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HomeDRIVENLand Rover Defender 90 D240 S

Land Rover Defender 90 D240 S

Defending Your Inner Caveman |

Growing up, I was fascinated by the Land Rover Defender. Many boys (and undoubtedly, girls too) were. The Defender was a mythical beast that tamed every jungle in the world – or so the Camel Trophy ads at the movies made us believe. The rugged men who drove Defenders (you had to be tough, or at least have some powerful arms, to drive one back then) were the heroes of our daydreams. 

In reality, the original Defender was more a primitive beast than a mythical one. While there are many reasons it had to make way for a newer, cleaner, and safer vehicle, owners of the old Defender were (and are) die-hard loyalists who will forever defend their fatally flawed rides. 

It truly was the end of an era when the last of the old guard rolled off the production line in 2016, and many (including myself) feared that the new Defender could never live up to the iconic reputation of the original. 

The Defender 90, and particularly the entry-level D240 S that Driven recently had on test, blows that theory out of the water, though.

WHY 90?

If you’re reading this, I probably don’t have to explain why some Defender models are designated as 90 and others as 110. But for the uninitiated, 90 refers to the distance, in inches, between the front and rear axles of the Defender, which means that what you see here is a shorter version of the Defender that was launched locally in 2020.

This is significant as, although the 110 is a superb vehicle, the 90, for me, is the true successor to the original Defender. Firstly, because the forebear to the Defender was the short-wheelbase Land Rover Series I and, secondly, there is a rule of thumb that says; the shorter the wheelbase, the more capable the off-roader. 

The third reason speaks to the attributes of our specific test car, the entry-level D240 S. In my book, if you’re serious about off-roading, you need a vehicle that is powerful enough to go where you want it to go, with just enough spec to make your journey comfortable, and tough enough for any adventure.

THE SIMPLER, THE BETTER?

Finished in “Fuji White” with matching steel rims, our tester was precisely the Defender I would buy for myself. Yes, I’d also happily take it in silver or grey, but for serious bundu-bashing, white paint doesn’t show dirt as quickly, is more resilient to scratches and scrapes, and is easier to repair than many other, fancier colours.

The tale of opulent austerity continues inside the cabin, where the 90 is packed with (more than you need) tech. The new Defender is not the utilitarian shell that it once was, and for its R1,175,904 base price, the standard equipment list is quite stacked. It includes a 3D surround camera, cruise control, lane-keep assist, 360-degree parking aid, a wade sensor, emergency braking, and driver alert monitor. Both of the uber-comfy full-grain leather front seats are 12-way electrically adjustable, and the surprisingly large centre console bin is refrigerated to keep your snacks and drinks cold as you power over a distant dune somewhere. There are also storage spaces, and parcel shelves dotted all over the cabin and in the doors.

Being a modern Land Rover, the instruments are all digital, and there is a lovely 10” infotainment system screen that is not only ultra-high-definition, it also grants easy access to either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and to the magnificent Meridian sound system that also comes as part of the package. Besides all of this (and more), you can option almost anything in the 90, even in the base model. For a tad over R15,000, you can add the Driver Assist Package with its Blind Spot Assist, Clear Exit Monitor, Adaptive Cruise Control, Rear Collision Monitor, and Rear Traffic Monitor. Or splurge a mere R11,300 on the Advanced Off-Road Capability Pack that adds All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC), Terrain Response 2, Configurable Terrain Response, and Automatic Headlight Levelling. These are merely two of the 11 additional packs and features that can be added to the car to configure it to your liking, so tread lightly when ordering your 90 to ensure you add the features you need for your purposes. 

One of the few criticisms I have of the 90 is that, despite its size, on extended trips, it’s an ideal vehicle for two rather than four. Luggage room is limited – it is a shorty after all – and unless you’re towing a trailer or caravan (max braked towing capacity is 3,500 kg), packing for four adults can become somewhat of a challenge.

UNDER THE HOOD

It might be the baby of the Defender 90 line-up, but the D240 S’ Ingenium 1,999 cc turbodiesel mill (mated to an eight-speed automatic) is more than capable for the job at hand. With a power output of 221 kW at 4,000 rpm, and a torque figure of 430 Nm that is available from 1,400 rpm, this 90 can move when required. Of course, the upside is that claimed fuel consumption is a low 7.6 l/100 km on the combined cycle, which is phenomenal considering the car’s heft.

LAST WORD

We were privileged enough to spend a week with the D240 S, and it turned out to be one of the most fun driving experiences I have had this year. It may be shorter than its 110 siblings, but the Defender 90 remains an imposing vehicle that turns heads wherever your latest adventure takes you, even if it’s just around the urban jungle. The Camel Trophy may not be within your reach anymore, but in the 90 you’ll feel like a winner every day of the week.

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG JR | Images © LAND ROVER SOUTH AFRICA

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