Defender 90

Latest Defender 90 could be a perfect tool for your ultimate adventure lifestyle

Land Rover had a difficult call to make a short while back. The good old Defender really was well past its sell-by date. Never mind, parts supply for its archaic structure was becoming hard to come by. And dear. It had to change. But how? That’s what crossed our minds when we finally had the chance to drive the all-new Land Rover Defender in this latest, top-diesel shortie 90 get-up.

All-new technology. great old DEFENDER spirit

We’d reserved judgement until now. And we must admit, that was a good call. We were initially sad that the old one has nothing at all to do with this new car. Except perhaps, in spirit. Yet it’s that very spirit that has come through to really make the new car work. So let’s get on with it…

Introduced locally in the middle of lockdown in long wheelbase 110 get-up, this compact, short wheelbase Defender 90 finally arrived a few months back. It’s the most capable and connected Land Rover to date. And they promise that this high tech new newcomer indeed traces its roots all the way back to the great original 1948 Series I Land Rover.

All new Defender 90s get keyless access to a splendid cabin complete with intuitive always-on CarPlay and Auto-rich Pivi Pro 10” touchscreen infotainment. It has an interactive driver display, 360-degree 3D surround camera parking and even and even a driver condition monitor. Best of all, besides those cumbersome to figure buttons on the multifunction steering wheel, they’ve finally got all that technology to work in an unobtrusive manner.

Clever tricks, novel gadgetry

The new 90’s tricks and treats work very well en main. There are a few unique aspects too. Like the ClearSight video rear view mirror. It’s there because the view aft is tragic. So it serves very good purpose. But you must adjust your field of view to focus on it, which you don’t do in the regular mirror. You can flick to the regular mirrow anyway. Other odd bits are mostly quaint and cute in an old school Landy kind of a way. Like that cavern in the center consol. But all cool.

We however found those daft Silver boxes that block off the rear passenger windows out to be anything but cool. They serve no practical purpose. Besides perhaps to satisfy some or other stylist’s nightmare. They even prevent vital views we’d rather have had to check blindspots while changing lanes and reversing out of vertical bays and driveways. They may look funky. We have another couple of words that may rhyme, to better describe those blinkers.

Its propaganda also claims that this compact new 90 is capable of seating six. Yes, perhaps there is space for six… but. Firstly try get in the back. Even dwarves will struggle. And once you’re all are in there, you’ll be lonely. Those dilly ‘boxes’ prevent any basic view out. You may as well be in the back of a panel van. Which is why you shouldn’t really consider the 90 as anything more than a 2 seater with emergency seating for four in the back. For anything more, we’d get the 110.

Niceties offset some little drawbacks

All that said, the boot is also compromised. It’s tiny. And the rear seats don’t fold flat, so it’s a challenge to load much more than a single suitcase. That’s offset by several other X niceties that include a neat heads-up display, sliding panoramic roof, Matrix LEDs for the auto high beam headlights and 14-way power, heated and cooled front pews. For the front row lovebirds.

All of the above is actually irrelevant to this vehicles strongest points. How it performs on and off the road is what sets the new Defender 90 furthest apart. With sophisticated suspension and full time 4×4 with low range, this flagship X adds air suspension, and an electronic active rear differential to the standard 90’s emergency braking, lane keep assist and a neat wade sensing function. That optimises your 90 for safe passage through water up to 900mm deep.

The 90’s real party trick is Configurable Terrain Response. It enables you to set yours to match the precise adventure driving conditions your current adventure demands. The adaptive suspension, brakes and traction control were impeccable off road. We undertook an adventurous 4×4 trip as part of our test and our entire off-road voyage proved effortless.

DEFENDER IS Quiet, smooth & sophisticated

Moving onto the tar, Defender 90 is quiet, smooth and sophisticated. Press on, and handling and road holding is just as impressive. It blends hot hatch speed with a comfortable ride — this one’s 221 kW 650 Nm D300 V6 engine proved copiously powerful both on and off road. never mind, it’s frugal and even beat its 6.7 second 0-100 km/h promise. More than adequate, we did find the brakes a tad grabby and not as intuitive as we’d liked them to be on the road.

All in all, besides the one or two stupid compromises we note above, this all new 90 looks great inside and out. It even resembles the classic Land Rover Defender. In reality though, this new car is nothing like the old one. Yet Land Rover has managed to integrate new technology in a way that it leaves you with a remarkably similar feeling to the great original.

It begs for adventure. Yet while the new Land Rover Defender 90 is an ultra modern high-tech, albeit most expensive machine, it also continues the same burning spirit of adventure we all came to love about the great original. So if you consider your stylish life an adventure, this latest Landy 90 could be your perfect tool. — Giordano & Michele Lupini

Images: Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Land Rover Defender 90 D300 X
Engine: 221 kW 650 Nm 3-litre turbodiesel V6
Drive: 8-speed automatic 4x4
Load Capacity:    Up to 1,263 litres
Towing Capacity:  3,500 kg braked
0-60 km/h:        3.07 sec
0-100 km/h:       6.63 sec
0-160 km/h:       16.89 sec
400m:             16.8 sec @ 132 km/h
80-120 km/h:      4.66 sec
120-160 km/h:     7.71 sec
VMax:             191 km/h
Fuel:             7.6 l/100km
CO2:              191 g/km
Warranty/Service: 5y 100K/5y 100K km
LIST PRICE:       R1.67M
RATED:            8
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