6th September 2021
An early start this morning as the Land Rover Defender 90 that is this week’s wheels has arrived early doors at my own request. The reason is I have a long drive ahead and the Defender is the only car to hand. Given its size and bias towards off-roading, especially with some of the options on this car, a trip to the other end of the country will be an adventure even on A-roads and motorways.
Mission accomplished yesterday without a hitch or even a twinge of back ache after 450 miles. Having driven Defenders before, I knew performance wouldn’t be an issue, but what came as a revelation is just how comfortable and refined the Defender is for this sort of drive. Very little wind noise despite the boxy appearance of the styling, minimal tyre noise at high speed, and the 3.0-litre turbodiesel is superbly refined.
Back home today and more motorway miles has the Defender registering north of 40mpg average consumption. The 42.0mpg I see on the computer easily bests the claimed figure of 40.7mpg from Land Rover, so I’m very impressed by this as I’ve been driving with the flow of traffic at the speed limit. What all of this has shown is the Defender is a far more rounded machine than its heritage might dupe people into thinking.
It may be the short wheelbase model, but the 90 comes with masses of rear seat space for two, or even three. Both of my kids fit with acres of room to spare and Mrs S was happy to travel back there this afternoon when my daughter bagged the passenger seat to be ‘co-pilot’ in the Land Rover. The only downside here is the boot is, obviously, smaller than the 110 model’s, but still fine for a supermarket sweep.
Optional £255 off-road tyres on this Defender 90 really set off the looks, especially sitting on the painted steel wheels that give this car a more utilitarian look like that of original Defenders. Having seen several others on the road now, these wheels and tyres are the ones to have in my view and there seems no discernible detriment to the handling or cabin noise levels, even on more broken-up local roads.
I’ve discovered one point about the Defender 90 I think I would struggle to live with: the electric sliding front seats. Getting the kids in and out of the car several times today, the tip and slide mechanism is just way too slow. I’d prefer a simple manual set-up and do it the keep fit way. The only saving grace is the kids are small enough to jump in before the seat has to extend all the way forwards.
This week has been an eye-opener for me. I knew the Defender was unstoppable off-road, but I didn’t appreciate how good it is as a daily driver or long-distance cruiser. In fact, the latter is its true forte in many ways and goes a very long way to justifying the considerable list price or lease costs of this car. As a family SUV, it’s up there with the best of them and has the added appeal of being a true go-anywhere vehicle.