Land Rover’s new-generation Defender has gone on sale in SA in a 15-model line-up with a starting price of just over R1m.
The much-awaited vehicle replaces the old boxy, brawny Defender which achieved cult status but was discontinued in 2016 due to no longer meeting modern crash-safety regulations.
The original Land Rover was launched in 1948 and sold more than 2-million units in its Series I, II, III, and Defender guises. It was modernised with better engines and more comfortable cabins along the way, but always retained its ruggedness and all-terrain ability.
The new Defender is said to retain its iconic predecessor’s offroad prowess and offers a nod to its boxy styling, but in a thoroughly modernised vehicle with today’s latest luxury features and technology. It’s a modern SUV that embraces the digital age with touchscreen infotainment and ability to receive over-the-air updates.
The new version is driven by what Land Rover terms “a passion and respect for the original” and also inherits the previous model’s naming convention. It is initially available in 110 guise, which refers to 110-inch (279.4cm) wheelbase of the previous generation, offering a choice of five, six or seven-seater configurations and a load space ranging from 1,075l behind the second row, to 2,380l with seats folded.
The short-wheelbase Defender 90, with seating for up to six, is scheduled for a local launch early next year.
There are three engine choices in the Defender 110 range, topped by a 3.0l straight six-cylinder petrol P400 featuring efficient mild hybrid electric technology with outputs of 294kW and 550Nm.
Also available are a pair of 2.0l variants, with a P300 turbocharged petrol offering 221kW and 400Nm, and a D240 twin turbo diesel with outputs of 177kW and 430Nm.
There are five specification packs including base Defender, S, SE, HSE and X models. Standard features across the range include permanent all-wheel drive with a high- and low-range transfer box, air suspension, Terrain Response, LED headlights, Connected Navigation, 3D Surround Cameras, touchscreen infotainment, electrically adjustable front seats, a Driver Condition Monitor, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Smartphone Packs.
The S offers a larger high-definition Interactive Driver Display, automatic headlight levelling and high beam assist, and ebony grained leather among others. The SE adds items like keyless entry, a ClearSight camera-based interior rear view mirror, electric steering adjustment, a 400W 10-speaker Meridian sound system and blind spot assist.
The HSE gets a sliding panoramic roof, Driver Assist Pack, 14-way heated and cooled Windsor Leather seats, extended leather upgrade and Matrix LED headlights with signature daytime running lights.
The range-topping Defender X is based on an HSE but adds a black contrast roof and bonnet, starlight satin chrome accents, orange brake calipers, rear recovery eyes, a 700W Meridian Surround Sound System with subwoofer, head-up display, and a Configurable Terrain Response 2 all-wheel drive system.
For the first year of production a Defender 110 First Edition is available. It is a pimped-up version of the SE model festooned with illuminated tread plates, a Black Pack, 20-inch wheels, grained leather upholstery, and a refrigerated centre console among other features.
Customers can also personalise their vehicle with four accessory packs: Explorer, Adventure, Country and Urban.
The original Defender built its reputation on offroad ability, and even though new vehicle adopts a monocoque design instead of the original’s rugged body-on-frame architecture, and the time-honoured solid axles have given way to independent suspension, the new vehicle offers impressive turf-taming numbers. These include a towering 291mm ground clearance, 500mm of wheel articulation and a 900mm wading depth.
With the air suspension set to its maximum height the vehicle keeps its undersides out of harm’s way with a 38° approach angle and 40° departure angle.
Permanent all-wheel drive and a twin-speed automatic gearbox, centre differential and optional Active Locking Rear Differential ensure the Defender has the hardware for continent-crossing expeditions.
Configurable Terrain Response allows drivers to fine-tune individual settings to suit the conditions, or leave the system in the intelligent Auto function to detect the best settings for the turf.
A clever piece of tech is the ClearSight Ground View technology which, by means of front-mounted cameras, shows the view usually hidden by the bonnet on the dashboard screen.
• Pricing starts at R1,063,180.