ZM’s Vaughan Smith is a keeper of the Land Rover Defender faith
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Land Rover Defender 110 D240 SE
- Great on-road tech as well as off-road
- Starts more reliably than '67 Series 2A
- Awesome accessory packs
- It's a big fella
- Bit of a step up in price from the '67
- More upper-crust than Brit battler
I’ll start with an admission. My car knowledge is minimal, my off-roading is even less and my only previous personal experience with a Land Rover is with a 1967 Series 2A that I inherited from my Granddad.
But once you’ve been bitten by the bug, you’ve got LandRovirus for life.
This wasn’t my first time behind the wheel of the 2020 Land Rover Defender, but both previous drive days had only featured low-speed, off-road driving. So taking the Defender for a long weekend of road tripping, family transportation and beach driving was an exciting new type of driving.
My Poppa’s Land Rover is the one vehicle that’s been in my family as long as I can remember. He got it in 1969 after one careful lady owner traded it in for reasons unknown; I recall my Nana constantly complaining about the cost of keeping it capable of farm duties (and that was in the ’80s).
It’s got a hole in the passenger door window frame from where Poppa shot a rabbit out the passenger window from the driver’s seat and a bare patch of metal on the driver’s side window frame where his arm sat regardless of the weather.
It’s loaded with memories and it’s always been started the same way. Key on. Pump the gas twice. Pull the choke right out. Hope for the best and press the ignition button. As soon as it chokes, coughs, splutters or gasps, you pump the accelerator again and it either roars into life, or you start the process again.
So getting the keys to the new Defender, it was calming to have to press a button to start it, even 53 years down the track. But that’s about where the similarities end.
My 1967 does have a slight advantage in engine size: 2.25l vs 2l. But it also features the rattles, bangs, glugs and whining of its years.
Auckland | Auckland City
$829.67 p/w $3,318.68 p/m
Southland | Invercargill
$685.60 p/w $2,742.39 p/m
Auckland | Auckland City
$1,623.76 p/w $6,495.06 p/m
Auckland | Auckland City
$1,385.80 p/w $5,543.18 p/m
Canterbury | Sockburn
$1,532.65 p/w $6,130.60 p/m
The turbo-diesel engine in the D240 model I drove was very nice indeed. Zero to 100km/h in 9.0 seconds I’m told; I wouldn’t know, I drove the whole weekend like my Poppa (who was never in a hurry to get anywhere, but was always going somewhere) was in the passenger seat. My wife used a lot of his phrases from the passenger's seat; it was cute that she was playing a role and didn’t even know it.
While the off-roading days had really shown us the capabilities of the Defender in the mud, water, sand and dirt, we didn’t really explore the on-road technology. The traffic jam-alleviating adaptive cruise control was tops. As we approached Tauranga on a Friday afternoon and hit the “Tauriko traffic” it simply kept us at a safe distance from the car in front and moved forward when the other vehicle moved forward. The adaptive cruise was also great on the open road. At a safe distance from the car in front, I didn’t feel like overtaking and it made for a calmer journey.
Also, it was key in achieving a coveted title: “Perfect Driving Score”! The infotainment system has a monitor that calculates a driving score based on acceleration, RPM and braking. My best score was 99 per cent. That’s not just my best driving score, that’s actually the highest score I have ever got on anything; apart from Spiderman on PS4, where I got 100 per cent completion. But I used the internet for help, so that was cheating.
Nothing like some friendly (read: passive aggressive) competition (the non-speeding type) while driving, to add to those long silences between spouses on a road trip.
The Pivi Pro infotainment system is also the home of an amazing 10-speaker-plus-subwoofer sound system and a gaggle of cameras around the Defender to help with off-roading, reversing and parking in space you’ve been told you won’t fit into. Ooooooh yes I will. The cars in front and behind will curse my name, but I’ll fit. Tight gym carpark. Fit. Short roadside café park. Fit. Beside a concrete pole in the work car park when the person next to me was well over the dividing line. Fit. Not bad for a car considerably larger than I’m used to (albeit with power steering, camera assist and proximity assist).
The new Defender is offered with a range of accessory packs, from the low key Urban to the Explorer pack that was on the vehicle I drove. It features (amongst other things) the Side Mounted Gear Carrier.
Every person I showed the Defender to asked: “What’s that thing on the side?” within 30 seconds.
It’s simply an extra 24 litres of storage for anything you don’t want to put in the car. If I had one, I’d have three bottles of wine, cheese, crackers and four marine flares. Variety is key to survival.
My Poppa’s children (my dad, uncle and aunty) all saw the Defender, all had comments along the lines of “Phew!”, “That’s flash”, “A bit nice for you”, “It would be a bit too complicated for your Poppa”, “Few more bells and whistles” and “Does it have a choke that needs to be pulled out for starting?”
In conclusion (this is how I wrapped up essays at school) the 2020 Land Rover Defender isn’t the old stiff upper lip, post-war make-the-most-of-what-you’ve-got style, British bare bones battler it was. But oooooh it’s nice. It’s very nice indeed.
LAND ROVER DEFENDER 110 D240 SE
ENGINE: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
GEARBOX: 8-speed automatic, AWD
0-100KM/H: 9.0 seconds
Catch Vaughan Smith on ZM's Fletch, Vaughan and Megan from 6AM weekdays and streaming on iHeartRadio.