Trusty old friend ready to make gi­ant leap into a new con­cept

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - FEATURES -

sales were 18,121. In the United King­dom the largest sales are in Devon, fol­lowed by York­shire. “Out­stand­ing ca­pa­bil­ity is cited by many as cen­tral to the De­fender and some­thing that Land Rover is ab­so­lutely com­mit­ted to re­tain­ing in any re­place­ment model,” said spokesman Kim Palmer.

“We need a model that is rel­e­vant glob­ally, that can make a solid busi­ness case by com­pet­ing in the ‘util­ity’ sec­tor of the SUV mar­ket place. In due course, cur­rent De­fender will also not meet cer­tain leg­isla­tive re­quire­ments.”

The new­comer will have the ad­vanced off-road tech­nol­ogy used on all the other group mod­els. The er­gonomics of the De­fender are an­ti­quated and of­ten awk­ward. The man­ual shift­ing be­tween high and low ra­tio can be fumbly when un­der pres­sure – and the hand­brake re­lease po­si­tion en­tails a long for­ward reach. An au­to­matic gear­box must be in the plan, too.

I can tell you what the Land-rover means to me. It is lynch­pin in my life. By the early 1950s some of the farm­ers in the vil­lage (Draughton) had them. It was one of the first ve­hi­cles I rode in and the only ve­hi­cle I have had a se­ri­ous crash in.

The in­te­rior door re­lease han­dles re­minded me of the levers that cows pressed in their stalls to get water. It had two gear levers, one with a yel­low top, one red, to shift be­tween high and low ra­tio gears. Its blunt out­line is as pre­cious as that of the Mor­gan.

A few months ago I had the plea­sure of get­ting into the mud and ruts and flooded sumps in the Scot­tish bor­ders. If noth­ing else it proved that the 2012 model has wa­ter­proof door seals. At times I’d have liked au­to­matic gears and I do not like the old-style high and low ra­tio gear se­lec­tors and dif­fer­en­tial lock. Land Rover’s Ter­rain Re­sponse sys­tem will surely re­place it, maybe in the life­time of this model.

A few weeks ago I bor­rowed my favourite, the short wheel­base County two-door, four seater, painted a sub­tle sage, cat­a­logued as Warwick Green. This one was set up for all-in off-road­ing, with a Warne winch on the front and ex­tra lights and alu­minium ar­mour plat­ing on its edges, more on top of the front wings for se­cure foot treads. It did not have the kick-down steps which help us shorter-legged folk clam­ber in, be­cause they would or could snag on the sides of tight ditches.

An­other tight spot is the driv­ing po­si­tion – which is why you see so many farm­ers ap­par­ently too big to fit eas­ily be­hind the wheel. I never found a truly er­gonomic way of get­ting on to the driv­ing seat ex­cept by grab­bing the steer­ing wheel.

It had craggy Con­ti­nen­tal tyres and I so wanted it to snow but no luck. It is one of the few “cars” with a man­ual ra­dio aerial on the wing, with man­ual ad­just­ment of the door mir­rors. The func­tional flat win­dow glass causes alarm­ing re­flec­tions in the dark. It has the small­est side­lights and in­di­ca­tors in pro­duc­tion.

It re­mains im­mensely pop­u­lar, with a par­tic­u­lar cus­tomer who spec­i­fies me­tal­lic paint, al­loys, and keeps it im­mac­u­lately clean. They prob­a­bly have the heated seats, too. Prices start at £20,995 for the panel-sided model and at £23,795 for the Sta­tion Wagon.

Ver­dict: Off-road leg­end with room for im­prove­ment.

More: 0800 110110.


The tra­di­tional lines of a Land Rover De­fender County Sta­tion Wagon and the new Con­cept 100 at the New Delhi Auto Expo.

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