Land Rover Defender

90 Station Wagon XS

Land Rover Defender 90, front, action
Land Rover Defender 90, 2012
Land Rover Defender 90, front
Land Rover Defender 90, rear
Land Rover Defender 90, front, static
Land Rover Defender 90, engine
Land Rover Defender 90, front, detail
Land Rover Defender, 2012, interior
Land Rover Defender 90, action

2015 will go down as a sad year for many in automotive history as it marks the final year of production for the iconic Land Rover Defender.

The word iconic is one that gets bandied around all too easily but when applied to the Defender its use is entirely justified.

The Defender is probably the best known and most recognisable car in the world - arguably only the Volkswagen Beetle could give it a run for its money.

It's also been around in some shape or form for 67 years, which is nothing short of incredible when one thinks about it.

While the Defender is on one level a 21st century car it is still based on a vehicle unveiled in 1948 which fundamentally changed the automotive world.

Created in the wake of the Second World War by the Rover Company it was essentially a pick-me-up for the car-maker and designed to get manufacturing moving again.

It was the brainchild of Maurice Wilks, Rover's chief engineer, who famously sketched his original design in the sand on an Anglesey beach for his brother Spencer, who was managing director of the Rover Company.

The idea was based on the US Army's Willys Jeep, a multi-purpose vehicle used by the Allies during the war.

Time is being called on the Defender due to tough European Union emissions regulations and in addition the car's ‘old-fashioned' design means it cannot conform to increasingly rigorous modern safety standards.

Land Rover has indicated it could still produce the vehicle elsewhere in the world for markets where the rules are less stringent but it will no longer be built at the firm's home in Lode Lane in Solihull.

The Defender has fans across the spectrum, from Welsh hill farmers to safari operators and even the rich and famous have been known to get behind the wheel.

Aside from its practical benefits as the kind of vehicle that really can go almost anywhere it's also the kind of vehicle people really love - I met someone recently who has ten Series I vehicles.

There are clubs of enthusiasts all over the world and Defender owners tend to be a loyal and devoted breed.

Anyone who's never driven one before might be somewhat surprised when they get behind the wheel.

There's no disputing the Defender is rugged and basic, even agricultural.

The steering feels more like that of a tractor than a modern car, changing gear sometimes feels as if it might require two hands and although the Defender can tackle the toughest of off-road terrain - on the Tarmac it offers what might generously be described as ‘a firm ride'.

Yes it's been modernised to a degree - this car had figure-hugging sports seats and modern luxuries such as air-conditioning, electric windows and central locking - but there's no disputing this is a vehicle that can trace its engineering lineage back to 1948.

There are still parts of an original Land Rover that would fit on to a current model.

The engines are new and way more powerful than the 1.6-litre petrol unit that powered the original Land Rover but there's still a gruff rawness and a virtual absence of refinement.

Despite all that there remains something majestic and almost magical about the Defender.

It's a pure driving experience - you can hear water splashing under the car when it's wet, you appreciate just how much manual steering effort will be required to do a three-point turn and making swift progress requires a bit more forward planning than normal.

FAST FACTS

Land Rover Defender 90 Station Wagon XS

Price:£30,505

Mechanical:120bhp, 2,198cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed:90mph

0-62mph:14.7 seconds

Combined MPG:27.7

Insurance Group:26

C02 emissions:266g/km

Bik rating:37%

Warranty:3yrs/100,000 miles

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