks up the main prop shaft may scare the wits out of you as it creeps forward after applying but as for its abilities? its beyond reproach.
…if you cannot drive over or around the problem simply slot in low range and drive through it
The acres of exposed metal and Phillips screws may look worrying as do the plethora of bolt heads locating the seats and doors while its column stalks are lifted straight from your Uncles old Morris Marina – sounds scary but trust me… it only adds to the unique character that can only be a Land Rover. The overall quality is one of an agricultural nature and the only padding is to be found on the seats or the steering wheel – you just know you are at ease and secure very quickly in the knowledge that if you cannot drive around the problem whatever the weather… slot it into low range and simply drive over or through it. Everything you need and nothing you don’t best sums up the interior of the Defender 110 – snug and secures captures it nicely.
It will traverse a 45 degree gradient wade in up to 500mm of depth and its engine will produce over 350Nm of stump pulling torque – all in a truly iconic package that is yours for a snitch under £30.000 – buying a little piece of England was never more affordable. To conclude, the Defender is an analogue antidote to a digital world, just grab your wellies, the Labrador and pop those Purdey cartridges in your Barbour jacket – there is no where this vehicle will refuse to take you!
Power unit: Ford 2.2 in line four 122PS @ 3500rpm 300Nm torque @ 2000rpm
Gearbox: All syncro 6 speed with High Low and Diff lock facility
Suspension: Front and rear live axles with coil springs and double acting telescopic dampers
Brakes: Front and rear disc with ABS and transmission brake
Fuel Consumption / CO2: Combined 25.5mpg & 295G/Km
Price as tested: £30,095 OTR (featured tow bar pack and under ride protection kit as options)
Need more info? Contact Land Rover for further information