Trusty old friend ready to make giant leap into a new concept
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.
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The traditional lines of a Land Rover Defender County Station Wagon and the new Concept 100 at the New Delhi Auto Expo.