REVIEW | Big, strong and potent: Land Rover Defender 110 First Edition is capable off road

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• The Land Rover Defender came to the local market in 2020.

• We drove the 110 D240 First Edition model on both tar and gravel.

• The engine tends to labour as it struggles to haul the big SUV around.

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One of the most recognizable 4x4s of all time must be Land Rover's Defender. The SUV saw a 75-year uninterrupted production run come to an end in 2015, with the model taking a hiatus for a few years. Then, a few years later, an all-new Defender came to market, with the model introduced locally in March 2020.

Over the next year and a bit, Land Rover South Africa expanded the Defender's line-up, giving prospective buyers more purchasing options. One of these is the First Edition models, applied to both the 110 and 90 body styles. We recently drove the Defender 110 D240 First Edition and experienced the SUV both on- and off-road.

Land Rover Defender
2021 Land Rover Defender

Strong features list

The Defender is widely regarded as one of the most technologically advanced vehicles yet, and definitely the most tech-ridden 4x4 ever to come to market. From the moment one climbs inside, you are confronted with the spacious seven-seat cabin and the dials and buttons that adorn the dashboard. Yet, it is neither difficult to understand this array of buttons nor is it hard to scroll through. If it's one's first time experiencing this interface by Land Rover, it would be best to take a few minutes to 'study' it and familiarize oneself with the menus.

Though the Defender has always been an off-roader of note, the latest one is a far cry from its forebears. As such, it features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a 10-inch touchscreen from which to control everything, wireless charging for your smartphone, and several power sockets. There is even a domestic plug socket for added convenience.

WATCH: Land Rover's Defender goes off-road - wading through water and scaling inclines

An interesting bit of technology is the rearview mirror. With the flick of a button, the mirror item will change from a mirror to a camera, relaying live video footage via an HD camera that is fitted into the shark fin aerial.

Other standard features on the 110 D240 First Edition includes a heated steering wheel, an electric tailgate, two-zone climate control, 360-degree camera, and a driver condition monitor - the latter will warn the driver if s/he needs to take a break.

Which feature(s) on the new Defender do you think fits the SUV best? Email us your opinion or use the comment section below.

Land Rover Defender
2021 Land Rover Defender

That power to weight ratio

One of the Defender's biggest talking points is that both large and small capacity engines power it. The D240 models, in both the 110 and body styles, are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel engine that produces 177kW and 430Nm. Thanks to the lowdown torque - available at 1400rpm - the engine manages to generate enough momentum to keep the mill running in that optimum window.

However, in seven-seat configuration, the First Edition weighs 2305kg, which is a fair amount for the small engine to haul around. From pull away, the engine spools to about 3000rpm before there is any notable movement, and performing overtakes on the open road is quite a task. Top speed may be rated at 188km/h, but the drivetrain takes a bit of strain at anything over 140km/h. However, this can be forgiven, and shouldn't be a problem since our national speed limit on highways is 120km/h. The Defender is also built for the beaten track, and doing some proper bundu-bashing.

READ: Embracing the future - 2021 Land Rover Defender line-up to include hybrid powertrain

Yet, the Defender redeems itself in off-road conditions. Thanks to the standard air suspension, one can raise the ground clearance from 218mm to 291mm, making clearing obstacles and ditches an absolute breeze. The off-road tyres do generate a fair amount of road noise on tar, but perform exceptionally when the going gets tough.

In summary

The Land Rover Defender 110 D240 First Edition continues with the strong off-road values of its forebears, but it adds a modern touch that should speak to the contemporary driver. However, if the Defender is on your radar, it might be best to opt for one of the bigger capacity engines. Sure, it does come at a financial 'penalty' over the smaller engines, but the driving experience will surely compliment the advanced cabin.

Quick stats: 2021 Land Rover Defender 110 D240 First Edition

Price: R1 281 000

Engine: 2.0-litre, turbodiesel

Power: 177kW @ 4000rpm

Torque: 430Nm @ 1400rpm

Gears: Eight-speed automatic

Drive: All-wheel drive

Economy: 7.8-litres/100km (claimed)

Ground clearance: 218 - 291mm

Wading depth: 900mm

Tyres: 255/60 R20 (Opt: 255/65 R19 / 275/45 R22)

Maintenance Plan: 5-years or 100 000km

Warranty: 5-years or 100 000km

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