After more or less 70 years of good and loyal service, the good old Land Rover Defender had bowed out in 2016. Four years have passed, and a brand new version is now available in the manufacturer’s catalog. More modern but just as talented, we are finally behind the wheel for a test of the long version 110 P400.

A style recognizable among a thousand

Its illustrious predecessor is very easily identifiable in the current automotive panorama, the new Defender will be too. If, according to standards, its characteristic very rectangular shapes disappear, it does not become an example of roundness. By modernizing strongly, it retains beautiful angular lines and especially its imposing proportions. These will force the occupants to lift their legs to get on board and will strengthen its status. As Régis explained to you perfectly at the end of 2019, despite its appearance of a concept car, it has some stylistic effects specific to its predecessor. Thus, we will notice the side opening of the trunk, the boss on the hood, the “loophole” on the roof or the spare wheel visible at the rear. Finally, the rounded light signature at the front also recalls the round lights of the original Defender. To continue to surprise you, its Pangea Green paint that plays with light, associated with a satin protective film (€ 4,240), will reinforce its exclusive side.

Limousine washable with karcher

Land Rover interiors are in my opinion one of the prettiest in recent years, noting the attention to detail and assembly. I particularly appreciate the clothing of the commodos with a small aluminum effect piece. But what really strikes aboard this Defender, for once in a car, we have 5 real seats. And what places! With no prominent transmission tunnel and due to its enormous 3.02m wheelbase, each passenger will have plenty to put their legs up and enjoy their own space. All this, enriched with a bunch of connections (USB, 230v, etc.) scattered throughout the interior.

On board, it plays less in luxury than a Velar, that’s for sure. But it’s not bad like that. Indeed, even if the finishes are rather good and the materials well found, one will note, to recall its elder and to appear a little beefy, the presence of visible screws, large handles or hard plastic in excess. With such a design, it will more easily accommodate mud or other water jet to clean it all up. Otherwise, we obviously find the 10-inch touch screen which sports a very nice software, intuitive and ergonomic in addition. The needle dials are now giving way to a combined instrumentation, too simple for my taste, and the Defender is today stuffed with technologies (360 camera, 3D view, digital interior mirror,…).

At the wheel, the same, only better

I was talking about limousine in a title just above, concerning this Defender comfort side, that’s almost it! Leaving aside its name and vocation, it does just as well as a good 2020 SUV. In the middle of a straight line, it will amaze you with its comfort and its quiet ride, but it happened at the first corner that we will indeed be surprised by the stability of the machine, the movements of the body are very little marked. If understeer is necessarily present in the company of a big baby of 2 tons 5, the pneumatic damping will erase anything that could affect your peace of mind at the wheel. While it is probably more massive than some pleasure craft, it does indeed show any sensation of pitching; you can use good steering wheel from left to right at 80 km / h, we stay horizontal without pumping all the way on the suspensions. Bluffing!

So, of course, he is not made for that, but such skills necessarily encourage you to increase the pace to see what is in your stomach. I was criticized for talking a little too sportsmanship during the test of the Evoque, so I will try not to dwell too much on the subject. However, after having seen some extracts of the future James Bond of which he is the star, one can only want to take oneself for agent 007 and see what he has in the belly! Then, there are still 400 hp below! In sport mode, much of this power is sent to the rear axle. And I assure you that at the controls of such a machine, it is very surprising to feel the rear slip away. As a bonus, its somewhat hoarse sound, sometimes embellished with a few returns to the exhaust, easily transports us into a somewhat sporty atmosphere. Otherwise, the more the road will be twisty, and your pace sustained, the more you will inevitably feel the weight which takes us in curve, the laws of physics remain unperturbed. Not having the pretension to know how to whip such a machine, I prefer to quickly calm things down as soon as it becomes more tortuous in front of me. But it would be highly interesting to experience the maximum potential with a professional pilot: sensations guaranteed! Especially since it shows good bite in braking, this allows you not to be in excessive anticipation; be careful though to keep your safety distances between other motorists …

But but … if it will surely serve to impress a few people at the traffic lights or after a toll – 0 to 100 km / h shot in 6.1 seconds – it will in most cases be a luxury companion to carry around a whole family. By rocking the passengers using its excellent audio system, it makes you forget all the faults of the road and is docile on a daily basis. By offering good soundproofing, a smooth and precise 8-speed automatic transmission, impeccable engine approval, the new generation Defender becomes a very good road. Despite its 400 cannons released thanks to the 3.0 inline 6-cylinder block, it shows exemplary smoothness and that is really its strong point. We can perfectly see ourselves crisscrossing the kilometers, overlooking almost everything that rolls, in an undisguised well-being. In addition to its rather simple body shape, it is easy to handle and maneuvers are done with your eyes closed. I even thought for a moment that I would benefit from a 4-wheel steering system because it turns with surprising ease. On the other hand, it is on the consumer side that he will be a worse comrade. Forget about dropping below 10 liters per 100 km, it will tend to stabilize at 15l / 100, 12l / 100 if you are careful, and even up to 20l / 100 with more energy.

Finally, and fortunately, some owners will surely be willing to use it in its natural habitat and it should continue its legend as an outstanding franchisor. Let’s start with what mainly saddens the purists: the disappearance of the ladder frame. If this equipment has largely proven its worth, modern technologies allow Land Rover to announce an ultra-resistant aluminum monocoque. What you let trudge in very steep areas, and last over time. But that’s not all ! Offering high suspension travel and short overhangs, bridge crossings will be a formality, just like fording (900 mm) or steep slopes. Let’s go for the numbers, this air suspension allows you to have at most a ground clearance of 291 mm, angles of attack at 37.5 °, central at 28 ° and trailing at 40 °. As such, it often does better than the older generation or even its competitors. In addition to these assets, it is loaded with cameras everywhere outside. Helped by its very good traction on all types of terrain, you will be able to visualize everything around you to progress with confidence. Like a game console, it is possible to play with many modes on the screen, to observe the behavior of the 4 × 4 and thus go almost anywhere. Mud, sand, rocks, nothing scares him and maybe it is just you who will calm things down.

A premium price

The new Land Rover Defender won’t be the cheapest off-roader on the market. The entry price “reasonable” to 51,600 € for the short version 90 equipped with the new 6-cylinder diesel 200 horsepower, can ultimately quickly climb. First of all, the 110 bodywork shown here starts at € 57,400 or € 69,900 by choosing the P400 block. After the set of finishes and options, my test model is finally displayed at € 92,306. For this we will note the addition of the rear differential lock at € 1,234, the towing hook at € 1,387 or even the 3-zone air conditioning at € 1,419. Finally, get ready for the penalty… Approved at 220 g / km of C0², it is obviously € 30,000 since 1er January 2021. Ouch!

Successful return

If discerning enthusiasts will find it difficult to give a place in their hearts to this new Land Rover Defender, we must admit that it still sets the bar very high. Our famous adventurer is naturally bourgeois but does not forget his fundamentals, while greatly improving his road behavior. Either way, it proves that it is possible to combine dynamism and talent off-road, doing much better on the road than one of its main rivals, the Wrangler.

Photo credit: Thomas D. (Fast Auto)