Land Rover Defender

90 P300 X Dynamic SE

Land Rover Defender 90 X-Dynamic, 2020, front
Land Rover Defender 90, 2020, off road, water
Land Rover Defender 90, 2020, off road, rear, mud
Land Rover Defender 90, 2020, interior
Land Rover Defender 90, 2020, rear, off road

REPLACING the iconic Land Rover Defender was going to be a tall order.

Unless design supremo Gerry McGovern and his team delivered something that really wasn't too dissimilar to the original the purists would be outraged.

And so many were in September 2019, when the wraps finally came off the all-new Defender - more than three-and-a-half years after production of its predecessor finally ended at the Solihull factory where it had been made for almost 70 years.

That lengthy lifespan in itself indicated that the Defender's days were ultimately numbered.

The dated design might have been that of a motoring icon but it could not continue in that shape or form for any number of reasons.

Chief among them was that the old Defender could simply not meet modern safety standards.

However it's also worth noting that despite the pretty much universal big love for it, Jaguar Land Rover did not sell that many of them during its twilight years.

It certainly had a good innings, as is often said at the funerals of people who have enjoyed a long and happy life.

And so to the new Defender.

Like many I might not have been too sure at first but it's a vehicle that has grown on me in a big way.

It's fair to say that seeing pictures doesn't really do it justice and the first time I saw it in the metal I was more than impressed.

Then I got to drive it at a delayed launch event due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This was the point at which the penny dropped and I truly got a sense of what the new Defender was really all about.

For all its charm and character the old Defender was a difficult vehicle to drive. Very agricultural and basic, thanks to the fact it hadn't fundamentally changed all that much in 70 years.

Yes, it was great off-road - and even better in extreme situations - but on-road as an everyday form of transport - it was genuinely uncomfortable and hard work.

The new Defender is aiming to be both a consummate off-roader and a smooth on-road performer too.

A tall order one might say but doing that is also something that has come to be a Land Rover trademark.

The Range Rover manages to do both pretty well but it is very expensive and who really wants to take a vehicle which costs that much off-road.

Okay, the Defender isn't exactly cheap either but its price is modest compared to the Range Rover and it also manages to perform on and off-road splendidly well.

Like the old Defender the new model is starting to shape-up as a growing family.

At launch there was just the longer wheelbase 110 model but a shorter 90 model arrived some time later.

We have also seen the arrival of commercial variants.

Having driven both the 110 and 90 in quick succession I have to say I prefer the 90 for a number of reasons.

First and foremost its shape seems more quintessentially ‘Land-Rover' (as the first ever model was called) and more evocative of that old Defender which it replaced.

Every time I looked at it the heritage and tradition of the familiar motoring icon jumped out at me.

There are some design touches that reinforce that Defender pedigree on both the 90 and 110 models, the chunky profile that hints rather cleverly at where it came from and perhaps most of all the hinged rear door with the spare wheel on the back.

In practicality terms the 110 certainly trumps the 90, to the point where they are almost like different cars.

It's much more of a large, family-sized SUV with acres of boot space - and it has five doors.

The 90 has three doors and doesn't have a huge amount of boot space.

In fact in some ways it's more like a modest family hatchback, albeit one that sits very high off the ground and is still quite bulky in terms of its overall dimensions.

There's a certain technique that needs to be employed to get into the back seats, moving the front seat forwards and almost having to haul oneself up into the cabin. Grab handles are provided.

My adult passengers, who I transported on an out of season seaside trip to Wales, became quite adept at this over a few days.

And, despite the challenges of getting in, and out, even with five adults on board everyone is pretty well catered for in terms of head and leg room and general comfort levels.

Everything about it captures something of that essential old Defender character.

Don't get me wrong , the 110 is a super-comfortable on-road vehicle but it just feels bigger and bulkier.

The more compact dimensions of the 90 give it an edge in terms of dynamics and general manoeuvrability.

Driving it on A and B roads to mid Wales was a real joy and getting in and out of tight sports was also a breeze.

It was a vehicle that was very easy to become extremely attached to in a short space of time.

The Defender's interior is remarkably clutter-free, in keeping with the character of its predecessor, but this reflects an adherence to the spartan style book rather than any absence of technology.

It looks simple and straightforward but there's some high-tech kit here.

A central touchscreen enables the control of many functions and is supported by some more conventional switches and dials.

New Defender technology includes full smartphone connectivity, a 3D surround camera, two-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, a navigation system, heated, powered seats and plenty more besides.

The digital display screen can be used to show sat nav directions or off-road data.

The Defender features Land Rover's consummate and capable Terrain response system.

Its various modes allow the vehicle to tackle all manner of terrain, with the addition of exterior cameras to keep the driver fully aware of what's happening around them.

This X Dynamic specification model came with a fair few extras like leather upholstery, heated front seats and alloy wheels - and a few more too - that took the price up to almost £60,000 but prices start at £53,930.

So, all in all the new Defender is quite a tour de force and a great all-rounder - off road and on it.

FAST FACTS

Land Rover Defender 90 P300 X Dynamic SE

Price: £59,560

Mechanical: 296bhp, 1,997cc, 4-cyl petrol engine driving all 4 wheels via 8-spd automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 119mph

0-62mph: 6.7secs

Combined MPG: 24.6

Insurance Group: 37

C02 emissions: 259g/km

Bik rating: 37%

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