After more than a three-year wait, the all-new Land Rover Defender is here. But does it live up to expectations, or indeed, its predecessor?
Never has there been a car with so much anticipation. Defender drivers are a proud people. Their ownership is almost code-like.
But if you’re spotted driving a new Defender by another Landy owner, will there be the traditional respectful wave? Or will you be looked upon in disgust?
Why Such A Long Wait?
Well, Land Rover has certainly taken their time in finding the right mix before releasing the new Defender.
Three years may have passed since they killed off the old terrain-basher, but this project has been much longer in the making.
More than 1.2 million kilometres (just shy of 750,000 miles) and 62,000 tests later, Land Rover is finally happy with its creation. So, was it worth the wait?
Land Rover Defender Design
At first glance, the new Land Rover looks very different from its former self. And so it should.
It’s not just a discovery with a Defender badge, it really is new. But there are certainly little tributes to its predecessor in the design.
A flat front and rear end take their shape from the original, while alpine-like windows in the roof and the spare attached the back offer a sprig of nostalgia to season the otherwise modern look.
Really, in terms of looking back, there isn’t much else. But Land Rover has undoubtedly brought the Defender into the 21st century.
An options list 170 items long gives you an idea of how customisable your Defender can be, including features such as a panoramic roof, bigger alloys and snorkel.
The design is smart, too. At the front, you’ll find a completely flat underbody to aid aerodynamics.
And instead of standard paint, the new Defender is satin wrapped, meaning when you inevitably scratch it, you can have it restored with much lower costs.
On the inside, they’ve also spared no detail. Gone are the days of a heater with as much force as a travel hairdryer, doors which failed to stay shut when going around a roundabout, and the basic, uncomfortable, scratchy plastic interior.
Instead, on entry, you’re now greeted with an almost Range Rover-like interior. Plush seats, modernistic subtlety across the dash and an all-new Land Rover infotainment system give the all-terrain monster a feel of luxury – something new to the Defender world.
The cabin also gives the driver a complete 360-degree view of their surroundings, head-up display, the ability to pair two smartphones at once and a self-learning Sat Nav.
But it’s not just the 85 onboard computer-powered tech that’s impressive in the new Land Rover Defender. The seat layout is, too.
For seating, you have three options; five-seater, six-seater – which includes a third seat in the front that can be transformed into an armrest – or a five+two set up, which gives you an extra pair of seats in the back on the long-wheel-base model.
Land Rover Defender Technical Specification
At the moment, the Defender comes with four engine choices depending on which spec you choose.
At entry level – the Defender – you have the widest choice; between two turbocharged diesel options and a petrol. The next spec up, the Defender First Edition, you’re limited to one – a 240bhp turbocharged petrol drive. And at top spec; the Defender X, you’re treated to a 400bhp turbocharged mild-hybrid petrol engine.
And when we say mild-hybrid, we mean mild. Like a Formula 1 car, kinetic energy released through braking is harvested instead of being lost. But that’s it. That’s the hybrid element.
There is a plug-in hybrid version coming, although details around when that’ll be are still sketchy.
Chassis, Suspension & Brakes
Whichever engine you choose will be sat in the Land Rover Defender’s first monocoque chassis, which, according to Land Rover themselves, is three-times stiffer than any body structure they’ve made before.
Suspension-wise, you’re given two options – coil-springed or electronic air suspension.
With the latter, Land Rover has been a bit clever. Off-road, the Defender can raise itself up by 145mm for greater ground clearance.
When travelling through water in wade mode, the suspension will adapt to its surroundings, meaning it can comfortably sail through 900mm of depth.
And after it’s been for its swim, it’ll drag its brakes briefly to dry the discs, ensuring you always have full control when you need it.
Land Rover Defender: The Verdict
So, does it live up to expectations?
Well, when I first saw the Land Rover Defender, I’ll admit, I wasn’t fully sold. It didn’t look like a Defender. But as more information about the car has been released, that’s changed.
Of course, there’s still the argument that the new Defender doesn’t have what made the old one special; character.
But what really gave the old one character? The fact bits fell off? The cold wind howling through gaps in the metalwork? The endless trips to your local Land Rover mechanic?
Don’t get me wrong, the old Defender is a great car. It’s an icon. But I think writing off the new one without discovering its little foibles first isn’t fair.
So no, it’s not the old Defender. It’s a new, stronger, smarter, more comfortable version.
It’s the Defender for its time.
It’s the Defender the world needs today.
We’ll be taking an in-depth look at the Land Rover Defender soon. Keep an eye on our social channels to see it first.