I remember sticking my head into the wheel well of the Defender when it was first unveiled in a suburban Mumbai showroom. It was not the smartest thing to do, but it gave me critical insight into its abilities. Give or take a few years in its 67-year history, the Defender has been defending its status as the ultimate go-anywhere vehicle and has seen service in wars, natural disasters and lately, luxury resort porches. The 110 that I was driving for a few days is the middle child, with the 90 being the 2-door variant that is closest in inspiration to the original, while the 130 is the newest addition to the family, adding a third row of seating.
Land Rover Defender 110 (Petrol 2.0 HSE)
Indestructible inside and out
It’s the sheer size and design of the Defender that arrests you. The reductive design philosophy that keeps lines as straight and simple as possible and using elements that hark back to the original, this is a true reimagination of an icon. Exposed rivets, massive grab handles at the dashboard ends, the Alpine windows and the accessory packs…all reminders of the legacy of this non-destructible SUV. Only now, it’s all blended with exotic materials, the best 4x4 electronics that Land Rover makes and most importantly, an aluminium monocoque body that makes all the difference to its driving dynamics.
The 110 for 2023 has been refreshed with the newest version of JLR’s Pivi Pro system, relayed by a slick-looking 11.9in touchscreen with a curved display that highlights the emphasis on every bit of detail Land Rover has lavished over the Defender. In its now updated version, wireless phone mirroring for Apple CarPlay is supported, as is wireless charging on the conveniently placed pad under the armrest. It does heat up your phone considerably though and should be used for emergencies only. USB-C and USB-A ports are provided for, front and back. The system does take half a second longer than we’re used to with other luxury car infotainment systems, but it is well presented and easy to use. The instrument cluster is a hybrid of analog and digital (on the variant we drove) and could do with more colour.
Modern JLR cars have had great surround-view cameras for a while now, but the Defender also throws in Clear Sight Ground View which stitches up images from all the available front cameras and shows you what lies beneath the mahoosive bonnet. Sort of like the new Mercedes GLC, but to be fair, we saw it first on the Defender during its launch. Even the onboard 4x4 display shows nerdy info like approach and departure angles based on how the suspension is set up and which Terrain Response mode is selected. Switch to rock crawl mode and the suspension lifts to its highest setting, allowing you to almost look at the BEST bus driver eye to eye! The commanding presence that the Defender has on crowded city streets is magnified to a fearful level and traffic just appears to move out of your way like Moses parting the Red Sea.
The ventilated seats and the 700W Meridian sound system can easily make you forget that you’re in a vehicle that can ford rivers. You’re cocooned from the outside world almost in the same manner as the Range Rover and it drives on all-terrain tires and gets no helping hand from the boxy aerodynamics either. But on the inside, the Defender is actually like a bodyguard against the elements. There’s even an air ionizer and purifier that displays what the external AQI is and that only makes you appreciate the cabin comfort of the Defender even more.
It’s no featherweight but the 300hp petrol engine propelled it to triple digit speeds briskly, albeit with a slight turbo lag. But once over 2000rpm, it pulls linearly all the way to illegal speeds and does so with authority, simply impaling bad roads with its weight and air suspension. There is no Sport mode or even paddle shifters, so Land Rover doesn’t want to pretend that the Defender has sporty intentions. But what you do get is a supreme view out of the cabin, stress-free driving, ability to drop a couple of wheels off the tarmac and beat the ghat traffic too. There is a fair bit of body roll, which is expected when you’re seated on the second floor but it’s not unnerving, thanks to the great big steering wheel that is also precise. It may not be a drivers car but when you drive it around the whole day, you might actually emerge fresher! You can drive it with complete abandon on our battered roads, throw in as much cargo as you like, get pampered by its creature comforts and all while looking like Schwarzennegger in Commando. Well, at least feeling like it.
Intimidating is what the Defender is at first, but get behind the wheel and it easily becomes second nature. The visibility, helped by the plethora of high-resolution cameras is incredible all around, yes, even with the spare wheel mounted on the tailgate! Both rows of seat offer phenomenal comfort and space and its unmatched off-road prowess is something you may never test out completely. But it’s there and that’s what you pay the big money for. If you love timeless design and the idea of venturing off the beaten path, the Defender is a dream come true.
Stands out, even in such rarefied company as the Mercedes G-Wagon and the Toyota Landcruiser. Unmatched design and capability.
|4cyl turbo petrol
|0-100km/hr in 7.1secs