From ageing legend to rugged refinement with modern edge
Without doubt, the trailblazing new Land Rover Defender is one of the coolest vehicles to reach showrooms this year.
It’s also among the most controversial for true fans.
Staunch Defender lovers bemoan the new look and tech-laden cabin — it’s a nameplate which built a reputation on longevity, go-anywhere and a ride which rivalled a double-breasted suit on a 40-degree Celsius day for comfort.
Rugged was the Defender zeitgeist. Times change, the chances of an NRL player not facing police charges during the season and old Defender meeting crash standards or emission criteria were on par. Hence production of the old model stopped in 2016, which set the world record for longest continuous production vehicle.
Now, gone are the external pot-rivets and bare-basics appeal. This is downright fancy.
With dramatic improvement comes an escalated price. The Defender 90 starts from $79,160 drive-away, while the longer wheelbase 110s begin at $82,250.
That bottom line rises quickly after visiting the lengthy optional extras list. Our test 110 P400 S had nearly $30,000 worth of extra kit.
Many of the extras can be combined in packs, while the Defender has the greatest range of accessories (170) ever produced for a Land Rover.
Standard features aren’t bereft of luxuries, with a 10-inch touchscreen inclusive of smartphone mirroring apps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connected to a six-speaker stereo, dual-zone aircon, keyless entry and electric adjustable front seats all complimentary.
Our extras included a panoramic sunroof ($4370), 20-inch alloys ($3380), comfort pack for a console fridge compartment, Meridan sound system and wireless phone charging ($2740), along with a third row to make it a seven-seater ($2740).
The five-year warranty meets the mainstream standard and is the best you’ll find in the prestige world — only matched by Mercedes-Benz. Guaranteed future value deals are also available with Land Rover finance.
White paint comes as standard, while green, beige, grey, blue, black, silver and another white shade are metallic options which add $2060. Premium metallic grey and silver are $3100.
Servicing packs covering five years for the petrol model are $2650 — a hefty jump from the diesel which is $700 less. Intervals are annual or every 20,000km.
While driving an old Defender in the city once, a pedestrian on the footpath saw yours truly coming and dramatically veered away from the road. It was quite the imposing beast.
The chances of anyone surviving a clash with a Defender are vastly improved in this model, along with the occupants as it scored a five-star rating from crash authority ANCAP under stringent new criteria.
Pivotal to the score was high levels of the latest tech, inclusive of emergency braking that automatically applies the anchors if the driver fails to act after a warning that a frontal collision is imminent.
The drive assist pack was $2086, but is now standard on 2021 models, and that includes blind spot assist to help avoid sideswiping other vehicles, radar cruise control to maintain set distances, along with a rear traffic monitor which warns of approaching vehicles when reversing.
One item missing is a head-up display, which can project speed and satnav onto the windscreen just under the driver’s eyeline. That’s an extra $2420.
Storage options galore showcase the Defender’s adventurous appeal. There is no problem finding nooks and spots for wallets, phones, keys, drinks and snack, the Defender has a plethora of places in and under the centre console.
Rubber mats confirm it’s no showpony, and the cabin has a raw and rugged appeal with a fair dose of luxury thrown into the mix. With the name etched on the passenger dash it looks and feels like a cabin built for action with some exposed bolts flexing its muscle.
Land Rover has done a good job with its infotainment system and it’s simple to find your way through the touchscreen main menu.
Aircon operations are still button and dial controlled and they sit alongside the dash-mounted gear-shifter. The latter allows for a jump seat to be installed to make the Defender a six-seater — just like the early Land Rovers.
There is ample boot space, nearly 1000 litres. Seven-seaters are reduced to 230L with all chairs in use, but fold them all and flatpack furniture or sporting equipment can be handled with an area nearing 1780L.
You really had to drive the old Defender. This new model is the antipode of the original.
While diesels have so far been the most popular, our petrol six-cylinder proved a brilliantly entertaining and fun drive.
Exercise the right ankle and the turbocharged six-cylinder engine really gets the Defender moving at pace. It can rip from standstill to 100km/h in 6.1 seconds … that’s quick, especially considering it weighs 2360kg.
Driving in the metropolitan areas and around town it feels surprisingly nimble.
Tight turns are a challenge. There is a 13m turning circle, and it’s big and boxy so don’t have expectations of attacking the bends without feeling severe body roll, yet the air suspension delivers a smooth ride.
There is also little doubting the Defender has maintained its off-road credentials. It has a wading depth of 900mm, along with sophisticated four-wheel drive technology which automatically selects the best traction for the likes of snow, mud, gravel and rocks.
Throw into the mix hill launch assist, a low traction launch function, roll stability control and it makes novice off-roaders look like professionals.
Fuel consumption is the trade-off for the petrol variants and the official average usage is nearly 10 litres for every 100km. We may have been testing too hard … our average was 14L.
This may not have the same old-school appeal, but it’s dramatically safer and the driving experience doesn’t mean a workout.
Going off-road and exploring lights my fire, now I can go virtually anywhere while also looking catwalk-worthy at the school drop-off.
Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series Sahara $135,500 D/A
Iconic with an unrivalled reputation for reliability and performance. This model combines luxury and ultimate off-road ability. New models are coming, so this could be the last of the 200kW/650Nm 4.5-litre V8 diesel.
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon $73,653 D/A
Another supremely talented off-roader, one of the best you’ll find. Safety is an issue, rated at just three stars due to average frontal crash results, but it does come with most of the latest tech gadgetry. Powered by a 209kW/347Nm 3.6-litre V6 and fuel consumption of 10.3L/100km.
Brimming with personality, the new Defender may look too modern for staunch fan tastes but it certainly retains its hairy-chested appeal. Modern luxuries are now part of the mix, enabling opulent off-roading
AT A GLANCE
LAND ROVER DEFENDER 110 P400 S
PRICE $100,500 drive-away (jump from old model)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5yr unlim’ km w’ty (good); services $2650 for 5 (OK)
ENGINE 3.0-litre 6cyl turbo, 294kW/550Nm (fast)
SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, lane keeping assistance, 360-degree camera, blind spot warning, radar cruise (good)
THIRST 9.9L/100km (14 on test)
SPARE Full-size (awesome)
BOOT 916-2380L (massive)