Land Rover Defender 110 SW 2008 Review

Land Rover Defender off-road front

I’d only been driving the Land Rover Defender 110 for two hours and I came across the perfect test of its rugged pulling power: a medium-sized truck stuck in the mud after trying to do a u-turn across a piece of grass.

“Got a rope?” the driver yelled across to me. At this point what I should have said was, “Sorry mate, this is a press vehicle and as such they don’t come with the accoutrements associated with getting knee deep in a swamp.” But I didn’t, I just apologetically said no. This now means that the truck driver thinks that I have a Land Rover for picking up my non-existent kids from a hypothetical inner-city school.

The Land Rover doesn’t belong in the inner city though, and never has. The Defender is as ‘country’ as friendly waves and neighbours who know each other’s names.

Land Rover came up with a formula for the Defender’s predecessor, the Series 1, 60 years ago. It’s been modernised a bit (you get power steering and electric windows now, for example), but basically you’re still getting a vehicle designed to traverse gruelling, rock-strewn territory like it’s a field of pancakes.

Aerodynamics was never the Defender’s strong point, and Land Rover doesn’t make any apologies. A 2.4-litre common-rail diesel engine churns out 90kW and 360Nm and allows the two tonne Defender to bludgeon the air out of the way, though not in any rapid way.

Fully kitted out for a life of muddy wellies, hunting trophies, dogs and (worst of all) children, the Defender’s interior is mix of easy-to-clean rubber flooring, half leather/half fabric seats and large chunky switches. The switches, knobs and stalks aren’t remotely Japanese — they’re all very eclectic and English and in places you wouldn’t find them on a Corolla. It all looks very rugged, but if you peer closer you’ll find creature comforts such as heated seats, an MP3-compatible stereo with auxiliary input, air conditioning, an enormous central storage bin and ABS with traction control.

On the outside the Defender features a towball rated to pull 3500kg, next to a folding rear step. Moving towards the front the side runners are welcome when getting in such a tall vehicle and around the front there’s the classic Brunel grille and headlight surrounds (the instruction manually, incidentally, tells you how to pull many parts of the Defender apart to repair any damage you may sustain, including the complete headlight unit).

This all rests on an immensely strong ladder chassis that carries the lightweight aluminium body. The rivets are still visible, and the panel gaps are significant; it all points to no-nonsense practicality and functional simplicity.

Long wheelbase Land Rovers have the turning circle of a herd of wildebeest but this didn’t seem to matter when I took the Defender to a farm west of Auckland with three other passionate Land Rover owners and their machines, including a 1953 Series 1. You can read about that in an issue of Classic Car magazine. Anyway, the 235/85R16 road tyres weren’t the best choice for a late autumn jaunt around the clay tracks, but dropping the pressure to 18psi saw us through. A low range box with diff lock helps the Defender charge across the tough stuff.

If you’re buying a Land Rover solely for the off-road experience you’ll probably want the shorter Defender 90 rather than the 110, for its added versatility in tricky situations (such as the seven extra degrees of departure angle and superior turning circle). But the Defender 110 is still a very capable unit off the beaten track – approach and departure angles are excellent with 49 and 35 degrees respectively, and the Defender will climb a 45-degree slope. It’s the better option for carrying more cargo and towing heavy loads over long distances.

It’s easy to look at the Land Rover compared to the ‘softer’ pretenders (the SUVs) that are cunningly disguised to look like they will survive off-road and think that there’s a certain quaint ‘agricultural-ness’ about it. We’re used to driving enormous vehicles that look the part but would struggle with a particularly high kerb because they’re designed to drive like a car. The Land Rover certainly sacrifices some of the smoothness that you would expect from a solely road-going car, but that is its raison d’être — it’s a workhorse vehicle that belongs in the wilderness being put to hard work.

Price: from $67,990

What we like

  • Rugged practicality and interior space
  • Every other Defender owner in the city waves at you
  • The Queen drives one (and stops hers in the middle of streams, apparently)

What we don’t like

  • Interior layout needs a redesign
  • Too tall for some car parks
  • Turning circle

