Land Rover Defender 110 Station Wagon 2012 Review

Land Rover Defender 110 Station Wagon 2012 Review

Go back to the late 1940s and you’ll find a fledgling off-roader scrabbling for traction in a post-War economy. The market for luxury cars was pretty sour after the War, but plenty of utility vehicles were needed for farming and industry as the world rebuilt itself. Along came the Land Rover Series I.

Sixty years later, while almost every other vehicle has evolved into something better-handling, more comfortable and faster, the Series I eventually became the Defender, making just incremental improvements, and remaining a no-nonsense and versatile mud plugger aimed at specialist applications off road.

To be perfectly honest, on the road the Defender is

way out of its depth now. There is not a single car on the market that is as difficult to drive smoothly, impractical, tricky to maneouvre and downright aerodynamically challenging. There are no airbags, someone forgot to include ‘turning circle’ on the requirements, and you don’t get reversing sensors – something that a sub-$20k Kia Picanto comes with. By global standards it should have been killed off long ago.

However, we’d be wrong to do so because you can’t show me another off road vehicle for this price that is so determined and versatile for industrial and recreational users.

Airbags would deployed instantly and inadvertently in the terrain the Defender can cover. Yes, you can see the rivet holes in the bodywork and fit a small child in the panel gaps, but would you want anything different for bashing your way through the remotest areas of Ecuador?

Also, show me a vehicle that can handle a 45-degree slope up and down, 35-degree traverse, an approach angle of 47 degrees and a wading depth of 500mm without a snorkel, as well as tow 3500kg. To do this the Defender provides permanent four wheel drive driven by a six-speed high/low ratio gearbox and a 2.2-litre diesel engine producing 90kW and 360Nm.

Let’s ignore the fact that the stereo sounds like one of those battery-powered tape decks from the 1980s and that the ergonomics of the interior have not been touched since before the word ‘ergonomics’ was invented. Let’s instead focus on why you would buy the Defender.

The Defender comes in a huge number of combinations – nine core body styles are available including station wagon, hard top, pick up and double-cab pick up. Plus you can get chassis cabs for the 110 and 130 wheelbase versions.

A shade over seventy grand gets you a Defender 110 Station Wagon (although, our test model comes with options like the wing top protectors, A frame protection bar (front bumper), multi-height tow bar, two extra seats in the back, side runners and snorkel).

If you want a small crane on the back, that’s no problem. If you need a long ute the 130 Chassis Cab is for you. Want to build an extreme off roader that will go anywhere? You’ll need a 90 wheelbase and go from there. If you want a 7-seater for running adventure tours in the back blocks, this 110 Station Wagon with the optional extra two rear seats will do nicely.
This is where the Defender’s strength is, and why it’s managed to stay around for so long in what is, essentially, a format that’s unchanged from the 1970s – well, except for anti-lock brakes, traction control. Everything is built to be taken off in the field and replaced if need be, smashed through the bush, and hosed out when it’s muddy. Whether it’s search and rescue, farming or just you getting your boat to the beach, the Defender will bludgeon its way through all the elements to get you there.

It’s simple, crude and rugged. Add to that formula the extensive list of options such as racks, cargo barriers, rubber mats, etc, and you can create a vehicle that will get you from one side of Namibia to the other with no problems. Just don’t try parking it on a rainy night in Ponsonby.

Price: from $71,500

Pros

  • Will get you out of sticky situations off road
  • Versatile for industrial and commercial applications
  • Strong enthusiast culture
  • People will think you’re rugged

Cons

  • Everything to do with driving on the road comfortably

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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