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Land Rover Defender 110

 

So old Defender: get one while you can, because it makes you feel great and it’s a surefire classic. But have another car as well.

Base price: $71,500.

Powertrain and performance: 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four, 90kW/360Nm, 6-speed manual with low-range transfer, part-time four-wheel drive with locking centre differential, Combined economy 11.0 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 15.8 seconds.

Vital statistics: 4600mm long, 2134mm high, kerb weight 1955kg, 16-inch wheels on 235/85 tyres.

We like: A true classic, super-tough, sense of occasion, everybody loves it.

We don’t like: Classic can be a synonym for ‘obsolete’, noisy, uncomfortable, and expensive.

How it rates: 1/10 or 10/10 depending on your point of view.

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?

The Land Rover Defender’s time is drawing to a close… but it’s not there yet! In fact, the Defender turned 65 this year. Granted, today’s Defender is not exactly like the original one – famously, only one small component has carried through that whole time – but it’s also so close in appearance, concept and ability that it really doesn’t matter. It looks and feels like a 65-year-old car.

In fact, there’s a 65th anniversary special on the way, the LXV. That’s not the car featured here: instead, we’ve got the proper 110 station wagon, in glorious United Nations white. Just like an old-school Land Rover should be.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

Quite terrible. The engine is relatively modern – added to the range in 2007, it’s a Ford unit borrowed from the Transit van family – and produces peak torque at less than 2300rpm. But it’s also noisy and completely breathless beyond 3500rpm, which means you have to stir the enormous gearlever along in an exhausting fashion.

You don’t even whisper ‘crossover’ in the same county as this car. It’s a hard-core off-roader, pure and simple. It has a separate ladder-frame chassis, tyres with bouncy sidewalls and very little interest in roads that are sealed. Or any roads at all, really.

The handling is approximate to say the least, the ride ridiculously unsettled. To complain about these things is to show you don’t understand the Defender at all.

So I won’t.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?

Well, there’s certainly a sense of occasion. The cabin architecture is still old-school, even though it has been cleaned up a lot over the years – the plastic mouldings fit together nicely, the instrument cluster is crisp and the switchgear is neatly arranged. But you still get an enormous steering wheel and gangly gearlever.

Seating in all positions is sit-up-and-beg, but it wouldn’t seem right any other way. Our car had the optional seven-seat configuration, so I can assure you that children love climbing up onto the rear step and into the back through the side-hinged door.

Like I said, a real sense of occasion.

SHOULD I BUY ONE?

The Defender really is dreadful by modern standards, even when compared with other hard-core off-roaders. A Land Cruiser 70-series, for example, is just as capable in the rough but vastly more refined on-road in every respect.

The Defender really is wonderful by any standards, because it’s an icon. A piece of history. A conversation point. An awesome thing, and absolutely the last of its line. New European safety laws will kill it in 2015 and Land Rover has made it very clear that its replacement will not be retro. Which makes sense, because the Defender certainly wasn’t when it was launched... in 1948.

No, the new model will be just as tough but also forward-looking, with broader buyer appeal. Because as much as everybody loves Defender, hardly anybody actually buys it. Land Rover has said it isn’t interested in building a car that sells in such tiny numbers (currently less than 20,000 per year globally).

So old Defender: get one while you can, because it makes you feel great and it’s a surefire classic.

But have another car as well.

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

Air conditioning: Manual

Audio: Single CD, iPod, USB compatible

Automatic lights/wipers: No/No

Blind spot warning: No

Bluetooth: Optional $550

Cruise control: No

Driver footrest: Yes

Gas discharge headlights: No

Head-up display: No

Heated/ventilated seats: No/No

Keyless entry/start: No

Lane guidance: No

Leather upholstery: Yes

Parking radar: No

Power boot or tailgate: No

Power seat adjustment/memory: No

Remote audio controls: No

Satellite navigation: No

Seat height adjustment: Yes

Self-parking technology: No

Split/folding rear seats: Seven forward-facing seats optional ($2200), rear fold

Steering reach adjustment: No

Stop-start: No

Trip computer: No

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