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Few cars create quite the stir that this one did when it broke cover on the internet in 2020. Land Rover had essentially been making the Defender since its very beginning (yes, I know Series cars aren’t technically Defenders but let’s leave our anoraks at the door for a second). When a company has been making something for quite so long, people become rather attached to it.
But the world continues to pass by the sun and at some point, one must progress. That’s exactly what Land Rover has done.
The result, showcased to me in P400 guise, is nothing short of marvellous. While the new Defender no longer has a ladder chassis and an interior from war times, it is unmistakably a Defender. For a start, it’s an aluminium construction giving it that trademark chunky appearance. The rear door hinges outwards and has the spare wheel mounted to it. There is no mistaking this SUV for anything else.
The interior is premium – with plenty of lovely gadgets – but also exudes utility. I love how neatly laid out the centre console and dashboard area is. There’s nothing over the top but seemingly, nothing has been spared either. An optional off-road pack provides easy-to-clean rubber mats in place of plush carpeting. The interior surfaces are also hardy, perfect for getting the dogs in the back and heading off to our favourite dog walking spot on a farm outside of Johannesburg. The car just yearns to be used for everyday rough and tumble life.
This P400 is powered by a mild hybrid 3.0 litre turbo- and supercharged petrol engine. It’s complex, where at low engine speed an electric supercharger aids progress before letting the turbo do the hard yards at higher engine speed. It’s a clever thing indeed, giving the P400 a rather brutish feel from standstill, an almost diesel-like sensation with all that torque. Then it gets a right move on as the turbo spools.
The on-board 48-volt lithium-ion battery feeds the whole electrical system, including the supercharger, and gets topped up as the car slows down, while also helping to reduce fuel consumption; the P400’s claimed average at 9.9L/ 100km. You may have guessed by now that the P400 stands for 400 horsepower – or 294kW in our money – (with 550Nm of torque). I’d describe that much power as leery in most SUVs but not this one. The Defender simply wafts along, just a bit quicker than you’d imagine.
The air suspension is remarkable. On the road, it’s really very comfortable but put it in off-road mode and suddenly it lifts way up off the ground, giving brilliant clearance. That off-road package comes with beefy all-terrain tyres – a great combination for roughing it. But this is a Defender, so Land Rover has done everything possible to make it the best off-roader out there. Thanks to clever flaps in the grille that close off the engine bay, the Defender will wade through water 900mm deep.
Not water, nor mud, or other substances infiltrate the cabin either thanks to clever seals below the doors. There’s a two-speed transfer box within the eight-speed auto, centre and rear locking differentials and permanent four-wheel drive. Configurable terrain response for different surfaces, like sand, mud, and grass keep the wheels turning when the going gets tough and there’s even an off-road cruise control system called all-terrain progress control.
My overriding sense after a week with the Defender was that it’s just so complete. Capable of going anywhere with utilitarian feel but without the associated utilitarian drawbacks – it’s far too comfortable and well appointed for that. Nothing has been compromised or sacrificed and yet every need has been catered for. This truly is a Defender for the modern and old worlds combined.
Land Rover Defender 110 P400 X
Price: R1 640 600
Fuel consumption: 9.9L/ 100km (claimed)
Top speed: 191km/h
Rivals: Jeep Wrangler, Toyota Land Cruiser Prado
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