Business Day

Roving fit for city or savannah

The short-wheelbase Defender has less space but is an ace at negotiatin­g challengin­g terrain, writes

- Phuti Mpyane

The Land Rover Defender 90 joins the lengthier Defender 110 to increase the model range. It’s choice galore if you want any of the trendy modern interpreta­tions of the peerless icon. To put it another way: good luck sifting through 37 models.

On test here is the 4,583mmlong and 1,974mm-high Defender 90, which is about half a metre shorter than the 110. It’s

The 90 X-Dynamic is as fit for the metropolis as it is for jungles. Left: The cabin has an air of luxury and functional­ism for life in the city or bush. not exactly petite though, and you still have to be conscious of how you park it.

It’s equipped with the same mountainee­ring tools as its bigger brother, including diff locks, all-wheel drive, many digital meters, a 900mm wading depth when optioned with a raising suspension, and it’s perched on tidy-looking 20-inch splitspoke alloy wheels.

It’s a premium interior with heated and cooled power seats. This being my first taste of the new Defender, I could appreciate the modern ergonomics and front door panels that don’t constantly gnaw at the side of your knees.

This unit also features a gloss dark grey finish and a black contrast roof, which is also a fine choice in a wide palette, and a folding fabric roof and signature graphic. Options fitted to the test vehicle included Terrain Response 2 system, a domestic plug socket, air suspension, a front centre console refrigerat­or compartmen­t and wireless device charging. Matrix LED headlights and a removable tow bar are among standard fitments though.

The interactiv­e touchscree­n digital command centre hides plenty of features, while the Meridian surround-sound system is fantastic but it also revealed rattles emanating from panels behind the front seats.

The Defender 90 is available with a variety of engine derivative­s. On the four-cylinder front, buyers can pick between the D240 or P300; six-cylinder D300 and P400 models; or an eight-cylinder V8.

My D300 tester was fitted with the 3.0l diesel six-cylinder and it’s a fine motor that is super quiet and responsive for its agricultur­al origins. It oozes muscular tractabili­ty for cruising and makes a good pairing with the eight-speed automatic transmissi­on for easy-going travel. The rear pillar that’s concealed by a square block may be stylish but it creates a blind spot.

The vehicle is quick off the mark for a 2.2-tonne luxury SUV. The 221kW and 650Nm are rich outputs for scaling the steep hills and for launching the Defender 90 from 0-100km/h in a claimed 6.7 seconds, which is impressive. The accelerati­on is relentless all the way to its 191km/h top end.

It’s no sports car, thus corners should be treated with respect rather than gay abandon. You can sense the way the air suspension and stability software controls the Defender’s considerab­le weight. It doesn’t wallow in an exaggerate­d way though, and nor is it humbled by crosswinds.

It’s sufficient­ly frugal too. It consumed on average 10.1l/100km, which will ease the frustratio­ns of filling up with costly fuel.

Having an off-roader core, it’s aimed ostensibly at a variety of rivals such as the Jeep Wrangler, Toyota Land Cruiser and Mercedes-Benz G-Class. The Defender 90 takes a refreshing­ly cool, diminutive threedoor off-roader approach that has its positives and foibles.

Outdoor lifestyle gurus will tell you how the Defender 90’s shorter wheelbase makes it an ace at negotiatin­g challengin­g terrain, yet it can be restrictiv­e for those who seek to load large amounts of gear for extended stays in the wilderness.

If like me you prefer sleeping in your own house with uninterrup­ted Wi-Fi reception anyway, the Defender 90 is still a brilliant and extraordin­ary alternativ­e to the urban SUV template. At a drop of a hat you can change the sexy alloys for the legendary “steelies” and join a Kingsley Holgate convoy, and it’s this duality that makes it a winner in my book.

 ?? ??
 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa