Experiencing the Land Rover Defender
Getting behind the wheel of Land Rovers new icon, the Defender
There are some things you cannot do on a test drive, like driving up a 30-degree slope or through deep water, but at the Land Rover Experience you can do all of that and more, and they will even feed you.
With time a limiting factor, travel restricted due to COVID-19 and the fact that I could no longer wait anymore, I decided to head over to the Land Rover Experience Centre to finally get behind the wheel of the Land Rover Defender.
After completing the necessary paperwork, I was treated to delicious coffee and breakfast at the TLC on the track restaurant. This facility is not just for course goers but is open to the general public, the great setting is just outside Lonehill making it a great stop for a peaceful breakfast or lunch appointment. With a couple of vehicle chargers on site, it is quickly becoming a destination for electric car owners.
Understanding the tech
Breakfast was followed by a quick classroom session, where the instructor highlighted all the innovative systems in the new Defender and what they actually do by means of an interactive presentation. One often hears or reads about these things and think that you know what they do, but it is only once an expert has explained them in detail that you gain an understanding of what these systems actually enable the car to do.
Standard features in all versions include permanent all-wheel drive with a high and low-range transfer case, air suspension, Terrain Response, LED headlights, Connected Navigation, 3D Surround Cameras, 10-inch Pivi Pro infotainment, a driver condition Monitor as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to name a few.
Getting behind the wheel
But as they say, the best way to learn is to do, so we hit the road out towards the Magaliesburg. I have reported about the new Defender extensively so it was great to finally turn the key and hit the road. The route through the Cradle of Humankind is one that I often use when I have sportier cars on test, but the Defender was equally at home on the windy open roads of the North West province.
The model that I was driving was the flagship 3.0-litre six-cylinder P400 featuring efficient Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle technology with outputs of 294kW and 550Nm.
Power delivery was excellent and the Defender morphs around you as a driver, so it doesn't feel like a large vehicle at all. Land Rover have many years of experience in building large SUVs an it shows in the Defender, with excellent refinement and road manners making it an impeccable city or open road tool.
We even worked in a section of questionable gravel road and the Defender once again impressed, the air suspension doing a great job of soaking up the imperfections and ensuring a smooth ride for occupants, even when hitting bigger bumps and washaways.
Our loop took us back to the Land Rover experience centre for a spot of lunch and some reflection. The Defender had been excellent on the back roads of Gauteng and the North West, but how would it fair off-road?
The Land Rover Experience Centre has a bespoke track and obstacles that are able to push vehicles like the Defender to the limit, but in a safe and controlled environment and without causing damage to the vehicle. These obstacles are designed to show off the car and all the technology in ways that can be difficult in a natural off-road setting and include inclines, descents, water crossings, low traction surfaces, rock crawls, bridge crossings and wheel articulation sections.
World-class off road geometry sees ground clearance of up to 291mm and maximum suspension articulation of 500mm. The Defender 110’s approach, break over and departure angles are 38, 28 and 40 degrees respectively when set in off-road height.
Land Rover’s advanced ClearSight Ground View Technology helps drivers take full advantage of Defender’s all conquering capability by showing the area usually hidden by the bonnet and directly ahead of the front wheels, on the Pivi Pro touchscreen.
The Defender handled everything that we threw at it with aplomb, the technology is so advanced that it makes driving off-road easy. One of my favourite systems is the All Terrain Progress Control that enables one to set and maintain a steady speed in challenging conditions. Operating like a conventional cruise control between 1.8km/h and 30km/h the vehicle will handle the acceleration and braking over tricky surfaces like steep inclines or descents and all the driver needs to do is steer.
The Defender is a fitting modern iteration of the icon that is Defender, the kind of car that the market wants and an extremely capable vehicle on road and off. Defender purists are still having a hard time accepting this new kid on the block, but the reality is, this is the car that the market needed. It does everything that a Defender should be able to do, effortlessly and while transporting its occupants in utmost comfort. What more could one want from a SUV.
Land Rover Experience Centre
The Land Rover Experience Centre boasts a wide range of facilities that allows visitors to test drive their range of vehicles across a variety of settings, from hardcore off-road obstacles to road-based training facilities.
The facility also features conference facilities, a restaurant and a personalisation lounge that allows customers to specify a vehicle exactly how they want it before ordering from their local dealer. Find out more at https://www.landrover.co.za/experience/experience-johannesburg.html