The Land Rover Defender has serious off-road capability, with a go anywhere attitude.
Land Rover Defender Review
Land Rover doesn’t sell the Defender in India and might not launch it here anytime soon but that doesn’t change the fact that the vehicle is one of the most capable off-road machines in the world today. What started life as the Land Rover Ninety and Land Rover One Ten was renamed as the Defender in 1991. The 90 and 110 come from the wheelbase of the car (in inches). The first Defender was launched in 1983 and today the vehicle is available in a range of body styles (14 to be precise). Land Rover recently celebrated its 65th anniversary, when they launched the Defender 90 LXV (65 in roman numerals). We drove the limited edition model for a brief time in the UK and were quite impressed by its range of capabilities.
The Land Rover Defender hasn’t changed much over the years in terms of styling. The vehicle looks quite retro and the design is very rugged. This 3-door Defender LXV version gets a few tweaks which further amplify the desirability quotient. The exteriors get two new colours (Santorini Black and Fuji White) which are offered with contrasting hardtop roof, headlight surrounds, fascia and grille. The dark finished 16-inch wheels look really good while there are LXV badges across the vehicle as well. Paint quality is excellent and might cause some heartache when you storm into unknown territory in the Defender.
Climb inside the Defender and you are greeted with a cabin which is very different from the regular Land Rover cars. The Defender is not a luxury vehicle so naturally the use of leather is kept at a minimum. The LXV version does get leather seats though along with contrasting orange stitching on the seats, centre console and steering wheel. The headrests of the front seats also get LXV badging. Quality inside is excellent just like it is on the outside. Everything feels well put together and built quality lives up to the Land Rover name with the vehicle getting an excellent air-conditioner, audio system and easy to read instrument cluster. The dashboard is quite flat and the seats are extremely comfortable. This being the shorter wheelbase version can accommodate only a couple of people at the rear as there is not much space behind. The Defender 110 is the vehicle to ferry passengers through rivers and hills.
Powering the Land Rover Defender is a 2.2-litre diesel engine which belts out 122 PS of peak power at 3500 RPM and 360 Nm of turning force at 2000 RPM. There is plenty of grunt from this motor and the Defender feels quite swift on open roads. It does the 0-100 km/hr sprint in around 15 seconds and is a bit audible at high revvs. This engine produces quite a lot of torque at low revs, turbolag being decently contained, the Defender gathers momentum quickly, more so when off-road with power being challenged to all wheels by Land Rover’s permanent 4-wheel drive system.
Mated to the Defender’s diesel powerplant is a 6-speed manual gearbox. The Defender is the only Jaguar Land Rover vehicle where you will be shifting gears the traditional way. The gearbox offers good shifts, slotting into your chosen cog with decent smoothness. There is so much pep on offer from the torquey mill that one can easily drive in high gears and the Defender will pull strongly in-gear. Built quality is splendid, even after extensive off-road driving, there were no rattles or squeaks.
The view from the Land Rover Defender is very commanding. You sit high and visibility is excellent although rear view mirrors are manually adjustable from the outside. The windows are big which means glancing around is thoroughly easy and driving is mostly effortless. Although the Defender is quite heavy, it doesn’t feel as heavy to drive. Sure the clutch is quite heavy and the steering wheel is quite big but when you go off-road, these things can be overlooked. Braking power is decent but the pedal is a tad too heavy and bites too quickly, things which felt like a boon in off-road conditions but a mild irritant during on-road driving.
Ride quality is very good on both off and on-road conditions, with the suspension absorbing most things in its stride with exemplary confidence. The Land Rover Defender stays reasonably stable at speed although its body on frame underpinnings do end up showing its presence. Handling is quite predictable, the Defender goes into corners with reasonable composure although the steering lacks feel and there is little feedback, especially at the front ahead position. This along with the rather large steering makes it difficult to push the Defender into corners but it’s really not intended to be a corner darting machine. This vehicle is meant to go to roads (actually no roads) with ease and come out on top.
Get off-road and the Land Rover Defender proves what it’s all about, instantly. The vehicle simply keeps moving and surpasses all challenges you throw at it. Whether it’s stream crossing or a hill climb, the Defender soldiers on with utmost ease. The lever to shift between 4H and 4L modes is quite hard to operate, you really have to push hard to change modes, more so getting into low mode requires a definite shove of the lever to the front (probably done to prevent accidentally shifting to low mode). Once in low mode, the Defender takes to rough terrains like a fish through water. The steering is light and all you need to do is manoeuvre. Even steep inclines and declines are dealt with guided confidence. The Defender is one vehicle which is difficult to get stuck in, it simply is brilliant off-road.
The Land Rover Defender is an excellent off-road vehicle which has decent on-road manners too. The styling is quite rugged and muscular which is appealing in its own unique way. The Defender has quite a lot of grunt from its 4-pot diesel motor while interior comfort has been thoroughly taken care of. With over 20 lakh units sold, the Defender is a massively successful vehicle simply because its a brilliant off-roader while being a jack of all trades. In fact the current Defender is so good, Land Rover is finding it difficult to come up with a replacement. We hope Tata Motos launches the Defender in India, it will create a niche for itself and there will be quite a few takers.
The Land Rover Defender has massive appeal and will certainly win the hearts of off-road enthusiasts in India.
* Off-road prowess
* Rugged styling
What’s Not So Cool
* Not on sale in India