Land Rover Monthly

Behind the wheel of the new 110

- JACK DOBSON ■ When Brit Jack Dobson emigrated to Australia in 2010 he took his passion for Land Rovers along with him.

“I almost feel scared to be critical of the Defender for fear I’m seen as a ‘purist that would never buy a new JLR product’. I’m sure we’ve all heard that line”

FINALLY, I got my hands on the new Defender. Land Rover Australia provided the P400 110 fitted with the 3.0-litre supercharg­ed petrol engine that retails at $127k (Australian Dollars). Many of you will recall how dismissive I have been of the new Defender since its release so could a week with it make me change my mind? My answer is twofold. ..

In this past week I have covered about 1000 kilometres, whilst much of this was on paved roads I did manage a bit of off-road activity accompanie­d by my own 2012 110 Defender.

Ignoring its off-road capabiliti­es for a moment, on-road performanc­e has been staggering. It will do 0-100 km/h in 6.1 seconds and with the pace comes fantastic handling. This Defender can be driven quickly, very quickly. We all know that speed and handling are not things that you would typically associate with your average Defender so I think it is definitely worthy of a mention. My advice is to keep it in sports mode and enjoy. But what about the fuel consumptio­n, I hear you cry? Well I did not bother to work it out – it certainly did not seem excessive and I guess if you opt for the supercharg­ed variant, you kind of expect it to use a bit of petrol.

It is summer in Brisbane and, promise I am not being smug, this means lots of sunshine and a distinct lack of mud so the off-road test was far from challengin­g. I ended up taking it on a 60 km trail that runs through the D’aguilar National Park, around 35 km north west of Brisbane. Whilst there was not a great deal of mud, there were corrugatio­ns, deep ruts and steep inclines (my SIIA would have easily coped). Unlike the Defender of old, where you might engage low range and / or diff lock, the new one has a stack of options to scroll through. It is not a difficult system to navigate and with the suspension jacked up it starts to look more like a serious off-roader. The new Defender never faltered, it is smooth and well balanced on rough terrain. The old Defender did not falter either but it is not particular­ly smooth. Not a criticism, just another example of how the two differ.

Onto a bit of a negative, the cloth, sorry ‘robust woven textile’ seats. I got the vehicle with 5000 km on the odometer and the driver’s seat had several stains along the edge parallel to the door. There was also quite a bit of wear along the front edge. I appreciate press vehicles will have seen quite a bit of action but the level of wear was disappoint­ing and several other people have reported the same issue. It is a shame because the inside of the vehicle is a wonderful place to be. The driving position actually does feel reminiscen­t of the old Defender but with the advantage of having plenty of room. I also really liked the layout of the controls, they are much more simple than other vehicles in the JLR line up and they feel well made. The infotainme­nt system is also vastly better – connectivi­ty with your phone is easy. There’s no tape deck though.

Gearbox. You only get an automatic and, whilst I cannot fault the way it functions – it’s brilliant – I would love to see a manual option. A big part of the appeal when off-roading (or even sticking to the roads with this level of performanc­e) is being able to choose which gear is appropriat­e for the terrain. With the new Defender it really is point and shoot. To be fair it will likely get the job done, but is that as much fun as a manual set up?

I like having a clutch and the added feeling of connectivi­ty.

Now let me talk exterior styling. Weirdly I find that it seldom looks very good in photograph­s but in person, and with a splatterin­g of mud, it looks absolutely brilliant. Parked amongst other vehicles it stands out and I have noticed plenty of admiring looks. My bet is that the 90 variant will look even better.

Context. This is the new Defender and if you look at it on that basis, that’s where this vehicle runs into difficulty because it looks absolutely nothing like the old Defender. There is not a trace of it. This vehicle should take the place (and, importantl­y the name) of the Discovery 5. If it did that, I think practicall­y everyone would have been supportive of this new addition.

The new Defender has certainly created a bit of a stir in the Land Rover community. I almost feel scared to be critical of it and I am sure others’ feel the same for fear that you will be seen as, ‘one of the purists that would never buy a new JLR product anyway’. I am sure we have all heard someone spouting that line.

So to surmise, I think the new Defender is a superb vehicle, I admit, one week ago I did not feel that way. If I see someone driving one, I will give them the Defender wave and I will not think they are a clown (unless they do not wave back). The clown is the person that decided to call it Defender.

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