What's Land Rover's end-of-the-line Defender Heritage like to drive?
Looks great, doesn’t it? What with the Grasmere Green paint and steel wheels – proper retro, proper cool. And you forget that underneath this layer of last-of-the-line limited-edition dressing is not some modern Land Rover Defender with actual road manners and a handbrake that doesn’t jab you in the calf.
It is what it is: a new Defender dressed to look like an old Defender, but still, underneath, an old Defender. Land Rover is building three of these run-out specials. There will be 400 of these Heritage versions, 600 Adventures with snorkels and roofracks, plus 100 Autobiographys (a literal Chelsea tractor). The Heritage is available as either a 90 Hard Top or Station Wagon, or a long-wheelbase 110 costing £34,200.
It’s pointless comparing this price point with anything normal (in case you’re wondering, it’s priced about the same as a low-spec Discovery Sport), but when you consider the cow-lined Autobiography costs £61,845, this looks a bargain. You certainly get a lot of metal for your money, although as ever the seven-seat Defender 110 isn’t anywhere near as big inside as you expect it to be.
Instead, the Heritage invites you to admire the Almond cloth, the HUE166 tags that invoke the spirit of the first registered prototype back in March 1948 and unnecessary flimflam such as a sunroof.
People love the Defender. They’re drawn to it, they have their own stories to tell. As a result, I now know that the sunroof is prone to leaking and the manual rear windows drop an inch of their own accord until you open the mechanism and tighten it up. An hour after being told that, the rear window did indeed drop.
But you don’t care. You just don’t. You can’t treat this as a rival to a Volvo XC90. It dodders about like the pensioner it is, the ride is appalling unless you throw a tonne of bodies and clobber in and there’s clanking from the heavy, oily bits that puts you in mind of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
And that’s why it needs to be celebrated, because when the Defender goes we’ll have lost this pointer to where we came from, and we’ll really, really miss it. Considering it as a life-proof family wagon? Good on you – so am I.