A friend of mine once emailed to say that he was considering buying an old soft-top 109 Land Rover to carry around his family and their kayaks on weekend trips. “What about this one?” he asked, showing me a decent looking 109 rag top, “But I want a non fan-boy opinion”. I thought that was interesting. I’m known amongst friends to be very enthusiastic about Land Rovers, but to the point that people obviously believe I’m blind to even the biggest oversights and niggles that Land Rovers do have.
So, having sat and pondered this comment, I wondered, why do people buy Land Rovers? Land Rover’s are expensive, very basic, difficult to drive around towns, not particularly comfortable, stolen frequently, slow, fuel burners, noisy, costly to run, hard to get into with a skirt on (apparently), damp, leaky and we could go on.
Land Rover’s history is off-road. Farmers love Land Rovers for their go anywhere capability. Mud, wet grass and rutted farm tracks prove trivial. Snowy roads, even under thick drifts of snow are completely passable, crucial if you live in a secluded village with limited access. These vehicles are designed for trips across a beach, into the sea, through fords and across side slopes that would topple a lesser vehicle.
The Land Rover Defender with few peers but its time is almost up.
Climb inside the Defender 90 and it’s like climbing into history. And by that I don’t just mean that the Defender is old-school and a throwback to the past.
It is, of course, both of those things, but it’s also much more. This Defender is the latest – and close to the last – in a long line of utilitarian Land Rovers that date back to 1948. Being a short (90-inch) wheelbase model (hence the ‘90’ designation), it’s also closest to the original 80-inch-wheelbase Land Rover.
Off-road, the 90 is both brilliant and disappointing, very much like the vehicle as a whole. The high ground clearance, short overhangs and short overall length are major pluses. The vision is great, too. This is what makes a genuine off-road vehicle rather than a trail vehicle: a vehicle for explorers, rather than a vehicle for those who follow in their paths.
The Defender body and chassis are extremely modular as we’ve already discussed. Interior load space is cavernous. The flat outer panels mean you can mount just about anything anywhere. A full length roof rack gives you plenty of room for fuel, spares and equipment. Couple this with the wide availability of Land Rover parts & the ability to run on low quality fuels and you have the best adventure vehicle by far. Of course, you don’t have to be a globe trotter to get the most from a Land Rover. It’s just as suited to those who enjoy adventure sports, with plenty of room for canoes, ropes and bikes as needed.
No, this vehicle doesn’t have side impact protection. It doesn’t have air bags. It’s actually never been officially crash tested. But the Defender’s strongest structure (the chassis) is positioned above that of normal cars. The Defender has a nice high driving position too, helping you see over the tops of other cars around town and miles ahead on winding walled country lanes.
Engine: turbo-diesel inline four-cylinder
Max Power: 90kW @ 3500rpm
Max Torque: 360Nm @ 2000rpm
Gearbox: six-speed manual
Crawl Ratio: 62.988:1
4X4 System: dual-range part-time
Construction: separate chassis
Front suspension: live axle/coil springs
Rear suspension: live axle/coil springs
Kerb Weight: 1815kg
Towing capacity: 3500kg
Seating capacity: 4
Fuel tank capacity: 60 litres
ADR fuel consumption*: 10.2 litres/100km
On-test fuel consumption: 12.0 litres/100km