Land Rover Defender 110 Puma SW 2.4 D 2010
Drive Out had a Land Rover Defender for a week, and Albertus van Wyk put it through its paces on the Kroonland 4×4 trail near Villiersdorp.
Before you read any further, you need to know what you’re reading. A friend and I decided at university we wouldn’t read the English prescribed works, so we would have a nice uncluttered perspective. The same goes for my opinion here. I don’t know Land Rovers well, and haven’t driven many Defenders, but here are a few honest overall impressions.
What I liked:
• The engine.
The 2.4-litre turbodiesel Ford engine feels like an old friend you haven’t seen for years. It was no racehorse in a previous life, but on the open road you can easily trot faster than the speed limit. In the veld and on quite scary uphills there was more than enough torque. And it’s apparently as reliable as a crowbar.
• The suspension.
Right, this isn’t a Rolls-Royce, but it’s much more supple and forgiving than an old fixed-axle Hilux, courtesy of those long coil springs.
• The electronic traction control.
If you grew up on a farm, it’s contrary to your instincts to step on the gas when the wheels spin, but on a 35º uphill with loose stones the computer made the wheels cooperate nicely if you stepped on the accelerator.
• That Landy feeling.
It’s the first time so many Land Rover drivers have waved at me. I just waved back …
What I didn’t like:
• The large turning circle.
It’ll work well in Schweizer-Reneke where the main road was designed for an ox wagon and a span of oxen to turn. The Defender is a very uncomfortable car to drive around in town. Even when you compare it to other old-style 4x4s.
• The cubby.
What cubby? There is just about no stowage space for small items in the front of the cabin. Everything has to be chucked in the biggish stowage bin between the two seats.
• The handbrake.
More ink has probably been spent on the stupid placement of the Land Rover’s handbrake lever than on the first moon landing. And if the Yanks can put a man on the moon, why can’t Land Rover move the handbrake lever? I’ve still got a tender spot on my leg after completing the 4×4 trail.
• The gearbox.
I understand that the clutch and the gearbox on the Puma are a great improvement compared to the previous models. Well, sometimes when you change gears it still feels (and sounds) like you’re switching rails on a railway line: Ke-chunk!
• The cabin ergonomics.
One accepts that one is buying a vehicle with decades-old design and interior layout, but it’s still annoying if a mother can’t easily get to a child on the back seat. It’s difficult to turn over and stretch backwards in so little space.
• The ceiling window.
Without the elongated ceiling window above the rear seats, a Defender is simply not a Defender. The problem is that the rear seats in a Defender are so high that the space between the normal window and the ceiling is right in the middle of the average adult’s line of vision. Why?
So what am I actually saying? I think you’re missing the point completely if you shoot down the Defender due to its many shortcomings, just as you would miss the point completely to complain that Jeremy Clarkson is overly dramatic and obnoxious. Clarkson has built a multimillion-pound empire on his contrary and childishly outrageous persona. That’s why people like him
Because ultimately, Defender owners like the vehicle because it’s an iconic 4×4 with a long tradition in Africa. Consequently they’re not bothered by most of its flaws. In truth, they rather harbour a bit of a soft spot for some of them.
2 402 cc, in-line four-cylinder turbodiesel;
90 kW @ 3 500 rpm,
360 Nm @ 2 000 rpm
6-speed manual, full-time four-wheel drive,
electronic traction control
140 km/h top speed (limited),
13.2 litre/100 km
314 mm ground clearance,
49º approach angle,
35º departure angle,
75-litre fuel tank,
3 050 kg
Warranty: 3 year /100 000 km
Service plan: None
Service intervals: 10 000 km
Price: R389 500
(the model pictured is a special Fire & Ice version, at R418 000)
Originally published in DO#40 | November 2010