Driven

FU­TURE RE­PORT / Tera-form­ing the au­to­mo­tive and en­ergy in­dus­tries

- Cars · Automotive Industry · Industries · Port Elizabeth · Mossel Bay · Cape Town · BMW · Land Rover · Land Rover Defender · Pretoria · Ford Motor Company · Town of Oyster Bay, New York · Solihull · The Rover Group plc · Silverton, Colorado

From Schotia we skirted Port El­iz­a­beth on the N2 and made our way to­wards St Fran­cis Bay to our next des­ti­na­tion, Brakke­duine 4x4 Trail close to Oys­ter Bay, to give the new De­fender a proper four-wheel drive work­out. Here we were met by Jo­han Lind­strom, a man with many years of 4x4 ex­pe­ri­ence, and he took us out on the chal­leng­ing sand dune route.

Even while quite big and heavy the De­fender’s com­bi­na­tion of ad­vanced Ter­rain Re­sponse sys­tem, pow­er­ful en­gine, fast-re­act­ing trans­mis­sion and favourable over­hang an­gles made short work of the tricky dunes and deep sand. The grip of the spe­cially de­vel­oped Goodyear tyres was sur­pris­ing, and even Jo­han was im­pressed with the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the Soli­hull new­comer.

From there we quickly made our way through Knysna, Ge­orge and Mos­sel Bay on the Gar­den Route and – se­curely en­sconced in the roomy, quiet and dust-free cabin – we rounded off our tour to Cape Town on the dusty dirt roads of the Over­berg District.

MOV­ING UP NORTH

With the demise of Ley­land, and BMW tak­ing own­er­ship of the Rover Group, pro­duc­tion of Land Rover (now called De­fender) moved to a new plant in Ross­lyn, Pre­to­ria, which was in­au­gu­rated in Jan­uary 1995. This con­tin­ued un­til 2000 when BMW sold the mar­que to Ford.

Assem­bly then moved to Sil­ver­ton and fi­nal De­fender pro­duc­tion in­cluded a 5.3 m-long 11-seat vari­ant with three sets of side doors be­fore it was dis­con­tin­ued in 2002, and all mod­els were im­ported un­til world­wide pro­duc­tion seized in 2016.

So, can the new, com­pletely mod­ernised De­fender fill the big tyre tracks of its pre­de­ces­sor? Well, yes and no. While ut­terly ca­pa­ble off-road, it will prob­a­bly not sat­isfy the needs of tra­di­tional over­lan­ders and ad­ven­tur­ers but it will ap­peal to those (mainly Dis­cov­ery own­ers) want­ing some­thing styled more “old-school”. Oh, and its price (start­ing from R1,050,100 for the 110 de­riv­a­tives, and our test model with ex­tras sell­ing for R1,425,221) can be pro­hib­i­tive.

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