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DEFENDER DELIGHTS

LAND ROVER DEFENDER 130

One Life. Live It. This has been a Land Rover adage since the first Series 1 appeared 75 years ago. Now, the iconic brand makes it possible for its clients to live their best life by offering owners bespoke trips to some of the most delectable destinations in the country. We joined a bespoke three-day Defender Drive outing to sample some of the most exclusive Cape Winelands delights.

Our Land Rover hosts, receiving us at the exclusive Steenberg Estate in Tokai, had a surprise in store for our recent Defender Drive outing to some of the most beautiful venues and destinations in the Western Cape.

Two of the recently introduced new Land Rover Defender 130 models formed part of the fleet lined up for our trip, and as part of the launch activities for the biggest Defender of all, they were ours to use over the next three days. 

There was a selection of other Defender derivatives as well to choose from, including a pitch black and tastefully kitted out Defender 90 V8 but, as our hosts explained over a light lunch at the upmarket Bistro Sixteen82, the event was not so much about the vehicles but more about the destinations and places we would visit.

Aimed at discerning Land Rover owners, customers and other stakeholders, the Defender Drive concept is, in essence, a tailormade road trip to places and destinations a Land Rover owner or Defender driver would like to see and experience, with associated activities. 

Steenberg Farm, with its beautiful scenery, a spectacular yet technically challenging 18-hole golf course, two restaurants, a wine tasting room and the five-star Steenberg Hotel, with 24 rooms encapsulating the dictum of understated luxury, ticks all the boxes.

Perhaps not known to all, Steenberg was the Cape’s first farm, established in 1682, and the recently restored original Manor House – harmoniously blending the elegance and traditions of the 17th century with modern comforts and conveniences – has been declared a Provincial Heritage Site.

ONE DAY, FOUR SEASONS

True to the Cape, we experienced four seasons in a single day. It was raining softly when we left Steenberg for our next destination. A grey cloud blanket shrouded Cape Town, and we skirted the bustling city centre, driving towards Melkbosstrand and Koeberg.

The new Defender 130, splendid in its exclusive Sedona Red paint coat, is, in essence, a 110 with the rear elegantly extended by 340 mm to provide for enhanced interior space with a vast maximum load capacity of 2,516 litres and three rows of full-size seating.

Available in South Africa in X-Dynamic HSE and X specifications, there is also a First Edition derivative, featuring three distinct colour and design themes. Negotiating the rainswept M5 highway, we were ensconced in a Sedona Red D300 First Edition with opulent Ebony Full Windsor Leather seats and Smoked Oak veneer.

The First Edition model builds on the HSE specification with an extensive equipment list, including Matrix LED headlamps, heated second and third-row seating, four-zone climate control, Meridian Sound System, Driver Assist Pack, and Privacy Glass. 

To be honest, there was no discernible difference in road behaviour between the 130 and 110 on the Cape highways and byways. Yes, the 130 felt slightly heavier, but the 3.0-litre six-cylinder Ingenium turbodiesel engine, delivering 221 kW and 650 Nm of torque, had no problem lugging the extra weight around.

Also, the 130 range has recently been expanded overseas with the special Defender 130 Outbound – available exclusively with five seats – and the 286 kW Defender 130 V8. These new models are expected to arrive locally toward the end of the year.

By now, we have turned off the N7 and negotiating a waterlogged dirt road leading up Koeberg Hill towards Die Heuwel, a rustic barn venue with stunning views over the whole of the Swartland, and views of Malmesbury, Atlantis, Melkbos, Table Mountain and the ocean, providing an idyllic setting for any function. 

Unfortunately, the views were obscured by low clouds, but having afternoon tea with tasty scones in front of a roaring open-hearth fire made up for this before we took the backroads leading towards Paarl, enjoying the wet, green scenery as we passed through the Winelands. Our overnight destination? The upmarket and exclusive Babylonstoren Wine Estate close to Klapmuts. 

BABYLONSTOREN WINE ESTATE

Located on one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms, set at the foot of Simonsberg in the Franschhoek wine valley, Babylonstoren offers a fruit and vegetable garden of beauty and diversity, unique accommodation, fine food and wine, and evokes a sense of well-being.

The hot spa, followed by a massage, set the tone for our stay, with dinner served at the acclaimed Babel Restaurant, with its menus guided by what is available in the garden – a farm-to-fork philosophy serving seasonal food reflecting the farm’s “pick, clean and serve” approach.

It was still raining the next morning, and due to flooding, the off-road experience was cancelled. As an alternative, we visited the Paarlberg Nature Reserve, with the Defenders handling the soggy and muddy trails leading towards the Paarl rocks with ease and aplomb.

Yes, the standard 20” tyres are probably not the correct footwear for this type of excursion as they tend to tramline and induce a harsher ride quality, but the bespoke Land Rover four-wheel-drive system in the Defenders and the range’s potent engines made it a fun trip.

From there, now driving the powerful and playful Defender 90 V8, we headed for Franschhoek for a fine dining lunch at La Petite Colombe situated at the exclusive Leeu Estates – the epitome of “location with a sense of place”. Nestled amid vineyards and manicured landscapes, the restaurant, serving some exquisite and exclusive dishes, offers views of the Franschhoek Valley.

We then headed to Babylonstoren for some downtime, and a light dinner at The Bakery at Babylonstoren – with cold meat platters enjoyed with some Babylonstoren wines – followed in the morning by our final breakfast in Babel Restaurant before heading out to return to Steenberg Estate. 

LAST WORD

The carefully curated and very well-run trip again highlighted the comfort and capabilities of the Defender range, and the delights experienced during the journey emphasised the ethos of Land Rover and the original reason for the brand’s existence – to explore and experience – except that nowadays one can do it in a comfortable and content way.

Report by FERDI DE VOS | Images © JAGUAR LAND ROVER SOUTH AFRICA

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