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· LRO Founder
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Set foot in any country in the world and the likelihood is that you will see a good old British Land Rover more likely than not being used for anything between law enforcing to as a beast of burden.

A British icon known the world over, just like the London Taxi or a Morgan sports car, the Land Rover was first launched in 1948. In its current Land Rover Defender form it is still driven by Royalty, the military forces around the world, warlords, explorers, farmers, country landowners; not forgetting the Police, Fire and Ambulance services.

There are several different Defender models with a whole host of body options based on 90, 110 and 130-inch wheelbase lengths. In this day and age how British is that, to offer your range of models defined still using inches to describe their length - do the bureaucrats of Brussels know?

Because the demands from users around the world are so varied, Land Rover, in addition to the body options ranging from a pick up to a station wagon to a tipper, offer a huge selection of accessories. These range from protective chequer plate trim, to surf board carriers, to winches, to gun storage security cases. They even offer different types of tyres to suit the customer’s requirements and an extra heavy-duty suspension system is available for 110 and 130 models. Of course peacekeeping forces around the world need vehicles with extra protective bodywork, so that too is available. The Land Rover Defender is the complete tool for the job, whatever that job may be.

Land Rover, once a British company in its own right but now a member of the Ford world empire, says the Defender is still a direct descendant to the original Land Rover of 1948.

It still retains the simple construction robust steel chassis with bolt-on aluminium body panels and permanent four-wheel drive. Simplicity, strength, durability, versatile and easy to repair have been, and still are, the hallmarks of the Land Rover.

True, the vehicles have evolved as the competition, mainly from the Japanese brands, has become tougher. The emergence of Japanese 4x4s with better interior equipment levels, that are easier to drive and offer greater levels of comfort and reliability, have taken sales from Land Rover Defender. You can see for yourself how many UK farmers now buy double-cab pickups when once the only vehicle you saw in a farmyard other than a tractor was a Land Rover. Today Land Rover sells around 25,000 Defenders worldwide each year. The figure remains the same, year in and year out, despite the fact that the 4x4 SUV and pick–up markets still continue to grow significantly.

Still, Land Rover has responded in recent years to the increase in competition. Now we have Defenders with central locking, electric windows, better heating and ventilation systems and a revised facia display. My test car, the top of the range Defender 110 XS Station Wagon with nine seats, even had part leather trim, heated windscreen and heated front seats, a joy because the heating system is still primitive.

This particular Land Rover is not cheap, costing £27,795 including VAT, about the same as a pretty good, modern, fairly luxurious, large 4x4. Indeed it is more expensive than the cheapest diesel Land Rover Discovery, a much better and more modern vehicle. Even with its updates, the Defender XS cannot be called a luxury vehicle, ruggedly functional, durable and suited to accommodating people wearing muddy boots rather than city slickers. Its cavernous load area space with folding rear seats and durable load area lining still allows it to be used as a workhorse when needed. The fact that it has a maximum towing capacity of 3,500kg, or 3.5 tonnes and a payload of 995kg, also maintains its workhorse status.

Now I haven’t driven one of these vehicles for years and I was surprised to see that most of the basic controls, heating, wipers, lights and so forth hadn’t changed in all that time, so you can see why customers have been emigrating to more modern machinery.

Driving the Defender is not a comfortable experience due to its front and rear live beam axles and coil springs with dampers. The steering is vague and the 16-inch wheels, high 8.5-inch ground clearance with long travel suspension needed for off-roading are not comfortable combinations on-road. Even with its cavernous interior, the high up driving position is cramped for shoulder and arm room. Given the agricultural driveability and the number of turns of the steering wheel needed to manoeuvre the Defender out of tight spaces, you would not buy one of these vehicles unless you really needed the ultimate off-roading performance that the Defender gives you.

Powering the Defender is a 2.5-litre, direct injection, five-cylinder diesel engine. Again this is no state-of-the-art unit you would find in a Mercedes or BMW 4x4 but it is durable and reliable. Power output is a modest 122bhp with 300Nm (221 lb ft) of torque. Drive to all four wheels is through a heavy-duty five speed manual transmission with a high and low ratio transfer box and selectable differential locks for maximum off-road traction.

Performance figures are not officially given by Land Rover as it is a workhorse rather than a conventional 4x4. Suffice to say the legal maximum speed can be maintained with ease and the 0-62mph time is around 18 seconds. Fuel economy should be around the 27mpg mark for on-road driving and CO2 emissions are 299g/km.

The Land Rover, now in Defender form, is still a world-beater as a rugged off-roading tool and even today it is still the benchmark vehicle for off-road comparisons. If you want better on-road performance and car-like interior sophistication then Land Rover have it covered with their much more modern Discovery and Range Rovers. The fact that the Defenders still sell in significant numbers means there is still the demand for them, for now anyway.

Living in the country as I do, and seeing the snow fall during the Christmas and New Year holidays, having the Defender on the driveway just gave me the knowledge that whatever the weather, I was going to remain mobile. It was a nice feeling.

MILESTONES: Land Rover Defender 110 XS Station Wagon Td5. Price £27,995. Engine: five-cylinder, direct injection diesel, 122bhp, 300Nm of torque. Transmission: 5-speed manual with high/low ratio transfer box and differential locks. Performance: 81mph, 0-62mph in 17.4 seconds. Fuel economy: 26.9mpg, CO2 299g/km. Insurance group: 9. Residual value: Estimated retained value 54% after 3-years/36,000 miles.

For: Workhorse 4x4, durable, great 4x4 system, strong diesel engine, excellent towing capacity, low depreciation. Against: A motoring experience from a bygone age, crude on-road performance, slow, poor equipment levels, workhorse only.
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