Land Rover Defender, the ‘bullet’ car

The Land Rover Defender is a force to reckon with. Photo By Ismail Kezaala.

What you need to know:

The Land Rover Defender (initially called the Land Rover 90 and Land Rover 110) is a British four-wheel-drive off-road utility vehicle developed from the original Land Rover Series launched in 1948. The Land Rover Defender is also recognised by many as one of the best off-road cars. In Uganda, it is used by the President while inspecting parades, Bank of Uganda bullion vans, ambulances and by many individuals and NGOs.

Evolution is a strange thing. You start with a single cell animal, wait a zillion years and end up with Lady Gaga. By the same token differently though, you start with a rough and ready off-roader, wait 57 years, and end up with the same thing.

Evolution is not a good thing or a bad thing, it is just a thing. But the question remains: is the Land Rover Defender fit enough to survive in the car environment crawling with first class competition?
What began as a post-war project to keep the Rover Car Company buoyant has developed into a British motoring legend, and over two-thirds of Land Rovers sold in the last half century are still in use today.

Now known as the Defender, Land Rover’s iconic off-road vehicle is the benchmark for all modern four-wheel-drives and is often described as the ‘hero’ of the Land Rover range.
It is often seen as the vehicle of choice for expeditions and adventures including Lara Croft’s transport in the Tomb Raider films, which proved so popular that Land Rover introduced a limited edition ‘Tomb Raider’ model.

The Champion
Land Rover’s champion became known as the Defender Ninety and Defender One Ten in 1985, with the numbers respectively representing the two and four-door models’ wheelbases (rounded to the nearest 10). These models were changed to the numerical 90 and 110 from 1991 on and carry on being sold in Great Britain today. (They are also the British Army’s prime troop vehicles, much like the American Humvee).
Of course, this is the history of the Land Rover Defender in the United Kingdom. Here in Uganda, the Defender is a currently a rare beast, finding one should take considerable time and effort.
Those willing to search for one surely want one. Unless of course you command the kind of coin that will get you one instantly. I remember as a young child, I would look at the “Land Rover one-ten” and think to myself, I will drive one of those, and I know you did too.

Funny how things turned out. Those door handles, when you think about it now, looked so, well, ugly. And I imagine driving around town on Sunday in a Defender can be easy however, in crawling traffic the constant first and second gear changes do eventually become tiring and the wide turning angle does not make it any easier.

The late 90s Defender was powered by a 3.9-litre V8 that made 182 hp. This engine drove a full-time four-wheel-drive system and was connected only to a five-speed manual transmission. For 1997, Land Rover fitted the Discovery’s 4.0-litre aluminium V8 that bore 182 hp into the Defender, which did not make it any more powerful than its predecessor.

Anyone expecting to find an interior similar to that found in Land Rover’s other offerings will be greatly disappointed.
The Defender represents the pure definition of bare bones, with a simplistic dashboard designed in the mid-1980s and a no-frills cabin designed to get easily mopped after a journey through a dusty road.

There are also no airbags. This lack of comforts and safety features doesn’t even take into consideration the profuse amount of noise originating from the road, wind and engine.
Catching up with modernity

Nonetheless every company is in business to make money, so every so often, Land Rover gives the Defender some new features to stay on developed countries’ regulations good side and make it give potential buyers who might actually never go off road a better proposition.

So with that in mind, the 2007 model with the original design, comes in a more sumptuous package with new seating set-up, an improved A/C system and the dash being completely redone and featuring bits and pieces from the Free Lander and Discovery.
The Land Rover Defender does the job it was intended to do well. But beyond tackling off-road trails, however, it is ill suited for any significant super comfortable everyday driving other competitors are offering although none boast the Land Rover’s British pedigree.