Land Rover Defender Heritage
This review should be one of the easiest and shortest texts I have ever composed but the vehicle in question evokes such incredibly differing emotions (also from yours truly) that it threatens to bloat my report into novel proportions.
You see, I’ve been driving around in Land Rover’s Defender 110 Heritage limited-edition model.
As a motoring journalist I should tell you that the Defender’s production stopped late in 2015 because the old Brit failed so many safety and bunnyhugger tests that Land Rover simply had to pull the plug.
Its construction is also incredibly outdated and so backwards that one should actually type “good riddance”.
However. Instead of ending my text after a few sentences about this lasthurrah model, I confess that I’m extremely fond of the Defender; and even owned one for a few years. That means I’m one of those crazy people who will put up with the apparent reliability issues because I like these boxy brutes.
Over the years I have also developed a love of Land Cruisers and G-wagons – two positions on my wish list and perfect examples of what would happen if someone else built the Defender. So what made me buy a Landy and take its fabled nonsense?
Well, I have typed this before and happily dispense it at the countless braais where Landy-bashing slots in between wannabe rugby refereeing and Toyota adoration. Yes, they are quite moody but in the six years I owned a Defender, it left me stranded once. In the same period, my German sedan broke down twice.
There is a small degree of truth to those insufferable jokes about bus schedules, heated rear windscreens and free dogs but the hard reality is that while Defenders usually have niggles (like moody electrics) they very seldom break down completely. And if you are handy with a toolbox, it won’t act up for very long.
“Why did you buy such an unreliable car?” was the favoured response to which I answer “Harley Davidson” or “Alfa-romeo”. Just like a Defender, these cars are outdated or inferior products which should have been culled by their competition decades ago but they enjoy a clientele with unmatched passion for the brands.
I’ve also uttered this before - if you crave a Defender (or Alfa, for that matter) nothing else will do until you satisfy that craving.
Nobody has ever approached me to choose between a Cruiser, Patrol or Defender. Same goes for Audi, BMW and Alfa. They usually lean in and whisper “I’ve been thinking of buying a (or another) Defender.” Yes. You definitely should.
And it doesn’t really matter which one they buy as the only big updates since the Defender’s birth in 1983 have been a few engines and small cosmetic changes.
To most people, the “Series” models that went before also look similar which is why, to the untrained eye, this 2015 version looks no different to its 1947 grandpa.
Now, to finally describe this Heritage Edition, it is based on the last 2.2-litre turbo-diesel “Puma” Defender Oneten and sports many nostalgic nods. Chief among these are its Grasmere green flat paint, heavy- duty steel wheels, old-style logos and plaques, two-tone seats and HUE166 badges – the registration of “Huey”, the oldest Landy alive.
The two comfortable front seats are separated by a central cubby box with two cup holders and an optional subwoofer. This takes orders from the CD / radio / mp3 head unit in the “modern” dashboard with A/C and vent controls, a few buttons, grab handles, simple instruments and a massive steering wheel with the only airbag in this vehicle.
Shock and horror though, the manual air vents left a few years ago. Other comparative observations to my old Defender include the same stubborn gear and transfer levers, invasive park brake lever position and rear passenger visibility.
Newer Defender toys include two (front) power windows, ABS brakes, traction control and central locking. This model also has split folding middle seats and two foldable seats in the cargo bay which can also be removed for extra stowage.
The spare wheel still obscures what little rear visibility there was, most hinges are exposed, the hooter isn’t where you expect it and the carpets look like the hardy variety.
Driving this Defender around town is hard work. The gears are short, its clutch is heavy, those chunky tyres make an unholy racket, the turning radius is awful and cornering is scary.
A female passengers bemoaned that Land Rover had still not fitted a passenger vanity mirror but had to back-paddle when asked why you would need that in the Namib. This brings me to its intended purpose – the great outdoors.
Honestly, a Defender is drawn to dirt like a duck to water; despite its dodgy insulation. I tackled a couple of mountains for our photo shoots and everything suddenly made sense. This is where it belongs and where it wants to be.
It’s like a farmer who can’t get back to the bush fast enough. Fancy gadgets and glamorous people freak him out, he just wants his dog, pipe and dirty veldskoene.
My wanderlust wife agrees -recalling how we used to give our Defender mud baths to make it look prettier; until the hooter and wipers failed.
To prevent this text from growing even more, I’ll start summing up.
The Land Rover Defender is outdated and stubborn. If you do not like them, puh-lease don’t buy one and keep telling the same lame jokes. If you’re lusting after one, prepare to meet the biggest toy you’ve ever owned; that gives you a work-out while driving.
I suggest moving quickly to score one of these last models, despite their N$730,000 price tag. A relative of mine (who has a severe Land Rover addiction) bought two of them.
Why? Because this legendary English grouch is now gone and, like every Defender owner before him, he could not live with the craving.
NothingL seems to have changed in the many years of Defender production...