I posted this elsewhere and thought I should give it a go here too…
I’ve recently decided to buy a Defender 90 Station Wagon TD5 with Freestyle alloys. Friends and family will probably think I have a slate off, but my long-suffering wife is happy as long as she “can get from A to B”. So that’s the real challenge sorted.
I spent a month or so doing my homework online, at the showroom and perusing any magazine I could get my hands on, making sure the Defender was indeed for me. But sifting through all the available information was another challenge.
Official Land Rover spiel brought a wry smile with allusions to “effortless driveability for relaxed crusing” and an “improved windscreen wiper system” that “quietly and efficiently” clears “melted snow and ice”. That’s basically water to you and me. And I can look forward to feeling “…the wind roar through as Defender makes pace – be in touch with the outside.” Yes… Quite.
Generally, the older Defender seemed well liked if a little thirsty and expensive to maintain. So what is the new TD5 version like? Well, it depends who you ask, of course.
I see the Defender as a scaled down truck so we should forget about creature comforts. It’s unashamedly rugged and tough yet some test drivers are clearly disgruntled, to say the least, after spending even a little time within the admittedly basic cabin design. It’s cramped, they say. The optional AC unit is a joke. There’s no room for your right elbow and not much for your legs either if you’re 6 foot plus. Unless you drive the County version you will have limited space to recline your seat due to rear bulkhead restrictions. And so on…
Having driven a lamentably basic Ford Ka over 700 miles from Belfast to the Dingle Peninsula and back in one day, I have to say none of the above comes even close to rattling my cage.
So, comfort aside, what can we find out about performance?
Some spit out their dummies because the 122bhp output lags behind the 136 (138?) of the Discovery, but it’s still a 13% improvement over the Defender of 10 years ago. It’s worth noting too that the torque of the electronically injected, 5-cylinder turbodiesel engine has been improved by 17.5%.
One harassed reviewer thought the performance of the latest engine was “at best miserable” while another enthused, “Performance is great.” Acceleration, says the former, is less than acceptable but, the latter reviewer happily reports that, “Acceleration between 40 and 70 mph is impressive even in 5th and the vehicle effortlessly picks up speed…” 0–60 is rated at somewhere around 16 sec.
The electronic throttle comes in for abuse and praise too: “No good” off-road and when you come into a corner but it makes for “a smoother drive and less wear on all that expensive metalwork.” Somebody needs to think again.
The optional Electronic Traction Control seems to assist some drivers while aggravating others. Never “let Mr Land Rover convince you of his ETC…” we read.
Conflicting judgments and advice will only make your head spin. Generally though, in my opinion the most recent incarnation of the Defender is genuinely robust and reliable. If I wanted a glorified car l’d buy the Freelander. The Defender 90 TD5 is mainly a utility vehicle without girly frills, and to be sure, road handling is barely adequate at best. Off-road it appears to be a very capable machine indeed, versatile and powerful, second to none.
Fuel consumption is OK at around 25mpg and with 12,000 miles between each oil change and service there is little to complain about compared to earlier models. (Would more frequent oil changes be useful?)
If any of you would like to comment, your views would be welcomed and thoroughly mixed with the wide range of opinions I have already gathered.
I will be visiting my local dealer next month. Delivery in January? I think I want it in black…