New Defender - job


Land Rover Defender, 2020, nose
Land Rover Defender, 2020, front
Land Rover Defender, 2020, front, water
Land Rover Defender, 2020, rear
Land Rover Defender, 2020, interior
Land Rover Defender, 2020, water
Land Rover Defender, 2020, rear, track
Land Rover Defender, 2020, rear, on road
Land Rover Defender, 2020, boot

REPLACING the Land Rover Defender was always going to be a tough task - some might say an impossible one.

The Defender - born out of the original Land-Rover and the Series I, II and III models which came in its wake - was a true automotive legend.

It was in production at Land Rover's Solihull factory for almost 70 years before production finally came to an end in January 2016.

There were many die-hard enthusiasts who were devastated by its demise but the Defender had to be replaced - due to the world around it changing.

It struggled to keep up with ever changing safety and emissions regulations and that ultimately sounded its death knell.

But also, and crucially, despite its status as a motoring icon, it was also no longer as popular as it once was.

Before production ended Land Rover was selling just 20,000 of them a year, which is an unsustainable number.

So, in replacing it, what would be the best approach - to recreate as close an approximation of the original as possible but bringing it up to date to conform to those modern regulations - or creating something totally new.

Land Rover opted for the latter but with a determination to create a vehicle that still had something of the spirit and essence of the original.

But crucially also something that would appeal to a much larger customer base.

People still tend to think of the Defender's prime market as the agricultural sector.

The Land-Rover that was unveiled at the Amsterdam Motor Show in 1948 was created to help kick-start Britain's motor industry in the wake of the Second World War and to help Britain's farmers with food production.

But it's a sad reality that farmers don't automatically buy Land Rover Defenders in the way they once did - and are arguably more likely to plump for one of the many rugged and robust pick-ups available on the market at the moment.

So, to the new Defender.

There's no doubting it's different - very different - but there's enough about it that shouts its remarkable heritage and history.

The bonnet might be more rounded - that's the first thing that strikes you - indeed the whole vehicle is distinctly more curvy and less boxy than its predecessor - but it also has a silhouette that exudes familiarity.

That is a sign of clever design and to my mind it works.

At the moment only the larger 110 model is available - production of the 90 has been put back due to the coronavirus pandemic - though they too will be rolling off the production lines at the Nitra plant in Slovakia before too long.

I kind of think the 90 has more of that original Land Rover essence, due to its more compact footprint. It will ultimately be the closest the new one will get to that off-roading pioneer.

So, to the inside.

The old Defender had a pretty rugged cabin, even though it had been extensively modernised over the years.

The new one is a curious mixture of modernity and ruggedness but it works well overall.

There are still rubber mats on the floor and in the boot area, suggesting this new Defender can be hosed-down in the same way the old one could.

The overall construction of the console has character, with the Defender name emblazoned on the passenger side. The switchgear and instrumentation are modern in the extreme but with a solid and purposeful character too.

In the middle is Land Rover's new Pivi Pro infotainment system touchscreen which is intuitive and easy to navigate.

Given there is so much technology on modern cars making that technology relatively simple to use can be a challenge in itself but the Defender somehow manages it and it's worth pointing out it has a lot of technology.

The biggest revelation about the new Defender though is just how refined it is on the road.

The old Defender was renowned for its off-road capabilities but its on-road manners left a little to be desired.

That's actually putting it politely. In line with its origins the old Defender was basic and agricultural - perhaps delivering a driving experience that was closer to a tractor than a car.

Of course that was something of its appeal, but a long journey in one could be a rather arduous and bone-shaking experience.

New Defenders come with air suspension as standard and there is no manual gearbox, just an eight-speed automatic transmission.

I got to drive the Defender for a sixty-plus mile road route spanning four counties and some of the Cotswolds.

As a road car it is incredibly smooth and most pleasant to drive. It doesn't feel overly cumbersome or large and the higher powered 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel engine powered it along smoothly and swiftly.

Pitch and roll were kept to a minimum, the ride quality was exemplary and it had a pleasantly surprising turn of pace too.

