Land Rover re-introduced the iconic Defender in South Africa via a livestream event in July during lockdown. I’ve seen it being called the ‘New Defender’ to differentiate between the original but I think referring to it as either is fine.
I have no experience with the old one so there’s no attachment for me, but I appreciate what it means to so many. As someone who is tech-obsessed, I absolutely love the new one. I’ve driven a bunch of Land Rovers before (you can see my pieces here) so the Defender felt familiar in that regard.
The Defender 110 model (5-door) is currently available to purchase in South Africa but the Defender 90 (3-door) will be come a bit later. There is currently (the only) one in SA on display at the Jaguar Land Rover Experience Centre in Lonehill if you want to see it up close. It’s stunning and if I had to choose one, I’d go for the Defender 90 myself.
UNDER THE HOOD
I had the Defender 110 P400 MVEH (mild hybrid electric vehicle) that has a 3L 6-cylinder 294kW turbocharged petrol engine (550Nm of torque) on test. It has a 48V lithium-ion battery to boost performance and increase engine efficiency. It claims 9.9L/100km fuel consumption from its 90L tank. Top speed is 191km/h and it does 0-100km/h in 6.1 seconds.
The standard features are quite extensive, you can look it up online, but the bits that stand out for me were emergency braking, 3D surround camera, 360-degree parking aid, smartphone pack, connected navigation pro, 12V power sockets in the boot, 10″ touchscreen, power socket pack 1, and a bunch of safety things like rear ISOFIX and power operated child locks.
DEFENDER 110 KITTED OUT
The model I had for five days was the Defender 110 kitted with about R180k worth of extras. The model was the P400 AWD automatic with a base price of R1,2m. The Urban accessory pack is R20k that includes bright rear scuff plate, spare wheel cover and bright metal pedals. I loved that this one was sent to me. Other packs include Explorer, Adventure and Country.
Exterior extras were R67k made up of: grey finish; 19″ wheels in gloss black; black roof; sliding pano roof; black exterior pack; front fog lights; and electric tow bar. The interior extras were R20k primarily made up of: 12-way semi-heated front seats and manual third row of seats.
Options were R74k that primarily included an off-road pack; advanced off-road capability pack; driver assist; three-zone climate control; ClearSight rear view mirror; and keyless entry.
The Defender has a presence. It has that wow factor that makes you stare and appreciate the design and little details. Well, for me at least, and all five friends who joined me for a weekend away. It is quite a large vehicle. I didn’t park it in my garage because it would have felt like a tight squeeze and didn’t want to accidentally bump the side mirrors.
The inside is comfortable and spacious throughout. The finishes are exactly what you’d expect from a Land Rover; it was top notch. So many fine details to appreciate.
The storage space for stuff is quite deep so you can store plenty between the front and passenger seat. Some vehicles have the “jump seat” option that folds out to be a third seat in the front, which is the arm rest when folded down. It’s more suited for a child than adult.
Even though I initially wanted that model on test, I realised in a Covid-world, it might have been too cramped and no social distancing for anyone who didn’t feel comfortable. Instead, we got the Defender with a third row of seats. And amazingly, the six of us fit all our stuff into it for a weekend away, with one seat up on the third row!
DRIVING AND OFF-ROADING
The Defender has different driving modes that are easy to use by tapping buttons. It supports all-terrain driving configurable to your liking; off-road technologies like low traction, gradient release control, hill descent control; adaptive dynamics (steering movements up to 500 times a second); all-terrain progress control (from speeds of 1.8km-30km/h); electronic air suspension (choose heights from 40mm below normal height to 75mm and further 70mm for extreme situations); and electronic active differential (more traction on corners and grip off-road).
I know that all sounds technical, but you just choose a mode you need to be in and the car will adjust accordingly. It’s very much the car being a computer and doing all the thinking and work, while you get a comfortable drive, no matter where you are.
Driving on regular tarred roads around my suburbs and the highway was comfortable, easy, smooth. It also makes use of the ClearSight rear-view mirror that is an HD camera. I have used this before in the new Evoque. I do like it for the most part, except in the afternoon sun when it is too reflective and I cannot see properly. You can toggle it back to the old fashioned way.
We took the Defender to the Pilanesberg National Park and made use of the off-road functions. One of the modes raised the vehicle when we went on a self-drive, which is great because it was instant. The car also shows you how to be better driver. There are loads of eco tips if you are serious about wanting to drive better, if it’s not as obvious to you.
The Defender runs on its own operating system that supports OTA (over the air) updates. This also allows for 14 driving modes to be updated, which can improve the vehicle over time. The electronic updates also means you’re not going into a dealership for the update and can be done the same way you update a smartphone.
It is capable and puts you at ease in the drivers seat. I didn’t feel intimidated. You can feel that extra kick from the hybrid engine when you’re overtaking. We all loved the feeling when I over took slow trucks on the way and back to the North West. On a related note/stating the obvious, filling up is expensive. R500 may get me a mostly full tank in my Mini but it gets you a quarter tank in the Defender.
The car’s infotainment features the brand new Pivi Pro system, which is a noticeable step-up from the previous versions. It is simple to use and feels like a smartphone with apps, complete with editing the layout, using tiles and light or dark mode. You can login and access different accounts like an OS; access seats, climate, towing & trailers, cameras, valet mode, eco data, 4×4, wade sensing, low traction, tow bar, vehicle dimensions, etc.
I love the option that shows you the vehicle height for on-road and off-road, and you can see what adjusts when you go off-road. The settings menu is easy to use because of the familiarity with a smartphone, which has general, languages and keyboard, apps, notifications and software updates.
The eco mode shows you a history of your trips that earned you a high score (or not, lol). Mine was all over the place, one trip I got 53% and another, 92% and then 68%. It tells you economy, speed and distance averages along with the score.
It has the usual Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, I used both as I have two phones. Google Maps is my best friend when it comes to these things. But overall, the interaction with the touchscreen and simplicity of the layout is excellent. Everything just works when you plug it in. What I did notice this time around, while the Defender had its own MTN SIM card, I couldn’t turn it into a WiFi hotspot, the way one could on the previous system.
The car is littered with USB ports (1xUSB-C and 6x USB-A) in the front two rows; there are 6x 12V charging sockets everywhere, including the third row; plus a 2-pin plug point. I loved the sheer amount available. If you’re a family of 6, each of you can charge a tablet and phone and still have a free 2-pin plug socket. You can totally plug a laptop, hair iron, or hair dryer into it while on the road.
The new Defender is aimed at a different market to the original. It is the most technologically advanced vehicle I have driven. Driving modes that receive OTA software updates to make the car drive better? Press buttons and its optimised to drive on any terrain? At least 13 charging ports? Rear-view mirror that’s an HD cam? This new target market could very well be… me.
The car is computerised, which made it easy to operate and why I loved driving it. If you love shiny new technology that does the hard work for you, then look no further. I mean, why suffer and do everything manually, when cars are this intelligent? I’m here for the convenience.
I loved every moment with the new Defender. It was the perfect vehicle for a weekend away to the Pilanesberg and taking it on a game-drive. We felt safe at all times… not to mention the looks we got firstly for the car, and then secondly for me driving it, ha!
If it falls within your price range, you should absolutely take it for a test drive. And if you don’t have kids, consider the 3-door Defender 90. I’m totally calling it the cute version.
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 13 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. ✉️ email@example.com