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Land Rover Defender 110 D240 SE

There can’t be many true car enthusiasts who don’t have a soft spot for the original Land Rover Defender. I certainly do and so I received news of its demise with great sadness.

Sure, the company also announced that there was going to be a replacement but it’s never an easy task to replace an automotive icon without somehow tarnishing its legacy. Rose-tinted spectacle and all that!

It’s no surprise, then, that it took Land Rover four years to bring the Defender name back to dealer forecourts but the company used that time wisely, producing a car that’s more practical, more refined and more capable off-road and, just as importantly, on it.

Land Rover Defender 110 (46116972)
Land Rover Defender 110 (46116972)

The Defender is closely related to the current Discovery but boasts greater ground clearance and reinforced suspension to further improve its off-road abilities. Key components, such as the battery and spare wheel, have been positioned to allow for higher approach and departure angles so it can tackle steeper slopes.

There’s a choice of two body styles: The 110, which has five doors and is available with five, six and seven seats and the three-door 90.

The interior is a wonderful juxtaposition of utilitarian and luxury. The materials are tactile, but hard-wearing, the switchgear is chunky and well-damped, there are exposed bolt-heads dotted around the cabin and there are some structural elements, such as the front crossbeam, that form part of the dashboard and also function as a grab handle for the front-seat passenger. It’s a clever touch that subtly hints at the Defender’s working-class DNA.

Land Rover Defender 110 (46116866)
Land Rover Defender 110 (46116866)

Base models are fitted with analogue instrument dials but everything from S-trim upwards get digital instruments that are crisp, clear and configurable in a number of ways so you can use them to display whatever information you might feel is useful.

You sit high up with a commanding view of the road. It does, in fact, feel like you’re looking down on just about everything else on the road.

It’s quick and easy to get yourself comfortable behind the wheel. SE trim comes with 12-way electric seat adjustment with memory while HSE trim throws in another couple of variables to make it 14. Entry-level models, simply called Defender, and S-trim cars both have part-electric seats. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake.

Nick Dimbleby (46116999)
Nick Dimbleby (46116999)

Like its predecessor the Defender retains its boxy, straight-edged styling so, despite its size, it’s relatively easy to navigate through tight spaces, such as narrow country lanes. The view out the back is compromised by the spare wheel but, usefully, all models are fitted with front and rear parking sensors as well as a 360-degree camera as standard.

For a bit of extra cash you can equip the Defender with the company’s Clear-Sight rear-view mirror. At the flick of a switch it transforms the mirror into an LCD display that shows a live feed from a rear-facing camera mounted where the shark’s fin antenna is located. It means you can still see what’s behind you even with the boot filled from floor to roof.

It’s taken a while but Land Rover (and Jaguar) are finally including infotainment systems that feel like they belong in a luxury motor vehicle. The Defender features the firm’s latest incarnation, in this case it’s called the Pivi Pro, and uses a 10in touchscreen as standard. It is, in fact, one of the best in its class.

Land Rover Defender 110 (46116515)
Land Rover Defender 110 (46116515)

It responds instantly to touch inputs and the graphics are pin sharp. The colour palette choice, with some of the icons in bronze, is classy too. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included. An 11.4in screen is available as an upgrade but you will, of course, have to spend a few extra pennies to get it. It’s mounted proud of the fascia and a little closer to the driver but, as I found neither the position of the standard display nor its size an issue, it’s debatable whether the upgrade is actually a worthwhile one.

There is lots of space. The Defender is basically a giant box so there’s plenty of room in every direction. It matters not a jot how tall or wide you are you won’t be wanting for space in the front. Should you require it there is the option to replace the console between the two front seats with a jump seat. It allows you to carry three people in the front but you can’t have that and the third row of seats in the back.

Land Rover Defender 110 (46116495)
Land Rover Defender 110 (46116495)

The 110, reviewed here, isn’t short of room in the back either. The car is wide enough to effortlessly accommodate three people across the rear bench and head and legroom are generous enough that even the tallest passengers should be able to get themselves comfortable.

The rear seats fold in a 40/20/40 split so you can carry longer items in the back without completely sacrificing passenger-carrying capacity. The rear bench doesn’t, however, slide or recline unless you have opted for the additional row of seats but that’s not without its own, different, set of compromises.

The four-cylinder diesel unit beneath the bonnet of my review car – a D240 – proved potent enough to haul the Defender around with the minimum of fuss. Although 240hp doesn’t appear too impressive on paper in the real world, and coupled with a healthy slug of 420Nm of torque, it proved to be both effective and efficient. It also possesses, at least to my untrained but enthusiastic ears, a reasonably rorty tone under hard acceleration.

Land Rover Defender110 (46119342)
Land Rover Defender110 (46119342)

Refinement is good despite the Defender’s bluff front end. Wind noise at motorway speeds is very well suppressed aside from a small amount of buffeting around the windscreen. There’s little tyre roar to note either while the engine, apart from when pressed hard, is almost silent.

The 110 is equipped with air suspension as standard and even on optional 20-inch wheels wearing off-road tyres it does an effective job of isolating the cabin from some of the more abrasive broken blacktop that you’ll encounter. Comfort is, in general, excellent across a wide range of surfaces.

It handles pretty well too, despite its high centre of gravity. It’s no hot hatch, of course, and there’s a fair amount of body lean through bends but it never feels unwieldy. There isn’t a great deal of grip, the steering is slow and you can never be entirely sure about what the front wheels are up to but it is light and reasonably accurate.

Land Rover Defender110 (46119385)
Land Rover Defender110 (46119385)

Possibly the biggest hurdle the new Defender faced on the road to success is its history. Love and respect for the original runs deep and winning people over was always going to be a tough ask but, I think, the new model has what it takes, and more, to do just that.

It has excellent road manners but still retains the famed off-road capabilities that made the Defender such a popular choice among countryside dwellers. That combination means it faces little in the way of direct competition and if you need that blend of abilities your shopping trip is going to a brief one.

Land Rover Defender 110 D240 SE

Price: £56,040

As tested: £63,990

Engine: 4-cylinder diesel

Transmission: Automatic AWD

Max power: 240hp

Max torque: 420Nm

Max speed: 117mph

0-62mph: 8.7sec

Fuel economy (WLTP)

Low 25.9-24.9

Medium 33.2-30.8

High 36.4-33.6

Extra high 30.1-28

Combined 31.7-29.6

Emissions (CO2): 234-251g/km

For more information visit www.landrover.co.uk

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