I tested a Jeep Wrangler in 2008 when I first started out as a motor journalist…and I was in fact rather rude about its on-road performance. Not that I’m saying the torrent of abuse was undeserved. It was nothing but horrid on tarmac, dangerous in fact. Since that week I now take a berth as wide as the English Channel when passing one on the freeway.
However the day was saved (well sort of) by the fact that the Wrangler isn’t meant to be driven on the road. The bare welds, ridiculously high leaf sprung suspension, camping tent architecture and interior that took minimalism literally was proof of the fact.
The Land Rover Defender is built on much the same premise. Both are chunky, testosterone filled adrenalin rushes into the wilderness, armed to conquer rocks, boulders, hills and mountains without so much as breaking a sweat.
The difference being that the Defender has a Land Rover badge, meaning it’s built by men in a shed out of railway sleepers and iron cast by their own hand, from ore mined by their grandfathers. And has been for the last 50 years. There’s a sense of legacy, an air of tradition. This is something special.
The Defender’s purpose is unimpaired by the frills and fuss of driving on tarmac. This is apparent given its Wrangler-like road holding. However barrelling along undulating gravel roads in a reserve just outside Durban felt no different to wafting along the highway in a silky smooth Citroen.
Although gravel is hardly the most challenging of surfaces is it? Which lead to a small detour, which lead to a very steep hill that was muddy and filled with rocks and tree stumps and other such outdoorsy things. Followed by a steep, and I mean steep, decent.
This leads me to the torque delivered from under the bonnet, which can only be described as immense – 360Nm, to be exact, rumbled me without shudder or shake up the hill and down the other side. And all this lead to a feeling that the Defender is the love child of Vinny Jones and Kingsley Holgate, weaned on Captain Morgan, with a dash of breast milk, the occasional drag on a Camel Filter and a bar brawl just to round it all off.
This car cannot get stuck nor can it be broken – and even if it does you’ll feel you could mend it with nothing but a match stick and a yard of string.
Well that’s what I thought until the Defender got stuck – albeit in some rather dense mud and thanks to inexperienced driving. No in fact it wasn’t mud at all; it was black/brown glue someone had left there just for the purpose of ruining a great day out for my Landie and me.
While I was stuck axle deep in this glue, waiting for the tractor to come drag me out, I found it was a reasonable comfortable place to sit. In the limited edition Fire & Ice form (only 100 available in South Africa, 850 worldwide) there are more creature comforts than you’d usually find in the baron interior. Suede seats, a decent stereo, air conditioning, heated seats and electric windows. This is all you need really. Although I’d rather liked to have seen co-ordinate driven sat-nav just to top off the adventurer image.
Unfortunately as brilliant as the Defender is in sticks I’m forced to conclude in much the same manner as with the Wrangler. It’s a R378,000 toy to be left on your farm in the midlands. But I don’t have a farm in the midlands. I live in the city and therefore there is just no logic in owning one.
Engine: 2.4l turbo diesel
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 18 seconds
Top speed: 130km/h
Fuel consumption (l/100km): 10.0 (claimed)
Verdict – Brilliantly illogical
Photo Credit: Quickpic