Singapore - Fans of the original are unlikely to recognise the new stranger to wear the iconic ‘Defender’ name, but rather intriguingly, it hits all the right, reassuring notes with us, as current owners of a Discovery 4.
It’s probably not as odd as it sounds, considering the Defender’s price-point is similar to that of the Disco 4’s, with the current Disco 5 perched a rung above in terms of both price and poshness as it trundles closer to Range Rover territory.
In fact, with the new Defender’s amenable blend of rugged refinement and mod-con concessions to daily-drive sensibilities, there are even some folks who consider it to be the spiritual successor to the Discovery 4, especially in the 5+2-seating 110 variant (as a side-note, the 3dr Defender 90 should be in Singapore before H2 2021).
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Judging by the pre-equipped ‘Accessory Packs’ available, Land Rover seems to think so too, because there’s even an ‘Urban’ themed one, in addition to the predictably outdoorsy ‘Explorer’, ‘Country’ and ‘Adventure’ packs.
These themes come with Land Rover equipment and accessories to suit the different ‘characters’, and there’s little reason why the Defender won’t look just at home parked in front of the five-star hotel as it would out in the rough.
The previous generation Defender was a stripped-out 4x4 that stirred up plenty of retro feels, especially among people who’d never driven one on the roads/highways and/or lived with one as a daily drive.
Like many such cult vehicles, you’d have to be a true-believer to really get into an old Defender, and we can think of quite a few people who have taken the plunge into the deep end for its looks, but then clambered out again of that primordial pool rather quickly.
Off-road, the classic Defender is an indomitable force of nature for that once a month (or once every few months) you actually get to take it into the rough… if at all. However, it could be a tough vehicle to live with in the hustle and bustle of daily traffic, especially for examples that were modified and fettled to tackle mud, ruts and water crossings.
Reimagined for the 21st Century, the new Defender recaptures the essence of the original’s styling with its unmistakable silhouette, but the cabin and comfort levels have been pleasantly tricked-up.
In fact, the cabin could come as a shock to those more familiar with the utilitarian interior of the last generation Defender... and/or to whom comfort is considered a weakness!
We don’t mean it’s been transformed overnight into posh city with lux, plush leather and cutting-edge tech.
It's still the same fuss-free, no-nonsense cabin to be in, complete with lofty seating position for great visibility and plenty of bins, ledges and cubby-holes for storage.
The digital instrument cluster and centre touchscreen are modern concessions that are nicely juxtaposed against the brutalist Tonka-truck cabin architecture.
Everything is where it should be, as the interior is functional rather than fashionable. The common contact spots for touch and abrasions are hard points (as opposed to soft touch) to better resist wear and tear.
Thanks to the expansive glass areas and alpine windows (used to check out mountains and elevated alpine trails elsewhere, but in Singapore we use’em to spot concrete monoliths in the CBD), the cabin is airy and bright, with a delightful fishbowl effect from inside out so it never feels claustrophobic.
The other thing that hits you about the new Defender is its 5018 x 2105 x 1967mm (LxBxH) dimensions, which translates to quite a daunting proposition to manoeuvre around in tight confines.
Not to worry if you’re intimidated by its proportions, because the Defender also comes with ClearSight Ground View, which projects the blind spots onto the centre display for better visibility.
The demo car has been fitted with a roof-rack as standard, which adds a fixed 20cm to its already tall height, effectively precluding it from older multi-storey carparks.
However, we should qualify that we didn’t find ourselves consciously avoiding any of these on the few occasions we took the car out, so they aren’t a part of our usual driving routes, but YMMV.
Having said that, you very quickly become accustomed to the hulking size of the leviathan, especially with the 400hp/550Nm delivering surprisingly brisk progress – well, as brisk as any 2.3-tonne behemoth has any right to be, at any rate!
With the P400 engine, the Defender musters 400hp and 550Nm to be able to dispatch the 100km/h sprint from standstill in just over 6secs. Normally, we wouldn’t mention performance stats for something like the Defender, but it’s satisfying to see the other cars scuttle away from your path as you bulldoze your way down the road, headlights blazing and eye-to-eye with no one else but bus-drivers.
550Nm is decent enough torque to make light work of this 2.3-tonne heavyweight, because it never takes more than a gentle prod of the accelerator pedal to rouse it into a brisk lumbering pace. Despite the engine’s verve, the Defender isn’t something you want to drive in an unruly fashion; in fact it’s surprising how well it’ll waft along placidly when you hit cruising speed.
Today’s Defender is our favourite anti-hero that is far more than just an antiquated relic resting on the laurels of an illustrious 70+-year-old legacy – we’d certainly take a Defender over any one of the many pseudo-SUV crossovers that plague the market these days.
In addition to the full complement of 4x4 tech that enables it to make molehills of mountains if you wish on your rumble through the rambles, the Defender is versatile enough to hold its own in the concrete jungle.
Arguably, a dense city-state is a far more challenging environment to be operating in than the great outdoors, especially with oblivious pedestrians, kamikaze motorists and aggressive MAMIL on bikes to contend with, but like we mentioned at the start, the new Defender is funky enough to groove its way out of any jam.
STORY Zotiq Visuals
Land Rover Defender 110 3.0P MHEV
Engine 2996cc, V6, twin-charged
Transmission 8spd auto
Top Speed 191km/h
Fuel Consumption 9.9l/100km