Defender 110 Double Cab
Rover, now in its 61st year,
might be owned by the Indian
conglomerate TATA but that hasnt
stopped the Land Rover Defender
being the most recognised vehicle
in the world. Its
also the ultimate
THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER MIGHT BE A TRUE COUNTRY WORKHORSE or military-use
vehicle but unfortunately they do not always live in the country, and often
get used as fashionable family transport for the school run. And , it would
seem, no television celebrity chef on tour or a holiday or history programme
presenter can be seen driving in anything less than an iconic British Defender.
However, in the right place the countryside the Defender remains
the vehicle of choice for many farmers, lords of the manor, agricultural, forestry
and engineering workers, the rescue services, Police and, of course, the military.
It is probably the latter group that will determine if the Defender is going
to survive. If the vehicle still continues to bring in orders for military work
then it makes sense to produce them for the shrinking UK retail and business
markets, In fact, there are still 169 countries worldwide buying Land Rover
and Range Rover products, including the instantly recognisable Defender.
My experience of Land Rovers stretches way back to a country childhood where
the early models were used by farmers as the alternative to a tractor
as well as the family car on market days. In the many years since then I've
travelled in, and driven, Land Rovers in many parts of the world, in the most
extreme and hazardous conditions. And generally, they have survived; as have
I. So it is with mixed feelings that I find myself writing about what now might
be an automotive dinosaur.
Having evolved from the first Series 1 Land Rover introduced in 1948 to the
Defender introduced in 1990 (and updated in 2007), the 2009 range is available
in fourteen body styles including Station Wagon, Hard Top, Pick-Up, Double Cab
Pick-Up and Chassis Cab.
The vehicle is available with the choice of three different wheelbase lengths
90, 110 and 130 which nominally refer to the lengths in inches.
Greater personalisation can be obtained to meet all manner of working conditions
by adding equipment from the huge Land Rover accessories list, as well as specific
bespoke changes to the body which are undertaken by Land Rover's Specialist
Vehicle Division or by other outside body builders.
The latest engine to be used in the Defender is a 2.4-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel
unit which produces 120bhp of power but delivered where this workhorse
needs it: at engine speeds from less than 2,200 to over 4,350rpm. More importantly,
the 265lb ft of torque is delivered from a low 1,500rpm. This unit is also claimed
to be 30% quieter.
Drive to all four wheels is via a new six-speed gearbox which has a much wider
ratio spread. In reality, first gear is a crawler gear, ideal for towing heavy
loads up to 3,500kg on- or off-road. A new sixth gear ratio is
set 20% higher, giving improved fuel economy with less noise and vibration at
open road cruising speeds. There is, of course, the usual high and low ratio
transfer box and the usual array of differential locks to maintain the Defender's
'as good as it gets' off-road prowess.
Whilst the exterior even throughout the 61 years of design evolution
remains unmistakably a Land Rover, the interior has recently undergone
significant changes to make it more sociable and nicer to drive. A better laid-out
facia, improved instrumentation and marginally better positioned switchgear
certainly help although many of the controls are of a design that's been in
use for many, many years the column stalks, for instance.
Why the ignition/start key is still on the left-hand side of the steering column,
where it is difficult to see or get to easily, I've no idea. The good news is
that the heating, fresh air and air conditioning system is vastly improved.
In cold weather the heater warms up the car and clears the screen 40% faster,
and the maximum cabin temperature can be 12% higher when required. There are
even heated front seats offered as an option. The front seats are taller for
better support and, where fitted and depending on the model, the rear three
asymmetrically-split seats can be folded reasonably easily thanks to a spring-loaded
Depending on the customer's requirements, there is a wide range of upholstery
options, from durable vinyl to half-leather, so both work and play applications
are covered. The driving position is still cramped but the headroom is extensive
and the elevated seating position for all passengers is excellent.
To acquaint myself with the Defender again, my test model was the 110 Double
Cab, which is also available with the 130-inch wheelbase. Basically, this five-seat
Double Cab is the Station Wagon but the rear load area is separate from the
passenger compartment and covered by a canvas back, with access gained via the
familiar Land Rover drop down tailgate.
It means tools or dogs can be transported away from passengers. Also, this configuration
fits with the many other uses found in the military, explorer and safari markets.
However, this compact load area, which also houses the spare wheel and the canvas
covering, is not secure so expensive tools cannot be left in it whilst the vehicle
It was certainly an experience to re-visit the Defender, and the Double Cab
version is a very specific tool. Other Double Cabs such as the Mitsubishi L200
and Nissan Navara have been popular: they drive much better on the road and
they are more comfortable with better equipment levels than the Defender. But
the mainstream market for these vehicles has become less and less in
this country, at least.
As a tough and versatile workhorse nothing really comes close to the Land Rover
Defender Double Cab or the Defender range as a whole, but the number of customers
really needing vehicles of this type is diminishing. In Europe the 'Green Police'
influence not just 'where' and 'when' we drive, but 'what' we drive. Hopefully,
worldwide demand means Land Rover can survive being built in the UK or
even elsewhere if TATA decides to go that route. But survive it must!
Reasons you might not want to get behind the wheel include primitive road holding,
too heavy and fuel hungry and it's uncomfortable. Road tax is also expensive.
But reasons you would pick a 'Landie' include the fact that it's undeniably
a tough and durable workhorse, has a practical and iconic design and is, not
to mince words, the ultimate off-roader. David Miles
Land Rover Defender 110 Double Cab | £26,905
Maximum speed: 82mph | 0-62mph: 15.8 seconds
Overall test MPG: 23.8mpg | Power: 120bhp | Torque: 265lb ft
CO2 291g/km | VED Band G £400 | Insurance group 12