LAND Rover has launched a serious attack on the commercial vehicle sector by unleashing hard top versions of its new Defender models - and they certainly deliver on all counts.
Available in both two-door Defender 90 and four-door Defender 110 guise, the rugged go-anywhere vehicles deliver outstanding off-road ability and the latest generation models are also nicely refined on the open road too.
All vehicles are powered by Land Rover's 3.0-litre Ingenium diesel engine with the 90 Hard Top featuring the D200 in-line six-cylinder unit producing 200PS and 500Nm of torque. It costs from Â£35,820, excluding VAT.
The Defender 110 Hard Top is on sale with the D250 or D300 diesel engine featuring mild-hybrid technology and the option of electronic air suspension. The D250 delivers 249ps and 570Nm of torque, while the D300 provides 300ps and 650Nm of torque. These models are priced from £43,012, excluding VAT.
There is just one trim level for the Defender 90 Hard Top, but those looking for five-door flexibility via the 110 can choose from Defender, S, SE and HSE grades with the likes of Windsor leather upholstery included on high-end versions.
All models are fitted with a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission and intelligent all-wheel drive to help conquer the roughest, toughest terrain.
The Defender range can wade at depths of up to 900mm and can tow trailers weighing up to 3.5 tonnes with Advanced Tow Assist technology available to aid when reversing.
The newly designed Defender series has been winning awards globally since its recent launch and the arrival of the hard tops is another step forward, especially with so many pick-up models falling by the wayside.
These vehicles have been designed to put in a hard day's shift when called upon so need to cover all the practicality bases - and they do just that.
We had the opportunity to try the Defender 90 D200 Hard Top priced at £44,210, increased to £49,060 with a whole host of optional extras.
This model can sprint from 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds, tops out at 109mph and can deliver a combined 29.5mpg with carbon emissions of 251g/km.
On the open road, the Defender 90 Hard Top is nicely balanced and even with a heavy load of potatoes in the back, it was so controlled on the country lanes, where previous models would have left you shaken and a little stirred!
The nicely weighted steering offers ample feedback and a trip to Eastnor Castle, which is Land Rover's tried and tested off-road proving ground, was the ideal setting to test the model's 4x4 ability.
Once again, the vehicle was able to plough its way through any obstacles. It waded through deep water-filled ditches, the hill-descent control helped it drop safely down steep inclines and it powered through damp mud and up banks without any hesitation.
A run in the larger Defender 110 Hard Top in SE specification was just as rewarding. This model, priced at £63,315 (£72,460 with options) was powered by the 300hp Ingenium engine with MHEV and could complete the 0-62mph dash in 7.1 seconds, maxing out at 119mph.
It can achieve the same combined 29.5mpg as the 90 model and has identical carbon emissions of 251g/km.
Once again, this Defender 110 Hard Top was up to the challenge and it proved how far the vehicle has come with regards to on-road refinement. It's grippy through bends and it cruises effortlessly at 70mph on motorways. Yet, it is happy to put in a shift when necessary and has a larger storage space than its smaller sibling.
When it comes to load space, the Defender 90 Hard Top can carry 1,355 litres of goods, while the larger 110 models have increased space with a 2,059 capacity. All models have a hinged rear door with the traditional spare wheel on the outside. Depending on the engine and specification pack, the vehicles can transport 670kg (Defender 90) or 778-800kg (110) and there are lockable underfloor compartments too which is ideal if you are carrying valuable tools.
Up front there are two seats with the option of a third thanks to a jump seat that replaces the central armrest. And all models are generously equipped with a wealth of on-board technology, including a 10-inch touchscreen with Land Rover's latest Pivi Pro infotainment system. There is full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a navigation system, DAB radio, a four-speaker sound system and lots more besides.
All vehicles feature a range of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems with a 3D surround camera, wade sensing, emergency braking, a 360-degree parking aid, lane keep assist, a driver condition monitor, cruise control with speed limiter, plus traffic sign recognition and adaptive speed limiter.
And there is Land Rover's optional ClearSight Rear View camera costing Â£525, that provides an uninterrupted view out the rear of the vehicle by simply flicking a switch on the rearview mirror. This is ideal if you are carrying goods that are piled high in the back and blocking the driver's visibility.
All in all, the latest Defender Hard Top models are perfectly packaged for a mix of day-to-day driving but will easily take on any challenge thrown in their path to get the job done along the way.