Land Rover Defender, is still the top off-roader

IT is no secret that the end of the road beckons for the world’s best off-road vehicle the iconic Land Rover Defender which remains as popular as ever despite competing against much more modern and refined four wheel drive rivals writes Bryan Longworth.

The current rugged Defender was launched in 1984 although it originated over 60 years ago with its distinctive square shape being retained but despite being upgraded it is still basically an old design which has problems with modern construction legislation and Land Rover is working on plans for a replacement when the current model goes out of production at the end of this year.

However, they have not announced when this will be launched and I understand this will not be before next year at least so the current Defender which is much loved by the farming fraternity in particular and other country folk is still selling well and retaining its residual values.

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I was reminded of the Defender’s capabilities when driving the latest Defender 90 Station Wagon XS model when it was obvious why it is so popular despite facing more modern rivals because for owners wanting a vehicle that will tackle the most severe off-road conditions there is still nothing like it.

It is rather crude in some areas but it is still such a likeable vehicle to drive for real 4x4 enthusiasts although I would not fancy making a long distance trip in a Defender because of the firm suspension and seats plus engine noise and steering.

Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity for driving the Defender off-road on this occasion but in the past I have driven the vehicle on some of Land Rover’s most difficult and demanding off-road courses and the ability of the car to tackle such conditions has been amazing.

The vehicle cost £30,505 and was powered by a 2.2-litre diesel engine with a combined fuel consumption of 27.7mpg, CO2 emissions of 269g/km with a wading depth of 500mm an obstacle clearance height of 323mm plus a braked towing weight of 3500kg and it will climb gradients up to 45 degrees.

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There was a manual six speed gearbox plus low ratio gears for the real rough stuff and changing gears was surprisingly user friendly as was the steering considering the tough go-anywhere image of the Defender.

It became clear that Defender is for a certain type of owner such as farming folk who like to work on the vehicle themselves and the horsey set who like to carry such things as bales of straw in the back and tow trailers.

I know a number of Defender owners and they are worried about what will replace the vehicle because it is truly unique and Land Rover designers have a difficult job producing a replacement for a legend that will still appeal to such people.

It would be easy to criticise the Defender because it has been overtaken in so many ways by more modern 4x4s but it has a character all of its own and I can appreciate why there is so much concern about it getting towards the end of its life.

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Land Rover has an impressive array of much sought after four wheel drive models in its range which are among the best in the world and it will be interesting to see what they eventually come up with for a Defender replacement.

Verdict: Still the top off-roader.

Model: Land Rover Defender 90 Station Wagon XS.

Engine: 2.2-litre diesel.

Transmission: Six speed manual.

Fuel consumption: 27.7mpg combined.

CO2 emissions: 269g/km.

Price: £30,505 on the road.