Motors with Tony Conlon: The Ultimate Defender
When Maurice Wilkes, engineer and chairman of the Rover company, produced his first Land Rover in 1948, I don’t believe for one minute he would have expected the 75th anniversary model to be wearing green wheels.
Today’s Defender has come a long way from the original of the species, a utility 4x4 that was designed by Wilkes to replace the army surplus Willy’s Jeep he used for farm work.
I recently drove the anniversary model which was powered by a petrol and plug-in hybrid system. Painted in Grasmere green, a colour I believe is not far off the original, this special edition Defender stole the show.
Trim was hosting much of the recent Púca festival at the time, and I’d swear this Land Rover turned more heads than Macy Gray, The Waterboys and The Charlatans combined!
Although both rugged and luxurious-looking, most conversations about this beautifully designed off-roader centered on the green 20-inch alloy wheels. While most found them difficult to come to terms with them, a small minority liked them.
As a marketing ploy, the wheels did the trick and led to many wanting to talk Land Rover. There was a time the Defender slotted in as a robust and spartan workhorse, as opposed to the Discovery or Range Rover. This Defender puts paid to anyone thinking this model cannot stand side-by-side with its swankier cousins.
It is futuristic-looking and stunningly beautiful. If I got a cent for every time someone said it was gorgeous-looking, I’d have earned a nice few euro by the time I had to give it back. While the spare wheel still hangs from its rear door, traditional exterior design traits mellow as modern and pretty front and rear light signatures mix with the tough modern design.
While I admired the lovely exterior build quality, it was only when I sat behind the large steering wheel and sank into the fabulously supportive seating that I appreciated the overall quality finish of this vehicle.
Before I pressed the start button, I was content to sit longer than usual and take in the surroundings and admire once again its attractive design and quality look and feel. There were classical exposed nuts and bolts and hard flooring which had removable carpet mats, and I loved the dash layout, its grip handle in front of the passenger, power and charge meters, easy infotainment system, rev counter and the high standard of the materials used.
From its large door mirrors to the generous glass areas, this workhorse offers good visibility. It’s spacious and comfortable for five people, though the absence of two additional seats in the rear is due to the 19.2kWh battery.
With boot space extending to almost 800 litres, the amount of storage space is very generous. On my test model, there was even a fridge in the centre console.
Other luxurious touches consisted of a must-have, huge sliding panoramic roof, privacy glass, roof rails and an electrically deployable tow-bar. This green beast was awash with off-road all-terrain technology that can be selected at the touch of button as well as various drive modes.
In recent times, some larger SUVs have got some people’s hackles up. This PHEV, on the other hand, can point to some green credentials thanks to its more environmentally friendly power plant.
With a 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine paired with an electric motor and 19.2kWh battery, the net result is that 398bhp is produced. This Land Rover can drive in EV mode for 44km. While it is possible to receive 80% charge in 30 minutes or so, the EV distance is a bit disappointing, as far as I am concerned.
Capable of covering 0-100km in 5.6 seconds, the fuel economy from this large vehicle had me having to look twice at its on-board computer and also double-checking figures on my own calculator. Overall consumption on a mixture of roads showed the 75th anniversary Land Rover returning 6.1 l/100km (46mpg).
It is capable of regenerating electricity and features a nicely spaced and easy eight-speed automatic transmission, so the performance was an easy match for the large body.
On the mixed road surfaces, this green beauty displayed comfort and stability in abundance.
Rugged, pretty looking and sporting a really attractive cabin, this Land Rover is priced at €123,160. Would I buy one? I’m writing this on a night of a Lotto draw, so if my numbers came up, I’d probably beat my way to Spirit Motors and put a deposit on one.
But I might also buy some black spray for the wheels.