Land Rover Defender SUV
- Unbeatable off-road
- Holds its value well
- An automotive icon
- Fairly agricultural interior
- Expensive to buy and run
- Noisy, uncomfortable and slow
“If you need outright off-road ability more than on-road manners, then the Land Rover Defender is unbeatable.”
You may have noticed that Land Rover is making something of a big deal about 2015 being the Defender's last year on sale. It's been available in one form or another for very nearly 70 years, but has finally been defeated by ever-more-stringent EU emissions regulations. September 2015 marked the car's last month in production, although you should still be able to find them at dealerships for the next couple of months.
Searching around for Defender rivals is a tricky task. Put simply, it doesn’t have many. There are a couple of models, such as the Jeep Wrangler and Mercedes G-Class, which offer similarly rugged looks and off-road ability, but they cost considerably more to buy and run. The Defender has always outsold these cars, however, and neither of them has the pedigree of the beloved ‘Landie’.
Cars like the Mitsubishi Shogun and Toyota Land Cruiser are much better on-road than the Defender, but not quite as good off it, while ‘in-house’ rivals like the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover are more like luxury cars with (admittedly excellent) off-road ability. Yet they’re still not in the same league as the Defender.
As much charm as the Defender has, however, there's no denying that it leaves plenty to be desired as an everyday car. The 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine is noisy, rattly and not very efficient. It only manages to produce 118bhp and can’t top 30mpg, while it’ll cost you more than £500 a year to tax. Its 0-62mph time is a leisurely 15.8 seconds and it can’t even top 100mph, either. This definitely isn’t a performance car.
The Defender's off-road biased suspension and knobbly tyres don’t help comfort, either, giving it a bouncy ride, while the spartan interior will come has a shock to those used to modern cars – basic versions don’t even have a radio. Upgrade to the County trim level, however, and you get luxuries like electric windows, a CD player and MP3 connectivity, while the ‘luxurious’ XS model gets Bluetooth phone connectivity and air-conditioning.
You can have your Defender in a range of versions. There are three basic sizes – 90, 110 and 130 (relating to the distance between the front and rear wheels) – as well as a variety of bodystyles. The Station Wagon concentrates on carrying people, while there are also double and single-cab pickups, the van-like Utility Wagon and a bare chassis cab, on which you can mount a custom-made rear body.
If you’re quick, you may be able to get your hands on one of the limited-edition last-of-the-line Defenders. There's the off-road-focused Adventure Edition, the even more luxurious Autobiography and the Heritage Edition (pictured above) that features green paint and styling details that hark back to the very earliest days of the Land Rover. If you manage to get your hands on one of these, it's likely to hold its value even better than a standard model and is surely destined to become a sought-after collector's item.
Unless you’re planning to use your Defender as a working vehicle, then you could never really call it good value. Its basic and agricultural feel doesn’t mean a basic price – this is a remarkably expensive car to buy.
Fuel efficiency isn’t a Land Rover Defender strong point, but insurance is surprisingly cheap
The Land Rover Defender is slow and is difficult to drive, but has greater off-road ability than almost anything else on sale
‘Utilitarian’ is probably the politest way of describing the Land Rover Defender interior
There’s less interior space than you’d think, but the Land Rover Defender is available in a wide variety of body shapes
The aged design of the Land Rover Defender means the mechanicals are simple but safety is poor