The last original Land Rover Defender rolled off the assembly line in 2016, ending 68 years of continuous production. It was a sad day for fans of the no-nonsense vehicle that was driven by everyone from the Queen and Winston Churchill to explorers and farmers - and even parents on the school run.
Towards the end of its life, the reality was that the Defender was a throwback. Noisy, slow and cramped inside, it was a heavy-duty drive. Despite its faults, it was quirky and durable, so when it came to designing an all-new Defender it was never going to be easy. Land Rover wisely decided not to create an evolution of the outgoing vehicle. Instead, it's a Defender for the 21st Century. It looks like nothing else on (or off the road), and fans of the original will be pleased to see familiar design elements.
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The car's boxy profile is unmistakably Defender, with its distinctive bonnet and roofline, not to mention the spare wheel on the side-opening tailgate and the slim roof windows. Available as a three-door '90' or longer five-door '110' (which can seat six), at launch, buyers can choose between petrol, mild hybrid petrol and diesel engines, with a plug-in hybrid to follow.
Bigger, more comfortable, more spacious and more refined than its predecessor, the new Defender has serious road presence and is also a pleasure to drive with surprisingly good road manners. Off-road it's what we've come to expect from a Land Rover. Whether it's rivers, slippery slopes, thick mud or steep descents and climbs, it's effortless everywhere. Of course, most 4x4s go through life without experiencing so much as a muddy field, but it's great to know that your vehicle can manage whatever is thrown at it - even if it's just for those extreme weather days when we're confronted with snow, ice and floods.
Naturally, the new Defender is packed with the latest technology. Driver aids include automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane keep assist and traffic-sign recognition as standard, with blind-spot warning and rear traffic monitoring also available. The minimalist dashboard houses a slick new fully connected 10-inch Pivi Pro infotainment system, gear-shifter and essential buttons and dials (mainly for climate control and off-roading).
Well-built and as classless as ever, the Defender is one of those few cars that looks as much at home in Chelsea as it does in the Cotswolds.
The all-new Land Rover Defender is a worthy successor to its legendary automotive ancestor - a sublime blend of sophistication, supreme off-road capability, practicality and charm.
Price: From £42,920.