The Defender takes a trip up north
The long-term Defender hasn't been with us for that long, and already it’s on its second road trip to Scotland. So determined are we to shed the King’s Road connotations that with the spirit of adventure in mind and MET Office weather warnings ringing in our ears, we threw caution to the, er, wind, and hammered up the M6 in the middle of Storm Eunice.
Now, on the subject of wind. It might be unfair of us to judge the aerodynamic properties of a Defender in the first place, not least one we’ve specced with ladders, a side box, and a roof rack. Add in side gusts that made Big Jet TV must-watch telly, and what’s otherwise a sea of calm, becomes all-consumed by buffeting above 60mph.
So should you spec the rack? If your definition of adventure stretches beyond an overnight break for two in the Cotswolds, then yes. In reality, the 397-litres of boot space feels smaller than the figure suggests as it’s a tall space, rather than deep. So you’ll need to leave your children at home and flip down the rear seats for anything more than a few overnight bags.
Conversely, rear legroom is plentiful, and the front jump seat means this 90 will carry six – they’ll just need to conform to budget airline baggage allowances. Curiously, the 90 can’t be specced with a sliding rear bench to extend boot space, but the 110 can. Worth knowing if you’re choosing between the long wheelbase, or this shortie.
Back up front, this is a very comfortable place to swallow the miles. Additional reach on the wheel wouldn’t go amiss, but the seats are comfortable and the well-judged throttle, brake, and gearbox calibration cossets you into a relaxed driving manner where you simply can’t be bothered to force the Defender out of its comfort zone.
Push through anyway, and as we turn off the arrow-straight A68 for Northumberland’s wonderful back roads, the 90 delivers chuckles where rivals simply wouldn’t. You hustle it, rather than place it – managing mass and body roll to maintain momentum wherever possible – and it’s enjoyable. Just don’t forget how much it weighs – this is a car that asks a lot of its brakes.
Snow arrives north of the border and it’s time to play with the tech. In a world of touch screen madness, Land Rover has got this right. Big chunky dials for the air con and heated seats. No-nonsense buttons for the various driving modes. And a delightfully crisp, clean, and crucially un-laggy touchscreen (pay attention VW) for the fancy cameras and off-road fodder.
The 360-degree cameras are witchcraft – and it’s fun watching the car lock and unlock the various diffs on the screen as it reads conditions underfoot better than you can. No really.
Over 1,000 miles of motorway, B-roads, and scenic rural villages, long-term mpg sits at 27.5. Not quite the 30 we were expecting – perhaps symptomatic of the weather and aforementioned aerodynamic hindrances. Next month: we go off-road…