REVIEW | Land Rover scores a win with new Defender
The hype surrounding the reinvented Land Rover Defender was (and remains) big. As expected, of course: the prospect of rebirthing a decades-old, iconic nameplate was always going to get fans and detractors talking.
Last month we had the opportunity to drive the model and published our impressions on September 9. We had sampled the vehicle at the Land Rover off-road experience centre in Johannesburg, over a trail named in honour of the legendary Kingsley Holgate.
Its electronic and mechanical systems worked superbly and in tandem to make mincemeat of the obstacles before us. Actually, it all seemed far too easy for the Defender. It puts paid to any reservations that the new incarnation might have gone soft, eschewing the hardy, go-anywhere persona that made the original so famous.
Not long after that we scored a chance to spend a little more time behind the wheel in the real world. In the areas that matter, the new vehicle is completely far removed from its predecessor. But you probably knew that already, especially since it is largely based on the platform of the Discovery.
The 110 D240 derivative we sampled is powered by a two-litre, four-cylinder, twin-turbocharged diesel producing 177kW and 430Nm.
It is paired with an eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission. While noticeable intervals of lag are found to plague the engine, once the boost gets on song, it hustles the 2,248kg adventurer along in reasonably brisk fashion. Land Rover quotes a sprint time of 9.1 seconds.
The default ground clearance of 218mm is sufficient for most urban obstacles, and the pneumatic suspension delivers a wonderfully cosseting ride quality. It is cushy over rough surfaces and on the freeway ensures the Defender cruises along with an assured stability never imagined in the old car. But there are some criticisms.
Firstly, the side-mounted gear carrier, part of the Explorer accessory pack, creates a substantial blind spot. Secondly, steer clear of the beige fabric upholstery choice. The seats and surfaces of our near-new test unit already began to look grubby.
Other than those two tiny gripes, the Defender proved a joy to live with on a daily basis. Safe to say the character and soul of its forebear has been successfully translated into a product for the modern era.
Pricing for the Defender 110 starts at R1,050,100.