Thursday, September 11, 2008

The DEFENDER 110 Land Rover

It doesn’t conform to today’s idea of a car. Which makes the Defender all the more intriguing. THE 2007 Land Rover Defender 110 High Capacity Pick-up (HCPU) is a Beast!

The single cabin two-seater is cramped, it’s loud and noisy, it bounces like a rubber ball, it’s got a turning circle of a semi-trailer and I am totally, absolutely head over heels in love with it! Never have I driven any vehicle that has given me a purely minimalist driving pleasure than that of the Defender 110.

Loud and proud: The more things change, the more things stay the same. That applies to the Defender, which can trace its lineage back to the Series 1 Land Rovers of the late forties and fifties.

To describe the Defender as basic is an understatement. It has none of the regular luxuries that people take for granted nowadays. The moment I drove the Beast up the driveway, the first comment I got was from my five-year-old nephew was why it was so loud.

My father who retired as a major in the Territorial Army, added, “Forty years ago, we were driving around in these things and 40 years later nothing has changed!” Indeed, the more things change, the more things stay the same.

The Defender can trace its lineage back to the Series 1 Land Rovers of the late forties and fifties. It was during these formative years that Land Rovers gained a reputation for reliability and longevity, not to mention gutsy robustness. The cargo bed is more than 2m and is made almost entirely of aluminium.

So much so that it has been the vehicle of choice with the British and many Commonwealth armed forces for many years, and in most cases still the preferred vehicle.The current choice of vehicles with the Malaysian Armed Forces is still the Defender in its various forms.

The British Special Air Service (SAS) has been using Land Rovers as their long-range desert patrol vehicle since they abandoned the American Jeeps and Chevy trucks after World War II. Ironically the US Army Rangers have also picked up the Land Rover Defender as their desert patrol vehicle, calling it the Ranger Special Operations Vehicle.

So as the choice vehicle of many armed forces around the world, will the Defender translate that success into the civilian world or will it feel like a tired old Cold War Warrior, as it should. Not for those wanting leather-lined luxury for sure. What you get is manual wind-up windows, vinyl seats and a rear sliding windscreen. Of course, for us civvies we get air-conditioner and a CD player, hardly standard equipment for your regular military issue Defender.

You can have any colour interior as long as it’s black. The use of black plastic is extensive throughout the cabin, easier to clean than walnut wood grain if you get mud and muck on it. With vinyl seats, you can even clean it with a bucket of soapy water. The straight-up almost vertical seating position takes getting used to. It’s what Land Rover calls “Command Driving” position delivering an elevated view of your surroundings as well as an elevated superiority complex as you tower over the tallest Japanese SUVs and twin-cab pick-ups.

The utilitarianism is extended into the engine compartment in the form of an all-new 2.4 litre four-cylinder common rail turbodiesel engine derived from, get this, a Ford Transit van. This is, however, no ordinary van engine; it’s been tweaked to produce a maximum power output of 122bhp at 3,500rpm as well as a highly respectable maximum torque of 360Nm at just 2,000rpm.

All that torque at such low rpm means one thing — excellent payload and towing capacities. The Defender HCPU has a maximum towing capacity of 3,500kg if the trailer is braked, good enough for a decent-sized trailer boat or a horse float. Unbraked trailers are limited to only 750kg, more than enough if all you want to tow is a couple of dirt bikes.

The engine has also been specifically tuned to tolerate the variable quality high sulphur diesel commonly found in our country and other developing nations. The turbodiesel is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox; unique because I haven’t seen any other vehicle in the Defender’s price range that has a six-speed manual shifter.
It’s a long shift gearbox, and it feels like you’re arm-wrestling Arnie, particularly “Reverse”, which is a long way away on the extreme left and up. Two 4WD modes, low and high, are also available to cope with the various stresses and loads. An anti-stall device is also fitted to keep the engine well fuelled when working under heavy loads and low rpm.

Being permanent 4WD, you don’t have to worry about when to switch it on. It’s there as and when you need it. I took the Defender down a dirt track, which I think I was not supposed to be on, to test its 4WD capabilities. The track was nowhere near as tough as the Rainforest Challenge. It was mainly soggy, with deep-rutted clay that had a layer of slippery wet leaf litter. There were also some boulders strewn around parts of the track, which the Defender straddled with ease without even scraping the bottom of its undercarriage. That jungle track was no match for the Defender.

While the Defender rules the off-road, it may be a tad bouncy for asphalt. Crashing into PJ’s deepest potholes and ruts will cause it to bounce and shake like a hyperactive puppy, but only for a mere moment. The Defender quickly recovers itself and goes along its merry way.
The coil spring suspension does a great job in isolating much of the shock away from the cabin. The craters and speed bumps that demolish many a regular car’s suspension and rims are once again no match for the Defender. With all the flash floods that we are currently having, the Defender’s wading depth of 50cm makes it an ideal flood escape vehicle.

Add to that, the optional Safari snorkel and the Defender will venture into much deeper waters. Royal Marines specify that their Defenders must be able to operate fully submerged on beach landings. The Defender HCPU has a cargo bed length of more than 2m and is made almost entirely of aluminium. In fact most of the Defender’s body panels are light, strong and rustproof. Land Rover has been using aluminium since the first Series 1 trucks, as after World War II, steel was still being rationed and hard to come by.
The 2007 Land Rover Defender HCPU is not for everyone. Its inherent load bearing, towing and off-road capabilities are legendary amongst the 4WD fraternity. What Land Rover has done with the 2007 Defender is to drag a product conceived after the throes of World War II, into the 21st century and made it relevant to today’s requirements for a tough, no-nonsense off-road vehicle that is much sought after by many of the world’s armed forces and civilians alike.

At RM146,860 (OTR without insurance), it is a pretty penny to pay for a rudimentary 4WD pick-up truck. But if I did have the spare change .... hmmmmm.
The original article was written by LAI VOON LOONG - The Star, September 7, 2008 entitled "The Beast returns".

No comments: