Ian Lamming celebrates the rebirth of a timeless Land Rover classic.
A FRIENDLY face beams out from his windscreen and soon the smile is accompanied by a cheery wave.
Stereotypes apart, he certainly has the look of a farmer and this is confirmed by the car he is driving – a Land Rover Defender. He is waving because so am I. Mine’s a 90, that’s the three door, short wheelbase variant, and it even has white wheels, just like my Dinky toy used to have down on my model farm when I was a lad.
I was smiling then too because I was playing and I’m smiling now because I suppose, in many ways, I still am, though some of my breed dare describe this testing malarky as a job.
The only difference between now and yesteryear is that the Defender 90 is very much new and a car for this century rather than the last.
The old model looked great and I completely understood the image, the attraction, but not the driving dynamic. Owners loved them and I would not have dared speak out but as a driving machine I found them a bit of a challenge when it came to the ride, the performance, the handling, the clutch and the manual gearbox.
But that was then and this is now and the new 90 is definitely my favourite Land Rover or, come to think of it, JLR model. It is just so endearing and if I had one I would deffo go for the white wheels as well.
Even better on this occasion is the fact that this Defender comes with an electrically retractable-at-the-press-of-a-button fabric sunroof for proper open top motoring – sheer joy, a similar feeling, I’m sure, that the designers of Defender are experiencing after being charged with the delicate task of redesigning a classic. The fact that my new-founder farmer friend is looking so cheerful must surely be proof of success.
New Defender is completely and utterly charming but is also amazing to drive as well. So it is square and chunky with a whopping bonnet and Lego lines. The three door body is incredibly minimalist but is all the more cool for it. It really is the perfect symbiosis of retro and contemporary with loads of attention to detail that pays homage to the original.
I love the rear square lights and indicators, the aforementioned white wheels, the bruiser proportions. It fills single carriageway roads – look through the large door mirrors and there’s simply no tarmac either side to be seen. But it is incredibly manageable because the supreme driving position puts you right on top of the job.
Alpine light windows in the roof and the side-hinged rear tailgate with externally-mounted spare wheel can’t fail to be popular with the old guard
No clutch or gearbox to worry this time as new Defender is automatic and the ride and handling are brilliant, forgiving, confidence-inspiring. The optional electronic air suspension is well worth the extra.
I know diesels are persona non grata now a days but would you expect anything different in a Land Rover Defender? Well, perhaps, but only if you were James Bond and had been given a stonking great V8 petrol.
That said, the 3.0 litre mild hybrid diesel is a hum-dinger. It sounds great, feels lusty and is surprisingly economical. It gets on well with the seamless automatic gearbox and is incredibly fun to drive with depths of performance you would not believe.
Retro, yes, it boasts a host of 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.
The modern twist on the interior offers functional, durable and flexible accommodation. It is unique with exposed structural elements for Meccano machismo.
If you wear varifocals like me you may not be able to get on with the trick ClearSight interior rear view mirror. This is a TV screen instead of a mirror but the problem with that is that it is blurred to my eyes because I am looking at it through the part of my lens that is set for distance yet the screen is close up. Good news is that you can tilt it to the normal mirror setting, which seems a bit of a waste but there you go.
Going all technical for a second, Defender features intelligent off-road gubbins including Land Rover’s pioneering Terrain Response 2 system enhanced with new Wade programme, while Configurable Terrain Response allows the driver to tailor set-up more precisely. Enough said.
For those needing a workhorse it has a towing capacity of 3,500kg and wading depth of up to 900mm making new Defender the ultimate 4×4 for overland adventures
The new Defender has been through more than 62,000 tests, while the chassis and body architecture have been engineered to withstand Land Rover’s Extreme Event Test procedure – repeated and sustained impacts, above and beyond the normal standard for SUV and passenger cars. Dealers are already reporting few teething troubles. It’s not surprising then that the old farmer looks so happy.
Model: Land Rover Defender 90 D250 SE
Engine: 3.0 diesel MHEV
Power: 249HP, 570Nm of torque
0-62mph: 7.6 seconds
CO2: around 226g/km
Fuel consumption: up to 32.8mpg
Price: From £ £51,205.00