WHAT IS IT?
The new Defender has a mountain to climb. Yeah, a real mountain, of course, because awesome off-road ability is an absolute necessity. But also a metaphorical mountain. It’s got to replace the old one. A vehicle that was very widely adored, for the exact same reasons it was almost impossible to justify buying.
It was basically a tool. Its ability to survive harsh and brutal conditions meant it was, frankly, itself far too harsh and brutal to be taken seriously as an everyday vehicle for most people.
So the new one has to be as capable off-road as the old one. And it has to evoke the old one’s heritage, which is why it looks the way it does. Those two things were probably quite difficult, but if anyone could succeed, Land Rover’s engineers and designers would.
SOUNDS LIKE A TALL ORDER.
Beyond that are two much harder questions. The ones that are the gateway to it being adored like the old one was. If it drives well and is comfy, will it get accused of blandness? And if it’s smart and sophisticated, will it have abandoned the customers who made its heritage so authentic – the rescue services, the utilities, the true adventurers?
IT CERTAINLY LOOKS THE PART…
The exterior design is, we think, masterful. It invokes the old one yet it’s completely modern. The boxiness is just right for a hardcore SUV. It doesn’t only eke out the maximum carrying space, it also helps when you’re driving between obstacles because you know where the bodywork begins and ends. The short overhangs help off-road. But it’s subtly curved, not flat sided. Flat panels look makeshift and go wavy. The new Defender’s subtle curves look smart and solid.
The bodywork is structural. The whole shell is immensely strong. So’s the suspension it rides on. It shares principles with the Discovery’s, but few parts. Almost everything is stronger. The Defender 110 has air suspension as standard, which adds to off-road ground clearance and wading ability.
WHAT IS THE VERDICT?
“If you can make use of it, there’s nothing to match it”
One in a hundred, one in a thousand, who knows? But once in a while, out of all the people buying Land Rover’s vehicles, there will be someone who has the intention of using it to the max. For the other 99 or 999, not so. The firm’s entire success has been founded on making vehicles that are so capable they go well beyond the normal needs of the buyers.
The Defender is the pinnacle of that. Who are the one in a thousand? A few adventure crews. Some deep-country folk of unusual prosperity. And, with next year’s Commercial version, such noble entities as coastguards, electricity supply workers and rescue crews.
In the meantime though it’s a family car with a deep and wide backstory. It just makes you feel adventurous. And when you do use its ability – as an off-roader, a snowy-roader, a towing roader – it’d feel immensely reassuring. It’ll carry mountains of kit, and shrug off the dirt and wet.