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Published: 26th Jun 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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It’s 30 years since the Defender derivative of the famous Land Rover strain was launched. Destined for the chop in 2015, but will this much loved old workhorse remain irreplaceable in the hearts of many? After testing one, of course it will…

After a week and almost 1000 miles in one of the last Land Rovers, we’ve come to the conclusion that there’s two sorts of customers – one that needs a Landie and one that simply wants one.

We’re not sure which camp we fall into. Like the original Mini, you either ‘get’ or ‘don’t get’ a Land Rover and, like that small wonder, while they have all looked remarkably the same over the decades (in the case of this off-roader 66 years!), precious little of the original remains.

It’s 30 years since the short-wheelbase Defender 90 was launched and time’s running out for the iconic Land Rover even though it’s still popular; it crept into the top ten selling light commercials with almost 700 registrations in January, an 18 per cent rise on 2013. However, nothing lasts forever and a combination of toughening safety and emission regulations means that there’s no more development left in the old warrior.

Land Rover did unveil a proposal of its replacement a couple of years back, but this trendy Freelander looking alternative, codenamed DC100, didn’t find favour with devotees, but to be fair, this is always going to be the case due to undying love of the original.

How much is left of the blueprint? While the Land Rover appears similar to the Series 3 launched in 1971 the changes over the following decades has been many with the fitting of Ford Transit running gear and a completely new interior on 2007 perhaps the most significant.

IT’S THE SAME OLD, SAME OLD STORY

Some things about the Land Rover have always remained and we’re not simply talking about its legendary off-road capabilities. Panels, such as the doors and bonnet, are still secured by easily accessed screws while bulb changing thankfully remains an easy screwdriver operation, too. The interior, which is much more civilised than before, can still be hosed out, the switchgear remains a throwback to British Leyland Marinas while the letterbox of a windscreen still needs nothing more than Mini wiper blades to cope. The front seats are a vast improvement mind, being almost sporty in shape, plus you can have them heated. Along with ‘proper air conditioning’ the Defender seems to be getting soft in its old age!

The previous Td5 was a great engine in the Land Rover but it was none too reliable or ‘clean’, all of which caused the company to replace it with the Transit 2.4 TDCi in 2007 and subsequently the smaller 2.2-litre upgrade in 2012 although torque is unchanged at 265lbft, says Land Rover.

Performance is leisurely but you don’t buy a Defender for speed. Transmission has been six-speed since the fitment of Ford hardware yet it’s not universally liked by Landie lovers, who criticise its clunky, sharp nature.

It felt like a typical Land Rover to us and a specialist we spoke to agreed it’s a personal thing but what isn’t in question he remarked, is that the Ford gearbox is more severe on the drivetrain and so promotes longevity issues.

What Car? once said in summing up the Defender, in 2012, that there was little to touch one off-road but little to recommend it on-road and we think that, unless your an avid Landie lover, that’s a fair verdict.

Ride is uncompromising even with the coil springs now fitted, the turning circle is worse than an oil tanker’s while non Landie fans will soon tire of the lack of refinement on long journeys as well might the driver due to the heavy controls. As we said at the start, it’s a vehicle you either like or hate.

What you can’t argue against is the sheer dependability and go-anywhere nature of the Defender. After 66 years, it’s still the off-roader that gets rival 4x4s out of trouble! Used as a Chelsea tractor, the appeal isn’t quite so strong but at least you won’t worry too much scuffing the “don’t mess with me” iron bumpers, which are useful as even today’s Defenders lack safety kit such as airbags.

With its massive specialist following, owning and running any Land Rover is super easy plus the social scene, which includes motorsport, is brilliant.

Our 110 County Station Wagon test vehicle weighed in at a hefty £33,000 new thanks to certain extras (Tow ball drop plate & electrics, Under ride protection bar £80, Audio System Upgrade £180, Sunroof £265), but you only have to thumb through an independent Land Rover magazine to see how well they also retain their value, if they’re not abused or rusty. And the imminent demise of the Defender will cause values only to harden, predict specialists.

Bear this in mind as well, thanks to its commercial vehicle status, the usual emission levies don’t apply so you pay only £230, as opposed to over double this for a similar Range Rover Sport!

In common with Morgan, Land Rover makes a classic car that you can still buy brand new today. And like the Moggie,  you either love one or you don’t.  Overall we did – although we wouldn’t care to rack up 1000 miles in a week again in such a hurry. Rather we’d have a Defender as a second or third vehicle where it would easily last another 66 years. Land Rover reckons some two-thirds are still in service in some shape or form across the World! 



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