The much loved and much missed Land Rover family member, the Defender is back and it’s better than ever. We grabbed a taste of its off-road capabilities at Kauri Bay Boomrock New Zealand, but does it live up to its iconic name? Well according to Land Rover’s Design Director Gerry McGovern not just yet. Wait, what?
At a recent product award event (that they won) Gerry made it very clear that this Defender is ‘not an icon’. He said, “icons are made over time like the old Defender became and how Range Rover is today.”
But don’t worry Defender fans, he said that “I will caveat the fact that EVERYTHING that’s gone into this vehicle in terms of its development, is to ensure that we try and make this vehicle another icon in the Land Rover range.” Phew!
The Defender vanished form the Land Rover line-up in 2016 but it’s been busy in its absence. It’s travelled over 1.2 million km during testing, performing over 62,000 tasks over all types of terrain, all to make sure that that the new MY2021 the best Defender ever made.
According to them, it’s the most durable, the most capable that Land Rover has EVER produced. Built off the D7 all-aluminium platform but a lot tougher and a lot more rigid. Of course, being a Defender, it was really critical to ensure that this car could go anywhere and do anything, so it now has approach angles of 38-degrees, departure angles of 40-degrees, brake over angles of 28-degrees and optimum ground clearance of 291mm. Apparently surpasses everything that would be classed as a competitor.
At first glance, the styling looks new and modern, but it doesn’t take long to see the Defender of old come shining through – and that’s a great thing. Alpine lights up at the rear roofline are a nod to the past, they help bathe the cabin in light and add to the vehicle’s personality. Plus short front and rear overhangs improve the new Defender’s geometry and capability. Just quietly I’d have it in Khaki green with steel wheels.
The tech is simple and intuitive, yet very functional. It comes with Terrain Response 2 to help you set up the Defender for whatever the occasion and the new PIVI Pro entertainment system that offers a more smartphone-like experience where you can personalise the home screen with tiles or apps. It has clearsight for the rear and groundview assistant so you can see what’s underfoot and which direction the wheels are facing (particularly helpful when heading downhill).
The trim is functional with huge amounts of stowage space and rubber mats. There’s USB’s galore and even a mains plug at the rear. Plenty of safety too (5-star is expected). It’s got activity key so you can leave your keys behind when exploring and a variety of accessory packs (Urban, Country, Adventure and Explorer) and also comes with four powertrains, two petrol and two diesel.
Anyway, time to get behind the wheel. Kauri Bay Boomrock is an adventure playground, it’s Set on a stunning private 500 acre Clevedon property with expansive coastal views over the Hauraki Gulf and it’s a working farm too. But we weren’t there to milk cows.
The team at Downforce had organised a brief 90-minute off-road drive that included some DEEP axle twisting craters, sharp angle downhill descents, a little bit of water wading (although not an issue for the Defender’s 900mm class-leading capabilities) and most of the above on wet and slippery mud, clay and grass.
To be perfectly honest, the all-new Defender barely raised a sweat. It’s not that the course was easy, it’s just that it was too easy for the Land Rover. Yes we engaged the low-range and yes we used the downhill functions and other off-road wizardry, but to put any stress on this ultra-capable, ultra-durable vehicle, I think we’d have to be going to extreme measures, places that would require me needing a change of underwear – and even then I think the Defender would be fine. Needless to say, we all came back in one piece but ready to explore the world.
It may be an icon in the making but the new Land Rover New Zealand Defender showcases 70 years of the brand’s innovation and improvement. It’s been built to tackle whatever ‘road’ you care to travel along, that is if you’re brave enough to tag along.
Pics credit Josh Hilliam Photography