The model seems to have been around for ages but what we actually forget is that the original vehicle was intended for agricultural use. Over time and through the first three Series, the Land Rover was adopted by country folk in general and subsequently by people who liked to venture into the wild blue yonder, trusting the tough, four-wheel drive Land Rover to do its job. It was cheap and it was basic.
The Old Defender
The two-door 90 and the 110 LWB four-door Series, thanks to the legendary off-road ability, the historic character, massive popularity and a curious aspirational value, kept going well into the 21st Century although the technology, despite a few new mod-cons, was getting very long in the tooth. Also, the vehicle as a whole was not noted for extreme comfort. It didn’t matter. It consistently sold well but was eventually killed off, not by absence of sales despite the lack of road manners and comfort, but by the brand’s inability to make the car meet modern economy and emissions legislation.
Introducing The New Defender
It has taken three long years for the replacement to appear (although it was in the planning stage for much longer). Finally launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the car has met with a chorus of approval. How much it resembles the vehicle it replaces is very much in the eye of the beholder. Look closely and it is possible to see some design cues that reflect the original and suggest the engineers have thought this through as the silhouette is unmistakable.
Alex Heslop, a Director of Jaguar Land Rover, is quoted as saying: “The new Defender is a future-proofed 4x4 for the 21st Century, using the latest technologies to optimise efficiency, enhance capability and revolutionise connectivity. With plug-in hybrid electric power-trains, software updates that are sent over the air and next-generation always-on touchscreen infotainment, new Defender is every bit as pioneering today as the original Land Rover was in 1948.”
This though is something very different from the original, which was painted in surplus War Department green. It may have more of a lifestyle rather than a farmyard vibe but under the modern gloss lies an extremely accomplished and seriously capable car.
For example, it can wade through water up to a 900mm (approximately three feet) wading depth and for serious off-road work has an all-important 38° approach angle and 291mm (just over 11”) of ground clearance. With old-school Alpine windows the car offers a colour heads-up array with on and off-road info and a digital dashboard also features. Other options available include a 4.5tonne winch, a snorkel air intake for deep water and even a roof tent. Better still, they have run out of war surplus paint and now offer the car in seven complementary colours with two-tone options and other personalisations.
A choice of advanced petrol and cleaner diesel engines mean the new Defender has the power, control and efficiency for any environment. Next year a plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) power-train will join the range offering the prospect of silent running, EV-style. Featured technology includes Land Rover’s ClearSight Ground View and ClearSight Rear View Mirror both designed to help the driver see more, useful off-road. 3D on-screen visualisation help when using the Advanced Tow Assist and Wade Sensing systems, we learn. The interior reflects our modern world and has a true SUV feel about it.
Obviously there are many differences from that original Defender. Time moves on, after all. Those who dream of the old car must accept this is not a direct replacement, rather it is a vehicle that takes its cues from its ancestors and makes them better, if not cheaper. The jury is in: this a brilliant car that really can do it all.