Meet the New Land Rover Defender, an Icon in the Motoring World
It may not be the oldest model at Land Rover, but the Defender is certainly the longest-lived with production spanning some 33-years and is arguably the most renowned. The Land Rover Series II and Series III became known as the Defender in 1983. Two Defender models were available back then, the one-ten (110) and ninety (90) with the numerals denoting the wheelbase in inches.
Paying homage to the originals, the latest Land Rover Defender also carries 90 and 110 monikers and have matching wheelbases. However, apart from its name and a familial resemblance it has nothing in common underneath. The underpinnings of the latest Defender comes from what Land Rover calls D7x architecture that is a derivative of the D7 platform already being used in the Range Rover, Velar and Discovery. It replaces the old-fashioned step-ladder frame with a modern monocoque body that is three times stronger.
The new Defender has a tall order to fill because the original Defender was one of the most capable off-road vehicles ever. However, we are in a different era now, tastes and expectations have changed. The old has Defender was not refined at all. It may have a strong cult following, but it still had the build and characteristics of an army jeep which is not acceptable nowadays.
Its iconic image was the greatest hurdle for the new Defender. To conquer greater swathes of the market the Defender needed wide appeal yet not venture too far from its iconic image. The designers decided that what people recognize as iconic is really its styling and not how it drives or behaves.
The new styling resembles how an Apple product would look if it were the new Defender. It is very clever with an uncomplicated look that encompasses all the features that are recognizably from the old Defender rendered in the form of a modern SUV. The Defender is still boxy but has subtle curves that look smart and solid.
There is no denying the old Defender's considerable prowess over treacherous off-road terrain which would stymie most modern SUVs. This was an ability that the engineers had to incorporate or even improve upon in the new Defender. Equipped with air suspension as standard, the new Defender is not just comfy but now can vary off-road ground clearance and wading depth for river crossings.
Thanks to the long suspension travel the engineers could make it controlled and gentle in its reactions. This makes it vastly different from the old Defender. The Defender might not deliver sharp steering responses, but it is not unwieldy and the chassis is really adept at absorbing hard shocks.
With the superior body integrity of the new monocoque construction when one hits road irregularities, there is none of the chassis shuddering like the old Defender. It seems to smother or even dismiss such obstacles as trivial. Even with the basic spring suspension, the new Defender is vastly better than its forebear but with the air suspension, it becomes one of the best riding SUVs around.
Powering the Defender is a couple of petrol-powered engines. There is a 400 hp, 3-litre twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine and a 300 hp turbocharged 2-litre engine. It is a behemoth of a SUV weighing over two tons, and it does blunt the acceleration, but the good thing is, with the Defender one does not expect the performance of a sports car. I felt the smaller 300 hp 2-litre engine offers a surprising turn of speed, ensuring that you are not short-changed in any way.
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There is not much difference in the performance between the 90 and 110 models. The 90 with the two-door configuration and shorter body being lighter reaches 100 km/h takes 6.0 seconds with the 400 hp engine and 8.0 seconds with the 300 hp engine. The heavier 110 versions with either engine is just a tiny one-tenth of a second slower to the same benchmark. The shorter Defender 90 is less of a handful in tight spaces and car parks though its height of nearly two metres is occasionally an issue for both versions.
I doubt very much that in Singapore, few if anyone will willingly put their new Defender into the rough. Compared to the old Defender, everything feels so well tied together in the new one and hence immensely reassuring to drive. I must admit that there was no opportunity to sample the Defender's improved off-road capabilities but even if it just matches its predecessor it would already be in the top echelon of SUVs.
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Car: Land Rover Defender 90 and 110
Price from: $304,999 with COE, before options
Engine: 2-litre turbo 4-cylinder and 3-litre twin-turbo 6-cylinder
Transmission: 8-speed Automatic
Power: 300 hp/400 hp
Torque: 400/550 Nm
0-100 km/h: 8.0/6.0 seconds (add 0.1 sec for Defender 110)
Top Speed: 191 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 9.9 to 10.2 L/100 km
Agent: Wearnes Automotive