2008 Land Rover Defender 110 Road Test
Recommended Retail Price: $48,990; $51,890 as tested.
Options fitted: Metallic paint ($900), 3rd row seating ($2,000).
Off-road ability, durability, rugged.
Reverse gear location, 3rd row seat access.
CarAdvice rating: (4.0)
- Review by Paul Maric, photographs by Aaron Kuzmanovic and Paul Maric
The world’s first driverless car is the Land Rover Defender. I’m sure you didn’t think you’d hear those words...ever. Well ladies and gentlemen, it’s true – sort of. More on this later though!
Despite very limited advertising, Land Rover has sold over 1.9-million Land Rover Defenders since its creation. Customers obviously aren’t buying the Defender for its stylish looks or its cutting edge feature set. They are buying the Defender its rugged off-roading ability and bulletproof drivetrain.
One guy commented on how impressive the Defender’s condition was for such an old vehicle. He received the shock of his life when I told him it was brand new – just several thousand k’s old in fact. The new Defender gets a revised bonnet and a modular panel structure to aid with repairs, just in case you couldn’t notice.
Driving the Defender can be a bit of a chore. A heavy clutch and rugged gearbox mean that a bit of effort is required to move things along. The turning circle is also woeful at some 14.36m, u-turns are done with heart in hand and five-point turns are of the norm.
The city is obviously not the Defender’s native territory. Head out to where the trees are vast and the mud is even vaster and the Defender soon lets loose. With 314mm of ground clearance, the Defender didn’t bottom out once during our trek through one of Victoria’s largest national parks.
The extremely wet and muddy conditions meant that the Defender had to work overtime to keep moving. The 110 model being test driven features traction control as standard equipment which worked flawlessly during testing. Traction control limits traction loss under acceleration which allows the Defender to move freely through loose surfaces such as mud and sand.
Excess wheel spin results in the tyres becoming bogged, so the traction control allows the optimal balance between grip and torque.
A permanent 4WD centre differential headlines the Defender’s 4WD equipment. A low-range gearbox and lockable centre differential make light work of hill climbs and rock hopping. The centre differential lock can be engaged/disengaged at any speed up to 60km/h, while the gearbox can be switched between low-range and high-range at up to 8km/h.
If towing is your thing, the Defender has that base covered also. With a braked trailer, the Defender is capable of pulling up to 3500kg. I loaded a trailer with a motorbike onto the Defender and the extra weight was obvious, so I’m not sure how tractable the motor would be with 3500kg worth of load attached.
655mm of axle articulation permits the Defender to push through massive ruts, while 500mm of wading depth is very impressive to say the least.
I mentioned earlier that the Defender could be operated driverless. Let me explain. Engage low range and grab first gear. There is enough torque in the first gear to pull the Defender up any hill, it’s truly astounding. Where a regular car would stall without throttle input, the Defender keeps pulling. It’s quite a spectacular sight, click here to check out our Facebook page to see the Defender in action.
Under the bonnet, a 2.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel motor hauls the Defender’s 2-tonne mass. It produces 90kW and 360Nm of torque and is Euro4 compliant. Power is sent through a 6-speed manual gearbox. Reverse is located right next to first gear and it’s easy to accidentally grab reverse instead of first when sitting in neutral at the traffic lights – an awkward situation to say the least!
Interior room is pretty impressive for such a rugged bush-trawler. Front and rear passenger leg room is pretty good, but I wouldn’t want to sit in the optional 3rd row of seats for too long. They are suitable for short-term adult transport though.
Attached to the rear of the Defender is a full-sized spare tyre, it limits rearward vision when reversing and makes parking a little difficult – mind you, the massive wing mirrors provide decent visibility to aid in parking and lane changing.
The new Defender range is available in two guises – 110 and 130 (wagon and utility respectively). Prices start at $48,990 for the 110 and move onto $51,990 for the 130. The only options available are metallic paint and 3rd row seating (110 only).
Standard features include: Air conditioning; front electric windows; power steering; alloy wheels; multi-speaker stereo with CD player; central locking and full-sized spare tyre.
Safety features include: ABS brakes; traction control and engine immobiliser.
The Defender’s direct competition is the Toyota Landcruiser 70 Series. Although its engine is far superior to the Defender’s unit (4.5-litre turbocharged diesel V8), the Defender feels better on the road and isn’t as complicated when choosing the right mode for off-road use. The Defender also uses auto-locking hubs, opposed to the Landcruiser’s manual locking hubs.
So it’s no road-eating wonder in traffic and in the city, but take it off the beaten track and the Defender truly shines. The way it handled any terrain thrown at it was impressive to say the least. It’s not exactly the most luxurious way to travel, but for the target market it really makes no difference, this is what the Defender’s demographic is after.
If Chuck Norris were to be reincarnated as a car, he would be the Land Rover Defender. It really is the only way to travel off-road.
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Top speed: N/A
Safety: ABS brakes, traction control.
EuroNCAP rating: N/A
Turning circle: 14.4m
Fuel tank: 75 litres
Fuel consumption : 11.1-litres/100km
Fuel type: Diesel