A leg­end re­born

The new De­fender is a bold new reimag­i­na­tion of the iconic Landie


FOUR YEARS, 1.2 MIL­LION TEST MILES, count­less cus­tomer clin­ics, even more in­ter­nal de­bates (prob­a­bly the odd ar­gu­ment too) and the car with the re­spon­si­bil­ity of re­plac­ing a piece of British au­to­mo­tive fur­ni­ture is fi­nally here. Say hello to the new Land Rover De­fender.

You’re right, it’s not an evo car in the truest sense de­spite the test mileage con­ducted at the Nür­bur­gring, where it posted a re­spectable sub-nine minute lap time, but it’s likely that a De­fender has played an in­te­gral role in many of our mo­tor­ing ad­ven­tures, so we thought we would join the model’s launch at the Frank­furt mo­tor show. And be­sides, it’s not a new elec­tric car.

New De­fend­ers will be avail­able with two petrol en­gines – the P300 and the P400 MHEV. The P300 is an in-line four-cylin­der de­vel­op­ing 296bhp at 5500rpm and 400Nm of torque from 1500 to 4000rpm. It will ac­cel­er­ate from 0-100kmph in 7.7sec and top out at 191kmph. The more per­for­mance ori­en­tated of­fer­ing is the P400 MHEV – an in-line tur­bocharged ‘six’, com­plete with a 48V mild-hy­brid sys­tem and elec­tric su­per­charger. Vi­tal statis­tics are 394bhp at 5500rpm and 550Nm be­tween 2000 and 5000rpm which makes it good for a 6.1sec 0-100kmph time and a top speed of 208kmph if fit­ted with the op­tional 22-inch wheels, or 191kmph with lesser-di­am­e­ter items.

Two diesels will be of­fered, the D200 and D240, both us­ing a 1999cc four-cylin­der. The D200 de­vel­ops 197bhp and 430Nm of torque, while the D240 can muster 237bhp but sticks with the same torque out­put as the D200. In the five-door 110 De­fend­ers 0-100kmph times and top speeds are 9.9 and 8.7sec and 175 and 188kmph re­spec­tively. The same en­gines will be found in the 90 ver­sion when that comes on stream with vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal per­for­mance fig­ures.

Chas­sis and 4x4 trans­mis­sion

Stick­ing re­li­giously to the Land Rover’s ‘Best 4x4xFar’ mantra, the new De­fender fea­tures a per­ma­nent four-wheel drive sys­tem, with a two-speed trans­fer box, cen­tre and rear lock­ing dif­fer­en­tials and a new eight-speed au­to­matic gear­box.

Built on an all-new, 100 per cent alu­minium mono­coque plat­form, the new De­fender has a wheel­base that stretches from 2.58 me­tres for the 90 up to 3.09 me­tres for the 110 – nine cen­time­tres longer than a Dis­cov­ery 5 – and fea­tures a flat floor to im­prove air­flow and of­froad ca­pa­bil­ity. Some De­fender own­ers might scoff at such modern con­struc­tion tech­niques, but with the new plat­form be­ing ten times stiffer than the equiv­a­lent body-on-frame tech­nique it’s im­pos­si­ble not to un­der­stand Land Rover’s de­ci­sion to switch.

Con­nected to the four cor­ners of the De­fender’s new plat­form is an in­de­pen­dent multi-link dou­ble wish­bone sus­pen­sion sys­tem for the front, with an in­te­gral link axle at the rear. Air sus­pen­sion will also be of­fered as an op­tion for the first time.

Brake by wire and trac­tion con­trol that is as

adept at con­trol­ling off-road slip as it is the on-road va­ri­ety, also fea­ture. In the pur­suit of de­vel­op­ing the most ver­sa­tile Land Rover off road, the com­pany also be­lieves it has cre­ated a far bet­ter car for the road. A range of wheels and tyres from 18 through to 22 inches will be of­fered, along with three types of tyres – allsea­son, all-ter­rain and pro­fes­sional.

De­sign de­tails

It’s what is fixed to the out­side of the new De­fender’s mono­coque that will, by the na­ture of all car de­sign, cre­ate the big­gest de­bate. It’s de­signed to re­mind us of the orig­i­nal with the in­set bon­net, let­ter­box wind­screen, side­hinged rear door, front wings that fold over and meet the bon­net, over-square rear arches, clamshell roof and a spare wheel that, Land Rover says, was only ever go­ing to be fixed to the out­side of the car, pro­vid­ing the core De­fender DNA.

Does it work? De­sign is al­ways sub­jec­tive, and while wish­ing to avoid clichés, it looks bet­ter in the alu­minium and steel than in the pic­tures. The 110 looks bet­ter pro­por­tioned, with a strong sug­ges­tion of Dis­cov­ery 5 in the pro­file, but it has the ap­pear­ance you’d ex­pect a 21st cen­tury De­fender to have. It’s not overly brash, re­tains that func­tional and pur­pose­ful look, but adds a con­sid­er­able layer of lux­ury and so­phis­ti­ca­tion you’d per­haps ex­pect from a Range Rover.

Across both mod­els is a large amount of gleam­ing, painted plas­tic body­work where you might ex­pect a harder-wear­ing sur­face. Three of the four op­tion packs – Ad­ven­ture, Ex­plorer and Coun­try – of­fer tougher, more tra­di­tional ma­te­ri­als at a cost, but the Ur­ban pack will keep the paint shops busy if the dam­age is too much for the self-heal­ing wrap Land Rover has de­vel­oped to pro­tect the body­work from mi­nor scrapes and brushes with the scenery.

In­te­rior, tech­nol­ogy and ac­ces­sories

In­side? The De­fender is the most con­nected car in Land Rover’s prod­uct line-up, Range Rover in­cluded. Each De­fender is born with an iden­ti­cal vir­tual twin that stores the phys­i­cal car’s iden­tity and soft­ware, so that each time the fac­tory needs to up­date a piece of soft­ware it’s ini­tially sent to the vir­tual car, which then con­nects to its twin and per­forms the up­load. The new De­fender’s in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem is based around Land Rover’s lat­est hard­ware called PIVI. It’s de­signed to mimic the func­tion­al­ity of a smart­phone and Land Rover’s soft­ware en­gi­neers have cre­ated a sys­tem that re­quires just a sin­gle touch of the screen to ex­e­cute ev­ery key func­tion, rather than forc­ing you to dive into end­less menus.

PIVI is linked to the in­stru­ment clus­ter and the head-up dis­play and al­lows you to con­trol the Ter­rain Re­sponse sys­tem, which has been thor­oughly over­hauled to suit the De­fender. It means you can con­fig­ure the diff, throt­tle and steer­ing set­tings or se­lect the new Wade mode that pre-con­di­tions the ride height, diff loads and the air con­di­tion­ing re­cir­cu­la­tion for a damp ad­ven­ture. And when it de­tects that it is out of the wa­ter it gently ap­plies the brakes to dry the discs. There are also four HD cam­eras to pro­vide a 190-de­gree view.

The De­fender’s in­te­rior de­sign pays homage to that of the orig­i­nal with plenty of ex­posed metal, in this case the struc­tural mag­ne­sium bar the fa­cia is fixed to, metal fix­ings and grab han­dles that dou­ble as a lad­der should you have to climb out of the car. The Land Rover team has thought of pretty much ev­ery­thing. Yet de­spite this re­mark­able at­ten­tion to de­tail, there’s a sense that Land Rover still has its big­gest chal­lenge to face: con­vinc­ing yes­ter­day’s De­fender owner that to­day’s car is still for them, while equally per­suad­ing to­day’s car buyer that they need a De­fender.



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