Big wing mirrors offer a great rear view and are reminiscent of its predecessor but the rear-view mirror (SE trim and upwards) is as high-tech as it's possible to get.

It actually uses a camera view of what's happening behind you. I found it a little strange at first but soon got used to it and after the best part of a day behind the wheel rather liked it.

Cameras are a key component of the new Defender and they combine to provide an all-round 360 degree view.

This system is useful on-road but it is off-road where it really comes into its own and becomes a pretty valued tool for more extreme off-roading.

Of course a Defender would not be a Defender if it did not have the kind of go-anywhere off-road capability that is intrinsically associated with the name.

One of the criticisms of the new Defender is that it is not basic enough and has too much technology on board.

Having experienced how that technology is used to aid off-road driving though, I have to confess I was completely sold on it.

The original Land-Rover utilised a basic but highly effective four-wheel drive system.

Over the years Land Rover has developed many more high-tech off-road driver aids, including Terrain Response and Hill Descent Control. The latest versions of both are fitted to the Defender and are impressive to say the least.

Configurable Terrain Response is making its debut on the new Defender.

It allows serious off-roaders the opportunity to fine-tune individual vehicle settings to perfectly suit the conditions.

Alternatively the intelligent Auto function lets the system detect the most appropriate vehicle settings for the terrain.

I got to experience the Defender's off-road prowess around Land Rover's Eastnor Castle estate in Herefordshire.

It features many miles of off-road tracks through woodland that are designed to truly challenge any vehicle's off-road capability to the full.

Before setting off in arduous off-road terrain the Defender is set-up accordingly. The low range automatic gearbox is engaged and off-road height applied so the air suspension raises the Defender's ride height accordingly. You can see and feel the vehicle rising.

The new Defender provides ground clearance of 291mm and off-road geometry, giving the 110 approach, breakover and departure angles of 38, 28 and 40 degrees.

Its maximum wading depth of 900mm is supported by a new Wade programme in the Terrain Response 2 system.

The tracks we traversed started off gently before the ruts deepened considerably.

The Defender took pretty much everything in its stride, including tight twists and turns and water.

The recent dry spell meant there was not as much water as there could be, ensuring a particularly challenging section called the American humps was a lot easier to navigate than it might have been. It involves a steep descent, followed by a sharp hump before a steep ascent again. The Defender completed it with remarkable ease.

This particular ‘obstacle' was one of the more extreme sections of an hour-long off-road drive where I never travelled the same stretch of track twice.

The Discovery Sport that was serving as our convoy tail car had to give the American humps (named after a US motoring journalist who was particularly fond of them) a miss as its lower ground clearance meant it would run the risk of getting stuck on the middle hump.

Some of the Eastnor Castle terrain necessitated close concentration, particularly the deep rutted areas where there was still the risk of the vehicle getting stuck on the ground between the tracks. And an overactive foot on the accelerator or a steering slip could easily see toy colliding with a tree.

This was where the camera technology really came into its own.

The cameras work to offer an amazing view of the vehicle's precise position anyway but the ClearSight Ground View system can show the view underneath as if looking through an invisible bonnet.

The steeper downhill sections proved perfect to showcase the Hill Descent Control system where the speed can be regulated accordingly, effectively a kind of low-speed, downhill, off-road cruise control.

Currently there's a choice of two diesel and two petrol engines in the new Defender.

Petrol-wise there's a four-cylinder P300 and a six-cylinder P400 featuring Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle technology.

There's a pair of four-cylinder diesels - the D200 and D240 - both of which deliver combined cycle fuel economy of 37.2mpg.

The trim levels are Defender, S, SE, HSE and X.

The new Defender isn't cheap. A Defender 110 starts from £45,560 on the road. Defender 90 starts from £40,290 and Commercial Hard Top pricing starts from £35,500 (plus VAT).

Overall though I can't help but feel that Land Rover have really pulled it off when it comes to reinventing a motoring icon.

The Defender's off-road ability is nothing short of extraordinary.

In character it has something of the spirit of the original about it and while in some ways it's a world away from its predecessor it's also an impressively capable and comfortable on-road vehicle that would be very easy to live with every day.


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