Unless you live on the moon you’ll be aware that the new Land Rover Defender has finally landed. With such a lengthy gestation period the weight of expectation was predictably huge. And equally predictably, some people don’t like it.
I can see where they’re coming from. The original Land Rover was a utilitarian beast, created to meet the needs of austerity-hit farmers in post-war Britain. Street cred simply didn’t figure in Maurice Wilks’ vision for the car. Years later, the county set – pun very much intended – started getting in on the action and this back-to-basics farm vehicle started to take on an oddly aspirational image. Fundamentally, though, it was still a cheap, tough and above all, basic, machine.
The new Defender may be tough, but it’s certainly not cheap or basic. And this is where the objections start. Instead of rosey-cheeked hill farmers it’s going to be bought by people called Harry who spend their entire time trying to look rugged while driving through Knightsbridge. Whatever the new Defender is, it’s certainly not the old Defender.
And you know what? I’m fine with that. Because behind all the lifestyle bunk lies what should be a seriously capable car. It’s got a 900mm wading depth, a 38-degree approach angle and 291mm of ground clearance. Options include a 4.5-tonne winch, a snorkel air intake (for even more wading depth) and a ready-made roof tent. You can bet the interior finish and the on-road dynamics will be a world away from those of the old Defender (both of which were, frankly, dire).
There are many other differences. Notably the price, which would now make most actual farmers laugh all the way to the nearest Mitsubishi pick up showroom. But things move on. Once you accept that the 2019 Defender is not really a direct replacement for the original you start to understand what a brilliant product it really is. I love the idea of sticking a snorkel on one and driving across Mongolia. And I’m sure Harry would too.