More than half a century after the Defender first appeared, there’s still nothing we’d rather go off road inDespite global sales falling just under 19,000 units in 2010, the Defender – especially in short-wheelbase form – is staging something of a comeback in the UK as a stylish urban runaround. In truth, the Defender works either as a pure country vehicle for those who really do spend time off road, or as an iconic and uniquely characterful leisure machine. One Land Rover executive described it as a “classic car that you buy new”, which is as good a summary as any.
Despite our desire to be objective, we just can’t assess the Defender like any other car. It is a vehicle for farms, outbacks, jungles and deserts that, for all its flaws, has a very real role in the world today. It is better than ever at those things it needs to be good at, and as useless as it has always been at everything else.
If you’ve always wanted an original Landie, this really is your last chance to buy one new. Some time around 2015, legislation will kill the Defender (it already can’t be sold in the US) and one of the longest lived, and globally loved and iconic cars will cease to be made.
This car will, of course, be replaced, but however good the new one is, it will not be a Defender. Buy it also if you need an SUV but don’t wish to be targeted by the off-road haters. Sian Berry, who speaks on motoring matters for the Green Party, spends a sizeable chunk of her time slapping fake parking tickets on SUVs, but she’ll never put one on a Defender. Even the greenies understand this car and its unimpeachable place in the nation’s heritage.
It’s not cheap, some of the interior materials are still shocking, it’s slow, noisy and not very comfortable but, to our eyes at least, it’s still the greatest off-roader of them all.