By Mike Torpey on 2021-10-10 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Land Rover Defender
90 D250 S
THE alfresco diners and cocktail quaffers at the pavement cafes turned their heads in unison as the Land Rover Defender cruised down the city thoroughfare.
You could also catch some of the remarks - from the hushed ‘classy piece of kit' to the howl of ‘that's my kind of car'.
The re-birth of an icon is always going to be a risky business, so listening to remarks from folk who have no agenda other than aspiration is interesting to say the least.
And from motorway rubberneckers to suburban passers-by, the positivity generated by the new Defender was palpable.
In fact despite being surrounded by models worth millions in the Soho Farmhouse car park on one of the hottest days of the summer, the ‘beautiful people' only had eyes for one vehicle.
That Defender variant in question was the three-door 90 as opposed to the longer five-door 110, and really struck a pose in its almost military-like Gondwana Stone Metallic paint (an £895 option) and black contrast roof (add £900).
While the old Defender was all about uncompromising hardcore capability rather than comfort and practicality, the latest is a sumptuously kitted out luxury SUV that you could drive on the surface of the moon and halfway up Mount Everest.
Our model came with Land Rover's new D250 mild hybrid diesel engine, a powerful 3.0-litre unit developing 249bhp and capable of returning an average 33 miles per gallon.
It's got punch too, as the car's acceleration of 0-60 in 7.6 seconds underlines and the addition of an Air Suspension Pack with adaptive dynamics (another option but worthwhile at Â£1,615) helps make this car a treat to drive.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox is also slick, the engine sufficiently quiet to disguise the fact that it's a diesel and ride quality silky smooth, especially on quicker roads.
Hop into the cabin and everything feels high quality and refined; the controls are chunky, the dashboard layout is simple, grained leather/textile seats large and comfortable while there's also a 10-inch Pivi Pro infotainment set-up with interactive driver display.
Ideally you would travel with a maximum of four adults aboard, in which case there's a fabulous view for all as rear passengers have an even higher seating position and lots of legroom.
But this a car that can actually seat six if you squeeze three across the back and splash out an extra Â£815 for a jump seat that flips up or down between the front seats but is realistically only suitable for kids given its size and the fact there's nowhere to put your feet.
It's not all straightforward over practicality though. Climbing in and out of the back is awkward, the rear windows don't open and the boot is narrow.
We just about managed to fit in the bags for three people ahead of a weekend in the Cotswolds, though you can of course fold down the back seats. Drivers also need to be aware of the side-hinged tailgate which requires plenty of room to fully open.
Otherwise the Defender 90 comes packed with kit as standard - the likes of heated front seats, auto LED headlights, surround view camera, all-wheel drive and Terrain Response included.
Land Rover Defender 90 D250 S
Mechanical:249bhp, 2,996cc, 6-cyl diesel mild hybrid enginedriving four wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox
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