Land Rover Defender 90 long term test.

11 months ago we took delivery of a brand new Defender 90. After 31.000km it has seen more terrain than most Defenders do in their lifetime. The little Defender spent more than 20.000km off tarmac. We zig zagged through Iceland for 3 months, explored the mountains in Croatia and went greenlaning all over Europe.

Here is our conclusion:

The latest (and unfortunately last) incarnation of the Defender is the best so far. I have owned a series III, a TD5 and a 2.4 puma before so I feel that I can compare…The Ford 2.2 tdci engine is more quiet than it’s predecessor and is euro 5 compliant wich prolonged the Defenders life span with a couple of extra years. But other than that it is also the most refined and forgiving engine I have ever experienced in a Defender. It’s unchanged boxy shape means that it still needs between 10 and 11 liters of diesel for every 100km despite the modern engine. Except for front and rear tow points and a snorkel we left the truck bone stock and what it can do off road in standard form is nothing short of amazing. It came off the production line with 32”Good Year Wrangler  MT/R tires and traction control which together with the standard anti stall function proved a nearly unstoppable combination. The little Landies low weight, short wheelbase and high ground clearance allowed me to go further than my previous fully locked G-wagon ever did. This really is an excellent off roader, it has amazing engine braking  and you can always see where all the corners of your vehicle are. For very technical off road situations this is the best out of the box off roader money can buy. If you want even more capability or if you just want to personalize your truck there is a huge aftermarket scene with every conceivable enhancement at very competitive prices. That is the benefit of a truck that remained basically unchanged for the last 30- something years. Despite it’s iconic shape and cult status it’s age is also the Defenders achilles heel. It really is an old timer with a modern engine, and if you want to live with it you will need to make some compromises. The ergonomics are none existent, you don’t sit straight behind the steering wheel, your shoulder is rubbing the window, the handbrake is trying to penetrate your leg and if you are taller than 1.80 meters it’s impossible to find a good seating position. Besides that the British aren’t exactly renowned for their outstanding built quality and the Defender is no exception. There is always something rattling or malfunctioning on this car, and figuering out where all the noises and rattles come from becomes synonimous with Defender ownership, even in 2015! In less than a year our truck suffered from a sloppy drivetrain leaks, countless mysterious noises, a leaking gearbox and deteriorated bushes. Land Rover has a 3 year or 100.000 km warranty, but when we tried to have the sloppy drivetrain and the rattles fixed they just told us this is “normal” for a Defender. And after 3 Defenders I have to agree…they all do that, sir. So if you are lusting after a Defender you have to realize what it is…An iconic, ultra capable off road vehicle that can also drive on the road if nessesary and not the other way around like most other four wheel drives on the market. I also suspect it is built by drunken football hooligans so you will spend a lot of your time rectifieing the shortcomings it left the factory with.

If you are not scared by now maybe the Defender is something for you. It oozes adventure, it will make you fees special every time you climb on board and it will hold it’s value better than any other new car on the market today.

If you want to own a new one you will have to rush to your local dealer because next september production finishes and it will be finished forever. You will have to buy it with your heart and not with your head though!

There will be a next generation Defender but it will be never the ultra cool, no nonsense, no compromise go anywhere hand built icon the current truck is.

x+

Geoffrey

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