OLD ICON: Land Rover sends its Defender 4x4 - in production since 1948 - out with a bang with desirable Heritage and Adventure models. Marvellous, Old Boy.
OLD ICON: Land Rover sends its Defender 4x4 - in production since 1948 - out with a bang with desirable Heritage and Adventure models. Marvellous, Old Boy. Richard Pardon

Land Rover Defender Heritage and Adventure road test review

SQUARE lines and bustling with a go-anywhere attitude, the Land Rover Defender has become an icon since first released in 1948.

Post-war, it was tank-like in durability and aptitude. The English workhorse quickly became loved and respected and a common ally for explorers, scientists, farmers and anyone with a sense of adventure… and Down Under we were known to give them some extra grunt by way of a Holden donk.

From the early days it remained largely unchanged and surpassed the VW Beetle on its way to being the world's longest continuous production vehicle.

Land Rover Defender Heritage. Photo: Contributed
Land Rover Defender Heritage. Photo: Contributed Richard Pardon

Some 2million were produced at the car maker's Solihull plant, and throughout it retained the same nomenclature, 90, 110 and 130 (which stands for inches). While maintaining the styling and ability has pleased the purists, it hasn't kept pace with modern safety or environmental demands.

The last Defender has now rolled off the production line, but sales went gangbusters over the past year, which included Heritage and Adventure special editions.

While the Heritage is minimalist and designed as an interpretation of the first offering, the Adventure has some serious mod-cons and extras designed to make the most of its hardcore mud-plugging prowess.

Land Rover Defender Adventure. Photo: Contributed
Land Rover Defender Adventure. Photo: Contributed

Comfort

The Alpine stereo and front electric window buttons are modern beacons amidst old-school operations. For anyone who has been driving for more than decade, there will be no confusion surrounding the dash operations and manual window winders in the longer wheelbase variants.

Yet for newcomers to the automotive game they may well struggle coming to terms with the minimalist approach. One button for air-conditioning, horizontal sliding controls for fan speed and a circular dial for temperature mix. That's about it.

Land Rover Defender Adventure. Photo: Contributed
Land Rover Defender Adventure. Photo: Contributed

The 90 only has two front doors, so getting in the back means climbing through the rear door to acces the occasional use back seats.

Hopping inside can take some effort. The 250mm clearance can mean a climbing battle for those with limited flexibility.

Heritage Editions come with a green dash fascia to match the external colour scheme, whereas the Adventures get some groovier finishes and even plush leather trim. Leather in a Defender - who would have thought?

Land Rover Defender Heritage. Photo: Contributed
Land Rover Defender Heritage. Photo: Contributed

On the road

Rarely these days do you find an operation manual thinner than the Old Testament. Not in the Defender, but corner with enthusiasm and you'll soon be saying "oh God".

Especially in the short wheelbase 90 Heritage, it can feel somewhat unwieldy until you become comfortable with its ability (or lack thereof).

Steering the Defender can take some effort. You are at the helm of a small truck, and it feels like it. Parking can be challenging and it takes some practice to get the approaches spot-on.

Providing the power is a 2.2-litre diesel which can only muster 90 kilowatts, but has a useful 360 Newton metres of torque. You certainly won't be entering any quarter mile contests, but the Defender does a reasonable job on the highway and is acceptably thrifty on fuel courtesy of the six-speed manual box.

Land Rover Defender Heritage. Photo: Contributed
Land Rover Defender Heritage. Photo: Contributed

Off road is where the Defender does its best work. The Heritage edition is almost too pretty to be sullied, but there is no doubting the ability of both offerings.

Outstanding entry and departure angles, low range and the sizable ride height make easy work of the road less travelled.

What do you get?

The Heritage gets the Grasmere green metallic paintwork and white roof, old-school grille and headlamps, HUE 166 graphics on the side which are a tribute to the inaugural registration (hence its nickname Huey), almond cloth upholstery with vinyl sides and backs, CD stereo with Bluetooth connectivity and Heritage logo rubber floor mats.

Adventure models come in orange, white or grey, with a black grille, wheel arches, special bonnet, roof, and rear door, gloss black alloys, leather trim, extra underbody treatment and Ebony Alston headlining.

Land Rover Defender Heritage. Photo: Contributed
Land Rover Defender Heritage. Photo: Contributed

Running costs

Much better than our last Defender experience, these models returned about 10 litres for every 100km. That's pretty good going considering the oil-burner is heaving two tonnes. Parts can be expensive, but the Defender is renowned for its robustness.

Practicality

This has always been the off-roader you got dirty, then washed it with a high-pressure hose - inside and out. The doors take some effort when closing, climbing in and out becomes part of your daily exercise regime, and even the station wagon doesn't have much leg and knee room in the second row.

The 110 does have excellent boot space, and when rolling the rear seats forward we packed two adult bikes standing upright.

Land Rover Defender Adventure. Photo: Contributed
Land Rover Defender Adventure. Photo: Contributed Richard Pardon

Funky factor

Invoking smiles and attention from onlookers, it was the classic green which proved a crowd favourite. People loved the Heritage's faithfulness to the original Huey.

Land Rover Defender Heritage. Photo: Contributed
Land Rover Defender Heritage. Photo: Contributed

The lowdown

Driving the Defender was nostalgically enjoyable. Unlike most cars today, you really have to drive. Concentrate on steering, time the gear shifts and corner with precision.

They are certainly not for everyone, but Landie lovers will be frothing at the concept. Getting your hands on one may be a struggle. They sold out quickly in most locations, with only 62 Heritage and 71 Adventure editions making their way here.

Land Rover has done an outstanding job of recreating the old yet with modern conveniences, and the final models are a fitting farewell to a legend on and off the road.

Land Rover Defender Adventure. PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED
Land Rover Defender Adventure. PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED Richard Pardon

What matters most

What we liked: Awesome combination of old and new with Heritage, a handful but still fun to drive.

What we'd like to see: The next generation Defender due in 2018 maintain the nameplate hallmarks, extra grab handles to improve access.

Servicing and warranty: Three-year/100,000km warranty with roadside assist. Servicing intervals are 20,000km or annual.

Land Rover Defender Heritage. Photo: Contributed
Land Rover Defender Heritage. Photo: Contributed Richard Pardon

Vital statistics

Models: Land Rover Defender 90 Heritage and 110 Adventure.

Details: Three-door four-seat four-wheel drive and five-door five-seat four-wheel drive.

Engine: 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel generating maximum power of 90kW @ 3500rpm and peak torque of 360Nm @ 2000rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed manual.

Consumption: 10.2 litres/100km (combined average); 11.1L/100km.

CO2: 266g/km; 295g/km.

Towing: 3500kg (braked); tow ball 150kg.

Bottom line: 90 Heritage Edition $54,900; 110 Adventure Edition $68,510.

Land Rover Defender Heritage. Photo: Contributed
Land Rover Defender Heritage. Photo: Contributed Richard Pardon


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