Driving one 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.

Steve Sutcliffe

Editor-at-large
You can’t drive with the diff locked above 40mph but can swap between high and low range at less than 5mph.

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.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Land Rover range

Driven this week

  • Vauxhall Insignia GSi Sports Tourer
    This is the Vauxhall Insignia GSi Sports Tourer
    First Drive
    19 February 2018
    The Insignia GSi is Vauxhall's new performance flagship. Can this diesel estate version offer both pace and practicality?
  • Honda Civic Type R
    First Drive
    19 February 2018
    It’s a warm welcome to this steaming hot hatch. But is it too fiery for Britain’s roads?
  • Aston Martin DB11 Volante
    The DB11 Volante chassis' torsional rigidity is 22kN/deg, down from 34kN/deg on the coupe – but substantially more than the 14.7kN/deg of the DB9 Volante
    First Drive
    19 February 2018
    The DB11 Volante is the first convertible variant of Aston Martin's new model generation. How does it compare to the likes of the new Ferrari Portofino?
  • BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo front
    The new BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo
    First Drive
    16 February 2018
    The top-of-the-line 6 Series Gran Turismo has arrived in the UK, but does a more potent engine increase its unusual appeal?
  • Audi TT RS Coupé
    First Drive
    16 February 2018
    The Audi TT RS has the looks, a vociferous engine and the supercar-baiting performance, but is it too uncompromising to use as a daily driver?