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On the Land Rover Defender

Aug 27, 2012 | 4 minutes read

Tags: blog

A friend of mine recently purchased a 2005 Land Rover Defender 90 TD5. The vehicle had a full Land Rover service history, minimal milage, and was in absolutely mint condition. Here’s some impressions of the vehicle.

First impressions of the Defender, it’s a staggeringly handsome vehicle.  Finished in silver, the black grilles and trim contrast beautifully. Factory fitted extras include a rubber coated bull bar & mounted spots, modernising the front of the vehicle substantially.

Body panels are riveted together, a fact Land Rover makes no attempt to hide. At first glance, the panels look as if they’ve been pelted with a pebble storm,  but the Defender was never intended to win any beauty parades, something the finish clearly illustrates.

Curves are limited to the roof and bonnet line – elsewhere, it’s all flat surfaces. Whilst I cringe to think of the effect this may have on the aerodynamics of the vehicle at motorway speeds, the body shape is a tried and tested formula which has barely changed since its inception in 1983.

The overall package is beefy, masculine and intimidating – but not to the point of tack. It’s a timeless design, which stands the test of time and to this day stands out against its competition.

Unsurprisingly, the interior could best be described as utilitarian. It’s also incredibly functional. Heater controls are odd levers located either side of the steering column. Additional ventilation into the cabin is offered by air vents which open straight into the outside world, providing a torrent of fresh air at speed. Awesome!

Road noise is somewhat similar to any other 4×4 – a noise blanket under the bonnet stifles the noise of the TD5 engine, and noise levels remain acceptable up to motorway speeds.

The rear provides bench seating for four, surprising considering most vehicles of a similar size barely manage to fit two. Traveling in the rear is a reasonably pleasant experience, despite the fact Land Rover has opted for lap belts rather than 3-point seat belts.

The only minor complaint inside is the driving position. Front seats seem to lack any comfortable resting place for the arm nearest the door, leaving it awkwardly wedged against the window.

The thing that most surprised me about the defender was just how tame it is on the road. The suspension is not excessively harsh, and is comfortable even on long journeys.

Even more surprising is the power delivery – the TD5 engine is an absolute marvel.  This mere 2.5 liter 5 cylinder turbocharged diesel delivers way above its pay grade. It delivers 30+mpg, and incredible bursts of acceleration for such a small displacement. The turbo lag is minor, and can be alleviated with driving style.

The clutch in the Defender is particularly stiff – at first, gear changes leave the driver feeling in need of mild physiotherapy – but over time, it’s easy to get used to.

The only major downside to the defender on the road is the turning circle – it really is abysmal. Tight paralel parking is out, and even moderate sized bay car parks are a challenge. 3-point turns become 5, minimum.

Unsurprisingly, the defender is near undefeatable off road. It absolutely lives up to, and perhaps exceeds its reputation.

What strikes me most is just how approachable the Defender is as a 4×4, even to the uninitiated with limited off road experience. The only considerations are gearbox selection and that adequate ground clearance exists – everything else is trivial. Rocks, mud, rivers, stones and sand are minor obstacles. Mountains present only slight challenge.

My initial expectations for the Defender could be summarised in one word: impractical. I’d expected cabin noise, panel rattle and thirsty, sluggish performance. What the Defender delivers is the complete opposite. The Defender proves itself a perfectly viable daily driver. The turning circle rules out the Defender as a city car, but that shouldn’t be the target market. For a versatile vehicle off and on the road, the defender would absolutely be my 4×4 of choice.