Land Rover Defender

Car details navigation

Land Rover Defender

Road Test

Land Rover Defender driven

Driven November 2011

Additional Info

Well, that was quick. Just two months ago, Land Rover unveiled the DC100, a concept that, it said, previewed the next generation of eco-aware, modern Defender.

And now here it is: a shiny new Defender, closely accompanied by a press release bearing strange, foreign words like 'refined', 'efficient' and 'diesel particulate filter'. A rapid turnaround indeed.

Actually, it isn't. As you have no doubt spotted with the aid of your eyes, this is not an all-new Defender. This is a very gentle revision of the nearly-seventy-year-old original Defender, lightly massaged and treated to a DPF see it through the new Euro V emissions regulations. The old 2.4-litre diesel has been downsized to 2.2 litres, with power and torque staying unchanged at 122PS and a bovine 360NM. CO2 emissions are down (to a still-less-than-saintly 295g/km for the longer-wheelbase versions) and economy is up.

Fear not. Despite this dangerous talk of efficiency, the calloused Defender hasn't turned into a prim, moisturised, modern SUV. OK, there's a new acoustic engine cover to reduce noise, but beyond that, this is the trad Defender: heavy-duty suspension, ladder chassis, driving position straight out the 1950s.

Though the new engine is a huge improvement on the old unit, doing its work far more smoothly and chuntering quietly rather than bellowing throughout the cabin, it's still a hairy old thing by the standards of modern turbodiesels. This is an powertrain more suited to hauling a bison from a bog than hauling down the M6, a car that regards 'Noise, Vibration and Harshness' as goals rather than flaws.

Euro V compliant it may be, but most will still view the Defender as an irrelevancy in a world of monocoques and turbocharging and the ability to have a conversation with your front seat passenger while travelling at 60mph. Let them. This is still an extraordinary machine with truly staggering off-road ability: despite submerging our Defender up to its windowline in a muddy river, it continued to plug cheerily along. What else, bar perhaps a Hilux, could do that?

For the vast, vast majority of the world, a car's ability to conquer a Himalaya probably ranks some way below, say, a turning circle tight enough to allow you to negotiate mini-roundabouts. And, with not a crumple zone in sight, it's best not to consider what'd happen to a Defender in the event of a fast crash with something large and unyielding: a wall, say, or a Scotsman.

But for those who require a mechanical beast of burden, there's little to match the old Defender. These tweaks may not transform it into a faddish 21st century SUV, but they're enough to allow the Defender to survive until 2017 when, even the most ardent Land Rover sources concede, it will die - likely replaced by something much closer to the DC100 than this pig-iron masterpiece. This is the end of the line.

Sam Philip

Now share it...

What do you think?

This service is provided by Disqus and is subject to their privacy policy and terms of use. Please read Top Gear's code of conduct (link below) before posting.

Search Land Rover Defender for sale