You’ve read the on-road review, now find out about what the 2020 Land Rover Defender is like out in the rough, slippery, loose and muddy stuff.
I’ll put it out there that I am not a hard-core off-roader. Give me some clear tarmac and a sports car and I’m in heaven. Mud and puddles are fun, but only in someone else’s car.
Which is just as well, because the new Land Rover Defender is here in 110 form and it likes mud. As with the road section, the company took us on a two hour off-road sojourn in the bush west of Sydney’s Blue Mountains.
Defender 110 P400
Before we set off, Land Rover Experience leaders took us through the cars we were driving. There was a mix of S and SE spec cars with all of them running the P400e 294kW straight-six mild hybrid. The important figure there is the strong 550Nm available between 2000 and 5000rpm.
Neither of the two diesels on offer were available to drive because the punters have gone for the oil-burners like people possessed.
The team explained we we would be on Goodyear Wrangler tyres, which are optional. The standard tyres are Ramblers. And for our trip into the slippery stuff, the tyres would down a few pounds.
Additionally, the cars each had the Advanced Off-Road Capabilitywhich adds All Terrain Progress Control, Terrain Response 2 and Configurable Terrain Response for $2210 on all but First Edition and X (it’s standard on the latter, obviously).
All Australian-delivered Defenders (as at August 2020) have air suspension, starting with 290mm ride hight, adding 75mm for off-road height and then another 70mm when things get really sticky. It will also drop 50mm for “elegant” entry and egress.
At offroad height, you get 38 degrees of approach, 28 of breakover and 40 degrees of departure and super-short overhangs that don’t drag over humps.
What’s it like?
Designed for the hard stuff, the Defender is supreme. Now, as I’ve already said, I’m not going to pretend that I know what I’m doing. We had radio contact with guides, a leisurely pace and some reasonably challenging stuff.
Speaking to folks who know what they’re doing, this was a walk in the park for the Defender. I mean to say, we didn’t even drive through a river, which I’ve done in an Evoque, no less.
Off we went down a dusty road and then into a steep descent. As you’ll see in the video, we switched to low-range, activated muddy ruts mode which raises the ride height and sets the diffs to stun and away we went.
Hill Descent control kicked in and you control the speed with the cruise control + and – switch on the steering wheel. Low range also meant the car climbed out the other side without argument.
It was a pretty basic run-through really, but the point I need to ram home is that the Defender made it easy. Despite measuring over five metres with the spare hanging off the back, the Defender is pretty easy to place on narrow tracks and has a tight turning circle.
The different modes are finely judged, but that really comes down to the way the controls are tuned – the steering isn’t too quick or heavy, the wheel is a good size, the throttle is very sensibly soft in off-road modes and the brakes are just-so.
The Defender threw great gobs of confidence at a nervous off-roader meaning I was really able to get into the spirit of things as I felt the worry lift from my shoulders. Obviously we were never going to get into grief, but still.
Someone asked me the other day how it stacks up against a Toyota Land Cruiser 200 Series. Off-road, I have no idea. But on-road, the Defender smashes it to pieces.
Both are obviously incredibly capable but the Defender – given its reputation – will no doubt more than hold up its end of the bargain. But I’ll leave that to people who know more than me.
The Toyota’s interior is from another world, the Defender’s bang up to date, super comfortable and quiet when you’re out and about, at least in the P400. It’s also cheaper by quite a margin, unless you go for a boggo Cruiser. It’s vastly better and more efficient than a Patrol, too. Pajero trails by some margin.
As for me, there’s no other off-roader I’d choose. It’s comfortable, full of tech and gave me such confidence in the slippery bits. I know its competitors are extremely capable, but this comfortable? Nope. This advanced? Nope.
This cool? Definitely not.
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.