Powertrain

·    2.4 litre common rail diesel engine

·    6-speed manual transmission

·    2-speed transfer box and Locking centre differential

Engineering

·    Permanent 4-wheel drive

·    3,500kg towing capacity

·    Front and rear beam axle with coil spring suspension

·    Deep section, fully boxed chassis frame

Comfort, convenience, safety and security

SE
Stereo radio & single CD, MP3 / AUX with speakers & tweeters

·    Heated front seats

·    Heated windscreen

·    Rear door stowage net

·    Heated rear window and wash/wipe

·    60:40  split folding bench seat

·    Remote central locking

·    Electric front windows

·    Tinted glass

Interior and Exterior

·    Rear folding step

·    5 or 7 black part-leather seats

·    Leather steering wheel

·    Cubby box

·    Front and rear mudflaps

·    Body coloured wheel arches

·    Brunel grille and headlight surrounds

Wheels and tyres

Michelin XZL Std steel

7.50R16

N/A

General Grabber Alloy

235/85R16

S

Key: S= Standard, O = Option, NCO = No cost option, N/A = Not available

Interior Features

Interior

Seats: Part leather

S

Individual rear stowable seats

O

Cubby box with twin cup holders

S

Steering wheel – leather

S

In car entertainment

In Car Entertainment

Stereo radio & single CD / MP3 / AUX

S

Comfort, convenience and safety

Comfort, Convenience and Safety

ABS/ETC

S

Air conditioning

S

Alarm/immobilisation

S

Cold Climate Pack (heated front seats and windscreen)

S

Convenience Pack (electric front windows & remote central door locking)

S

Headlamp levelling

S

Heated rear window & wash wipe

S

Rear door stowage net

S

Sliding Glass (rear side windows)

S

Sunroof

O

Tinted glass

S

Exterior

Exterior

Alloy wheel & 235 tyre

S

Michelin XZL 750 Heavy Duty

N/A

‘Brunel’ grille & headlight surrounds

S

Cargo cover – with side windows

N/A

Folding rear step

S

Front mudflaps

S

Metallic paint

S

Roof – body coloured

S

Side runners

S

Side steps

S

Suspension — heavy duty (90 = 2550 kg. 110 = 3500 kg.)

N/A

Tow ball drop plate & electrics

S

Under ride protection bar

O

Wheel arches — body coloured

S

Bodystyle Applications

Increased payload option available

NO

Towing  short distance [eg agriculture]

***

Towing  long distance [eg exhibition units]

*****

Carrying equipment [heavy, valuable, vulnerable]

***

Carrying materials  loose, dirty, smelly, livestock]

*

Carrying people

*****

Extreme off-Road

[Max. including 750 or 235 tyre option, where applicable]

***


Seating

5 seats

[optional third row rear seats available]

Fuel tank capacity

Diesel – litres

75


Fuel economy MPG (l/100 km)

Urban

13.5

Extra Urban

9.5

Combined

11

Drive by noise

73db

CO2 g/KM

291

Certifiable emissions

EU4

Approach/Departure angles

Gradients at kerb height

Maximum gradient

45°

Approach angle

49°

Departure angle

35°

Ramp break

150°

Traverse angle

35°

Weights

Gross vehicle

3050

Minimum Kerb weight*

2041

Maximum Payload**

1009

Key: *Kerb weight = unladen weight + full tank & 75kg driver, **Payload = GVW — kerb weight

Minimum kerb-kerb turning

Minimum turning radius metres (feet)

Tyre size

235×16

Minimum turning radius

7.18 (23.6)


LOAD CAPABILITIES

Maximum Axle (Kg)

Station Wagon

Std

Front axle [kg]

1250

Rear axle [kg]

1850

Gross vehicle weight [kg]

3050


Suspension

Front

Live beam axle, dual rate coil springs, telescopic hydraulic dampers. Panhard rod.

Rear

3050kg live beam axle, multi-rate coil springs, telescopic hydraulic dampers. “A” frame.


Obstacle clearance

Ground clearance mm (inch)

Tyre size

235

Minimum ground clearance, unladen

314 (12)


Towing (Kg)

Braked Trailer

3500

Unbraked trailer

750

Recommended max. trailer nose weight [kg]

150


Roof Load System

Approved Land Rover Genuine Parts roof rack. All weights in kg. Weight includes roof rack

Roof rack

75

Ladder rack

75

Wading depth mm (inch)

Wading depth

500 (20)


Brakes

Servo assisted front and rear disc brakes on all models.

Steering

All models have power assisted steering. Worm and roller.

Dimensions

Track front/rear

1486 [58.5]

Cargo bed length

*add 161 mm if spare wheel removed

1900 [74.8]

Tailgate aperture width

864 [34]

Largest box length

1100/1470** [43.5/57.9**]

Largest box width

660 [26]

Largest box height

1050 [41.3]

Width

1790 [70]

Height with 205 tyres

1968 [77]

Height with 750/235 tyres

2021 [80]

Overall length

4639 [183]

Wheelbase

2794 [110.0]

Words Darren Cottingham, photos Dan Wakelin


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