Has there ever been a harder job in the car industry than being tasked with developing and re-imagining the Land Rover Defender? Love or loathe the new model, we can all agree that those behind the latest version were given a particularly difficult mission.
Defender enthusiasts are a passionate bunch and so the pressure was on for Land Rover. While the release of some new models can almost go under the radar, we knew from the onset that this wouldn’t be the case with the new Defender.
So, after 62,000 tests we have the first all-new update for the Defender since the ’80s. And we really do mean all-new. This isn’t just a tweaked Discovery Sport being marketed as a Defender. This is a painstakingly thought out new Defender model. One that tries to respect its ancestry, while not allowing itself to be held back by it.
The 5-door 110 model is now on sale with a starting price of £45,250 and the more compact 3-door 90 model will follow starting at around £40,000. Initial engine choices include a 4-cylinder turbodiesel and turbo petrol, as well as a 6-cylinder petrol with mild hybrid assistance. A plug-in hybrid version is set to be released in the future too.
Land Rover is making some pretty big claims. Supposedly, the body structure is stronger than anything they have ever made before and this isn’t just an off-roader, it’s an ‘all-terrain supercomputer’. We’re sure die-hard fans will be testing out these claims as soon as possible, but initial reports suggest that there’s not much denying it – this certainly is one clever car.
We’re introduced to Pivi Pro, a new infotainment system where two smartphones can be connected at once if you’re feeling fancy. Then there is a full 360-degree view thanks to the cameras. The Satnav also cleverly learns to mute instructions when it senses that you’re driving in familiar territory, a handy feature that you never even knew you needed until now.
The new wade programme is impressive too with the car automatically raising itself in water, displaying the depth on the screen and indicating how close you are to the 900mm maximum.
We also see the return of the 3rd seat in the front thanks to a repositioning of the gear stick. Before you even consider that the middle passenger may block your rear view through the mirror, Land Rover has already taken care of the issue. As if by magic the mirror turns into a screen which displays the rearview rather than reflecting it. We told you it had been painstakingly thought through!
However, it’s not all new and unfamiliar, several nods to the old model can be seen particularly with its design. The iconic flat front and rear shape, along with the spare wheel mounted onto the tailgate are all features that we’ve seen before and have come to be somewhat fond of. Further adding to the nostalgia are the alpine roof windows and the choice of a traditional wool-based material or Windsor leather for the seats.
The company has certainly put emphasis on the fact work has gone into making it capable and comfortable both on and off road. Have Land Rover hit the balance of giving the car more widespread appeal, while also keeping long-time fans happy? We’ll let you be the judge of that.