Filling the 'shoes' of an icon: Test driving the Land Rover Defender 90
PETALING JAYA, March 24 — If you are the kind of driver who enjoys driving sporty cars that sit low to the ground, have a responsive handling and dramatic exhaust notes, well you might want to go in for an exception here.
The new Land Rover Defender is the total opposite to sports cars — it rides higher, leans in corners, is huge, has a rather lazy response, and is far from agile — yet I can guarantee you would still enjoy being behind the wheel of one.
A little bit of background: This is the new-generation Land Rover Defender 90, the three-door version that was launched here in Malaysia last year, about one year after the longer five-door Defender 110 arrived our shores.
Being an all-new car, it is of course night and day from the original Series I that was established back in the 1940s.
Thing is, the new Defender had big shoes to fill.
It needed to replace an icon and at the same time, stay true to the roots of what a Defender is.
In order to do that, in this day and age, the new Defender will need to be backed up by a host of high-tech gizmos which I found to be useful.
These include active differential for optimised traction in all surfaces, and a twin speed gearbox (high and low range in old school term) that is electronically-controlled.
The Defender also comes with Terrain Response programme — accessible via the centre screen — with Normal, Mud and Ruts, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Sand and Rock Crawl modes, and depending on the engaged settings, the air suspension will raise the car by 70mm and an additional 75mm for ground clearances.
On top of that, there’s Wade Sensing mode which enables the Defender to be driven while submerged by up to 900mm making it handy for off-road driving or even in the city when escaping flash floods I suppose.
Another feature that is rather cool is the 3D Surround Camera which uses cameras around the car and below it then projects the footages onto the centre screen, creating an ‘invisible hood’ for the driver to see much more clearly what’s under the car.
One of the gizmos in the Land Rover Defender 90.
Despite being the short wheelbase model, the three-door Defender 90 is not a small car, measuring 4,583mm long, 2,008mm wide and 1,969mm high.
That is simply wider and higher than a Honda CR-V.
Inside, you sit pretty high and have a commanding view ahead of you with a large, flat hood up front.
Now, this particular Defender 90 is in the P300 trim, so the 2.0-litre Ingenium turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 300hp and 400Nm of torque.
What lies beneath the hood.
Since the car weighs over two tonnes, it surely did not accelerate or handle like a sports car, and it did not have to.
Accelerating at highway speeds can be a little underwhelming, but we have to bear in mind that we are pushing a large chunk of metal through the air.
Power delivery was smooth though and more than sufficient for 95 per cent of its usage.
When pushed in corners, it was quite a bit of deal considering its mass but thanks to the Adaptive Dynamics dampers which read up to 500 times per second, the air suspension kept the car’s body in check regardless of driving conditions.
The ride can be floaty and tippy toe when changing directions, at the same time I kind of enjoyed it when the rear end squats under hard accelerations, for instance when leaving toll gates.
Appearance wise, I thought the Defender is a really cool vehicle to be seen in and to drive around town with its steep windshield as well as flat windows.
The interior of the Land Rover Defender 90.
In this sense, it was prominent among dull traffic, outstanding like a sore thumb.
It appears modern but at the same time you know that it is based off an iconic retro car.
All in all, the new Land Rover Defender 90 is a great interpretation of an icon, packing all of its ethos while keeping true to its roots.
Trouble is, the new Defender is like a couple of times pricier than the original car.
It is not precisely a direct upgrade for the owners of the previous-gen Defender.
Now, it is more of an expensive toy that is going to spend most of its weekends parked alongside supercars rather than be driven through Borneo jungles.
Enjoy a ride with the Land Rover Defender 90.