• Land Rover's Defender line-up includes this 90 D240 S model.
• Our test unit was kitted with optional extras totaling almost R250 000.
• The Defender name is highly regarded in 4x4 circles.
• For more motoring stories, visit Wheels24
When Land Rover announced that they'd be discontinuing the Defender after decades of service, it was as if the rug had been pulled from everyone's feet. Sure, it was expected, and market trends have suggested that the end would be inevitable, but it was a shock nonetheless.
Those who know the Defender and what it stands for will recall tales of a vehicle that could go anywhere and tackle any obstacle a terrain might throw at it. Because for years, the Defender was the benchmark in all things 4x4 and was it the mission of any rival to the throne to topple it. So understandably, the absence left by the standard-bearer would be felt.
But it wasn't too long before the British automaker would announce that an all-new Defender would soon see the light. And it happened, with the new model being the most technologically advanced vehicle built by Land Rover yet. And as soon as it arrived in South Africa, it sold like hotcakes. Any surprises there? Nope, none at all.
The one to have?
Land Rover did not debut all derivatives of the new Defender all at once. With various models, both 110 (long-) and 90 (short wheelbase), it happened periodically, entering the fray. The Defender 90 D240 S in question is one of the latest models added, but the general feeling among the test team is that it might just be the pick of the bunch.
While the all-new Defender has become more luxurious than ever before, this 90 S still speaks to the true 4x4 enthusiast. The guys and girls still find their comfort and peace bundu bashing. In essence, the Defender 90 S is a solid throwback to what the Defender used to be, speaking to the go-anywhere attitude spirit of its forebear.
And when you factor in the minimalistic approach, the SUV makes even more sense. You are still treated to Land Rover's latest easy-to-use multimedia system and all the standard technological bells and whistles fitted to the Defender, but the rims are steel ones.
Problem? Not at all! Unlike more expensive Defender models, you don't cringe when going off-road, and you don't fear the financial implications of having to repair or replace a rim.
Driving the Defender 90 S
The Defender is no slouch - let's be clear on that. The 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine offers ample grunt, and the 177kW/430Nm kicks in with urgency. You are never left wanting. However, in the bigger Defender 110, this engine labours to haul the big SUV around, but it feels more manageable and adequate to life in the smaller 90.
Our test unit was kitted with several optional extras, most notably the Explorer Pack at an additional R62 672. This package includes front and rear mudflaps, matte black bonnet decal, a spare wheel cover, wheel arch protection, a roof rack, raised air intake, and an exterior side-mounted gear carrier. While impressive, especially for the adventurers among us, the gear carrier is perhaps more of an obtrusion than a blessing. Positioned on the right rear window, it obscures one's view in the side mirror. It takes careful manoeuvring of the side mirror to get it in the ideal position, but you can't look past the carrier.
Another item that affects the overall driving experience is the folding fabric roof. This R30 000 option is ideal for those trips to the bush or just enjoying the Karoo nights while going nowhere slowly, but it generates a fair amount of wind noise at speeds when closed. To this end, the test team would have preferred a solid roof or a panoramic one.
The Land Rover Defender D240 S might not be to everyone's taste. The basic layout, especially those steel wheels, goes against the contemporary feel of the fancier models, yet this could be the pick of the bunch. Using the Defender for its intended purpose - bundu bashing - few vehicles can match it. Of course, boot space, at 297 litres, only allows for limited luggage to be added, but the electrically deployable tow bar (an R5 400 option) allows you to hook a trailer or caravan for that ideal getaway.
The Defender D240 S is priced at R1 095 600, but our test unit was kitted with optional extras to the value of R249 127. Total price: R1 359 631