Driving a Land Rover Defender is something of an acquired taste for anybody but the true believer. To a driver used to a modern road car, it radiates a nervousness and unpredictability, not least through the indirect steering feel.
Coping with this modest potential is a chassis unchanged in all but detail since the 1984 revolution in which the wheelbase was extended from 88 inches to 90 inches and the longitudinal leaf springs were replaced by coils. The chassis is still a steel ladder frame with an aluminium body bolted on. And, yes, there are still live axles at each end, the one at the front located by radius arms and a Panhard rod, and at the back by trailing arms.
This time, there are new spring and damper settings, revised castor geometry and revalved power steering. Although the ride has been improved, even the world’s most eternal optimist could not expect a car of this construction to provide more than basic on-road refinement.
And so it proves. On smooth surfaces, riding on standard 235/85 R16 General Grabber (aka Continental) mud and snow tyres, it’s settled enough, but it doesn’t take much of a pothole, transverse ridge or surface change to send a jolt through the chassis. Body roll is pronounced, and understeer is anything from mild to epic.
There is precisely nothing to be gained, other than perhaps a bill for a new Defender, by driving this car quickly. All that matters is that the Defender’s on-road performance and dynamics will now take you where you want to go at the same speed as everyone else.