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Driven: Land Rover Defender 90 – on sale now

Land Rover

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Review

Land Rover’s Defender is destined to remain an icon. A much-needed revision earlier this year has resulted in a more user-friendly vehicle.

No longer do drivers have to put up with hap-hazard positioning of switches and heater controls, thanks to its new, more ergonomic dashboard. It has also gained an more effective air-conditioning system (a £995 option on all except the top-specification XS variant).

At the heart of its upgrade is the new 2.4-litre common-rail turbodiesel engine and six-speed gearbox. It’s a strong combination which, thanks to the higher sixth gear, has finally added motorway cruising capability to Defender’s utilitarian repertoire. Occupants still need to raise their voices to make themselves heard, however, and the foldaway individual rear seats in the 90 Station Wagon we tested still lacked the comfort needed for longer journeys.

Defender remains true to its original purpose – excellent off-road and towing ability. A lower first gear combined with the higher torque engine allows Defender to tow more easily, making it perfect for towing horseboxes and agricultural equipment.

Land Rover proudly talks about Defender’s exceptionally high customer loyalty. Yet it is hard to understand the value in this flagship 90 XS, given its £26,235 price tag, which puts it up against the Nissan Patrol, Mitsubishi Shogun and even its stable mate the entry-model Discovery TDV6. It will account for a minority of sales, as most customers will want their 90 as a tool, not a lifestyle statement.

Price: £26,235
Engine: 2.4-litre turbodiesel: 122bhp@3500rpm, 266lb ft@2000rpm
Performance: 0-62mph: 14.7sec; top speed 82mph
Transmission: 6-sp manual, 4x4
Efficiency: 27.5 mpg; 266g/km CO2
Rivals: Subaru Forester, Mitsubishi L200, Nissan Patrol
Strengths: Versatility, strength, brand
Weaknesses: Costly

Also driven: Land Rover Discovery 4 HSE 3.0 SDV6

In the wake of Evoque’s sales conquests it could be overlooked that Land Rover has long been selling superb premium vehicles.

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