Land Rover Defender – On the button

The long wait is over as Ian Lamming finally gets his hands on the new Land Rover Defender, an icon reinvented.

PRESS the little button on the fascia, the one with the mountain motif and a set of icons pops up on the screen.

Touch the one for rough terrain and the Defender slowly rises, then rises again and, if need be, once more to the point where the vehicle looks like it’s on stilts. I have never seen suspension this high since a monster truck I once drove.

And on the Land Rover test track at Eastnor in Herefordshire, it needs every millimeter to clear the deck as it navigates some of the deepest ruts I’ve ever seen. Some other Land/Range Rovers have obviously had a go and planed the dirt, but new Defender breezes by sound and clear.

Normally, when testing off road, there is an instructor in the cab, on hand to tip us in the right direction, nurse-maiding us through the tricky bits. But on this occasion COVID prevents that and the expert help comes over a radio.

But Defender proves to be so accomplished that it is the instructor and I’m not even sure which bits of the course I’m being warned about as they pass by with a squelch.

And the course is very squelchy, not that it matters as the Defender just digs in and spits us out of the end. Gradients, water, mud and rocks are shrugged off with aplomb as this latest Landy shows off its many talents.

Now the purists might describe the Defender as a Discovery 4.5 and they are welcome to their opinions – and their old trusty steeds. Me? I’m all modern me, so bring on the new 90 and 110 with all their technology, comforts and style.

Over the radio comes a common instruction: “Let the car do the work.” So I do and it does and Defender is so effective off road that it makes me feel a bit of a talent. There is no denying its capabilities and, like the original, it is a match for anything through the dirt.

Where you will notice a gargantuan difference is on the road where it is more Range Rover than traditional Land Rover. Ride, thanks to air suspension, is impeccable and for those used to rocking and rolling aboard the good ship Discovery they can’t fail to notice how flat the Defender corners.

Comfort levels are off the scale but it is also fun to drive in a way you would not associate with behemoth off-roaders.

Whatever your view, the thing to appreciate is the effort designers and engineers have gone to produce a modern interpretation of the original 1948 legend.

Yes, there are elements of Discovery IV, Freelander even, but the tail is pure Landy, cut off like the north face of the Eiger and with overhangs so minimal it could probably climb it.

Lines, lights and grille are simple, purposeful, giving the impression of solidity, strength and incomparable capability, which is fair enough as it is incomparably capable – job done then.

Inside there are homages, nods and cheeky winks to the past including Alpine rear roof lights which flood the interior with brightness, an exposed cross-car aluminium beam and an embossed Defender logo.

Somehow it manages to be functional, durable and practical with solid fixtures and fittings, easy to clean rubberised boot floor and exposed structural elements, but also high quality, well equipped and plush. There is very little that leaves you thinking basic, utilitarian or compromised. It’s classical and chic at the same time.

It’s as happy up to the windows in mucky water as it is hunting for a parking place at the shops.

Defender also boasts 21st Century technology, including the Pivi Pro infotainment, featuring a more intuitive interface, while Software-Over-The-Air updates provide the latest magic upgrades at all times, anywhere in the world.

Test car is the 240 PS diesel and for those needing a workhorse it has pulling power aplenty while remaining refined on the move.

The new Defender has been through more than 62,000 tests, with prototype models covering more than 1.2 million kms across some of the harshest environments on earth, ranging from the 50-degree heat of the desert and sub 40-degree cold of the Arctic to altitudes of 10,000ft in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

Land Rover’s nifty advanced ClearSight rearview technology is weird. I didn’t realise how many times I use the interior mirror to look at myself and it is strange looking at what is an oblong TV screen and only getting the view behind the back door and nothing in the cabin.

Other cameras give you all-round ground vision which projects onto a screen on the dash allowing you to see clearly in tight spots. It’s great when you are cresting hills off-road and can only see sky and bonnet through the windscreen, though a bit strange not looking ahead to see where you should be going.

I’ve no doubt the world will be divided about the success of the Defender as a worthy successor to the original. What is clear is that designers have been bold in at least having a go and I’m sure the bulk of drivers will be very happy indeed. They’ve definitely still got their finger on the button.

Fact File

Model: Land Rover Defender D240 SE 110

Engine: 2.0 four cylinder diesel

Power: 240PS
Drivetrain: eight-speed auto
Top speed: 140mph

0-62mph: 7.7 secs

CO2: around 199g/km

Price: £55,680.00 a9 {8{�9 {8{99 {8{�9 {8{9 {8{}9 {8{��y`