Land Rover Defender

110 D240S

Land Rover Defender, front action 2
Land Rover Defender, front action 3
Land Rover Defender, front action water
Land Rover Defender, front action
Land Rover Defender, side action
Land Rover Defender, dashboard
Land Rover Defender, rear action
Land Rover Defender, rear action 2
Land Rover Defender, front seats

LIKE a pop group's difficult second album there was every chance Land Rover might stumble when its rough-and-tough Defender finally had to be replaced.

Especially as the new one would no longer be taking hay bales down to the bottom field to feed the sheep - a task long ago assumed by an army of workhorse pick-ups with Japanese badges.

Instead, Land Rover had to build something thoroughly modern that kept the spirit of that first 1948 Defender but appealed to an audience that wants style with substance and is happy to pay for it.

And - long drum roll, please - Land Rover has pulled it off. Here is a car not remotely like the old one to drive or live with but infused with enough no-nonsense capabilities to feed the sheep even if they live on a mountain in a snow storm - in theory.

For, make no mistake, the new Defender will go anywhere the old one would, and more probably. Except if never will, instead keeping its owners happy as they pack the kids in the rear two rows and head off on an outdoor adventure or remote glamping site.

The trick the new Defender's design team has pulled of with distinction is making the car feel like a Range Rover to drive but sprinkled hints of its past all over the place, from exposed screwheads on the doors to ribbed step-on panels on the bonnet and even steel wheels instead of alloys, if you wish.

The result is a look that had a 'mature' Jaguar SUV driver quizzing me on the car, which he was admiring, and a style-conscious 12-year-old neighbour who declared she would have one when she became an actress in Hollywood.

Most cars, however fine to drive, don't elicit reactions like that. The new Mini did, back in 2000 but precious few since. Land Rover's gamble has paid off and, like the Mini, the brand marches on.

Beneath the looks sits a car that will have driver and passengers happy however long the journey as their transport floats along on air suspension that smooths away the worst a country lane can throw at it.

Younger passengers instantly note the battery of power points sprayed around the cabin, waiting for their phones to be plugged in, while the driver will be enjoying the clarity of an electronic dash that maintains enough old-fashioned controls (importantly, for heating and cooling) to keep stress levels low.

And everyone will marvel at the way Land Rover has found room for stowage pockets all over the place - even behind the central display on the dash. It's a practical touch that pays elegant homage to that first Defender.

A quiet diesel engine provides plenty of performance and 31.4mpg on test is good enough to please the family accountant.

FAST FACTS

Land Rover Defender 110 D240S

Price: £52,110

Mechanical: 237bhp, 1,999cc, 4-cyl diesel engine driving all 4 wheels via 8-spd automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 117mph

0-62mph: 9.1secs

Combined MPG: 31.7

Insurance Group: 36

C02 emissions: 234g/km

Bik rating:37%

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