|What do you think of Landrovers? Read more of the debate that is literally rocking the farming world to its foundation!!!|
And in its latest guise, you will struggle to spot anything too different from the outside. But under the bonnet there’s a new engine and gearbox and the cabin has had a bit of a facelift.
A completely reconfigured dash groups all the vehicle’s switches, dials and buttons on one central console.
Say goodbye to those wafty heater/blower control levers that we all held with so much affection. They are replaced by boringly straightforward – and effective – automotive-style dials that direct hot (or cold if you go for air-con) air to the place that you actually want it.
Funky circular vents borrowed from the Ford Focus send a useful blast of wind through to the back, helping to keep the stench of wet dog and calf-scours out of the driver’s nostrils.
As part of this radical interior overhaul, the Defender gains a set of “tweeters”.
“What on God’s earth are tweeters?” I hear you ask.
Tweeters are high frequency speakers that improve the quality of sound for the “ICE” system.
No, the iconic off-roader has not just gained a freezer box: ICE – or In-Car Entertainment – is boy-racer lingo for the wireless.
But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Although the Land Rover designers tell us they have given the seats a firmer foam filling, the driving position is still arse-achingly uncomfortable.
Yep, you’re still pressed right up against the door and still forced to adopt a list that would put any sea-going vessel out of commission.
The trough that was once home to fencing pliers, invoices, shotgun cartridges, Elastrator rings and Extra Strong Mints has gone and those flappy fresh-air vents are welded shut.
That doesn’t mean the windshield is any deeper. It still feels like you are peering out of WWII gun emplacement as you squint through the shallow screen with its 3in wipers.
Endearing as it is, this strange, very British quirkiness has seen many farmers switch to ultra-reliable runabouts designed and built by our clever friends in the Far East. The Defender just doesn’t have the reputation for dependability that we have come to expect from modern vehicles.
And Land Rover management has addressed that. Under the bonnet of the 2007 model lurks the same 4-cylinder common-rail power-plant and six-speed gearbox used in Ford’s Transit vans.
Hundreds of thousands have been built and have covered billions of miles very reliably – just ask any Sun-reading, pie-eating, Embassy-smoking white-van-man.
So what do the changes mean for performance and handling?
Don’t expect an awesome turnabout here. The engine is rated at exactly the same power output as the outgoing Td5 motor, so unladen it pulls much like it predecessor.
But we are told that torque reserves are much increased (up from about 300Nm to 360Nm) and both power and torque curves are much flatter through the rev range.
First gear is now 32% lower than before, meaning that in most instances second is fine for pulling away. Conversely, fifth is much leggier and at 70mph the engine trundles away at 3000rpm.
Slot into sixth and this drops to a respectable 2400rpm. Unlike its predecessor, there is no longer the nail-biting wait as the engine summons up the extra oomph to get going in top gear.
In fact, it feels like it could pull and pull until you hit the 82mph speed limiter – Mr Land Rover, you really are a killjoy.
Winding our way through narrow country lanes, Defender enthusiasts will be pleased to know that handling remains much the same. Land-lubbers beware, it still handles like a tea-clipper in the Bay of Biscay, a symptom of the coil-springs that make the Land Rover such a capable performer in the mud.
Did you know that since 1948 almost 2m Defenders have been built and it is estimated that 75% of those are still running. About 23000 are built each year and 5000-6000 of those are sold in the UK. The 2007 Defender uses the same basi chassis design as the model launched in 1984 and will cost about £400 more than outgoing Td5 variants
“It’s gripped. It’s sorted. Let’s OFF-ROAD!”
With the immortal words of the Fast Show’s 4×4 enthusiasts ringing in my ears, thanks to Farmlife columnist Charlie Flindt, we head off the beaten track.
As you would expect, the new Defender handles most things you can throw at it.
Its brake callipers clatter away noisily as the traction control system tries to make some sense of near-vertical slopes, the slick road tyres trying desperately to find purchase on the slippery clays of the Malvern Hills.
This is extreme off-roading. Put aside all your criticisms of Land Rovers, you know that when a Defender starts to slide things are beginning to get serious.
Even Land Rover-loathing Charlie is caught smiling as he attacks the course, refusing (or forgetting?) to bother with the diff-lock.
It’s either down to his extraordinary driving skill that he made it through or testament to the Defender’s mud-flinging ability. I’ll let you decide.