Most cars follow the traditional product lifecycle; they’re launched, sell well for a while, reach a peak and then demand slowly declines before production is halted. A few, however, have a seemingly endless appeal; and, in the case of the original Land Rover, endless purpose, too.
Fast approaching its 60th birthday, the Defender (as it’s known these days) still has no rivals for the money when it comes to serious off-roading. Yes, it’s unquestionably archaic, but for the most part that only adds to its appeal of functionality over fripperies. Obviously there are things that grate a little in this day and age, but don’t let that put you off; many of these are addressed in the latest stage of the Land Rover evolution.
The 2007 model features an entirely new powerplant. The coarse 2.5-litre Td5 unit is replaced with a more refined 2.4-litre common rail unit, offering increased torque (265lb.ft at 2000rpm). Allied to a new six-speed gearbox with a wider range of ratios, driveability should also be improved. A lower first gear ensures even greater off-road control and a slower crawl speed; while a higher top gear and improved sound insulation guarantees smoother and quieter cruising at speed.
There are changes inside, too. A completely fresh, one-piece facia houses instruments borrowed from the Discovery and promises to dramatically reduce squeaks and rattles. It also hides a new heating and air-conditioning system, capable of maintaining cabin temperatures of 12°C higher and 7°C lower than the outgoing model.
Taller front seats offer improved head restraint and superior back support, while the 90 Station Wagon now has two individual, forward-facing rear seats. These are also available as a third row on the 110 Station Wagon – taking occupant capacity from five to seven.
As has been the case throughout the Land Rover’s life, exterior modifications have been kept to a minimum. Chief designer Dave Saddington had the following to say on the matter:
“Defender’s timeless exterior has become synonymous with functional design. Every line and surface seems to be linked to the vehicle’s extraordinary capability, so we deliberately changed very little.”
A revised bonnet is, in fact, the only external clue to the many improvements to the 2007 model. The new Defender is available in the same 90, 110 and 130 wheelbase versions as the outgoing model. These comprehensive updates should certainly guarantee the timeless Land Rover’s continued success in the 21st century. If it’s off-road you’re going, the Defender’s still the king.