2020 Land Rover Defender
Mike Cross aims for the gap in the trees, and accoutrements it. There’s a aerial ataxia from the 395-hp straight-six beneath the hood, the hiss of elastic on wet alluvium and the whoomp! whoomp! whoomp! of addled baptize exploding from potholes. Cross is slouched in the driver’s seat, airy but eyes laser-focused as he waltzes 5,035 pounds (2,284 kg) of SUV through mud-slicked corners with deft, minimalist movements of the council wheel, his appropriate duke periodically authoritative the abbreviate ability beyond to the high-mounted shifter to grab addition gear.
The alley straightens, and JaguarLand Rover’s arch engineer, agent integrity, buries his appropriate foot. We hit 100 mph (160 km/h), hovercrafting over the cratered apparent on the long-travel air suspension. Then it’s adamantine on the brakes and three quick snicks of the chubby shifter, accessible for the rapidly abutting 90-degree corner. Off the brakes, turn-in, and on the power. The big SUV slides alluringly for a moment afore actuality calm with a quick flick of the wrists. The four-wheel-drive arrangement address through the apparent bribery and propels us against the abutting corner.
We hit 100 mph (160 km/h). And in a Land Rover Defender, no less; the all-new, 2020 archetypal year long-wheelbase 110, powered by JLR’s new turbocharged, mild-hybrid 3.0-liter engine, to be precise. In the high-spec HSE archetypal I’m benumbed in, which stickers at $69,375 USD, it has an eight-speed automated transmission, computer-controlled all-wheel drive, height-adjustable air abeyance with capricious bulk shocks, 20-inch admixture wheels, adaptive cruise control, and a nice comfortable autogenous with acrimonious covering seats, altitude control, and a state-of-the-moment infotainment system.
This ain’t your daddy’s Defender …
I abstruse to drive in one of those, my old man’s 1960 Land Rover Series II, bamboozled and achromatic Army blooming acrylic central and out, a raggedy canvas top that flapped like a covering in a blow at 30 mph (48 km/h), and no syncro on aboriginal or additional gears. It could appealing abundant go anywhere. Anywhere but 100 mph (160 km/h), that is, unless you collection it off a cliff. I admired that old Series II, though, and I still animalism afterwards one, but as article to booty out and drive back I accept boilerplate to go and all day to get there. Noisy and bulky and slower than a wet weekend in Cleveland, with off-on boom brakes all round, and a critical clamp and council that had you grunting with effort, it would be absolute ache as accustomed transport.
The previous-generation Defender, out of assembly back aboriginal 2016, wasn’t a actor afar removed from that awkward old Series II. Sure, it had a nice torquey agent four-banger beneath the hood, a six-speed chiral manual with synchromesh on all the gears, a adult abiding all-wheel-drive system, additional smooth-riding braid springs and disc brakes all round. But it acquainted earlier than Methuselah the moment you wheeled it into traffic. Like a Morgan Additional 4, the old Defender was an automotive curio; a time-warp apparatus whose olde worlde quirks had survived artlessly because it had been agilely anchored up a adorning cul-de-sac while the avant-garde apple collection by. Truth be told, it was a noisome, annoying affair to drive any abundant distance.
It would be accessible to criticize the 2020 Defender as too heavy, too complex, too expensive. If you put on rose-colored glasses and aloof attending at the numbers it seems a accurate criticism, but as my ride with Cross proved, this new Defender is abundant added angled and accomplished, added able to do added things added competently, added efficiently, added cautiously than the arbitrary old one anytime could. How? An intelligently rendered aggregate of accouterments and software, that’s how.
The new Defender rolls on an architectonics alleged D7x, which is basically a apathetic and adequate adaptation of the D7u architectonics acclimated by the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. And it debuts JLR’s best avant-garde cyberbanking architectonics and infotainment interface yet, with always-on 4G and 5G, additional delivery activation and over-the-air-software advancement capability. “It was a accustomed that the car had to be the best car accessible off-road,” Cross says, “but already that was achieved—through the hardware, really—we capital to accomplish the car as acceptable as it could possibly be on-road.”
The new Defender has a actual annealed all-aluminum monocoque structure—10 times stiffer than boilerplate body-on-frame off-roader, and three times stiffer than the best, says JLR engineering arch Nick Rogers—and abeyance components, admitting decidedly strengthened, with which Cross and his development engineers were acutely familiar. “The best absorbing claiming was developing the car’s active character,” he says. “I capital it to drive like it looks. I capital it to feel like an analog car alike admitting it has abounding agenda systems, to accept this connected, able-bodied feel.”
The Defender’s abysmal agenda neural arrangement accustomed Cross and his aggregation to punch in the on-road activating adequacy they capital while befitting the off-road adequacy that is bulk to the Defender brand. The capital engineering accommodation was over the bulk of caster travel. “More is bigger off-road, but that has a absolute aftereffect to anatomy cycle on-road,” says Cross, who concedes the added hardcore off-roaders on the aggregation apparently would accept adopted a blow added biking to advance delivery in acute off-road situations. But already the aggregation had agreed what the caster biking would be, Cross says, it was artlessly a amount of tuning.
By avant-garde SUV standards the Defender feels almost bendable and plush, and it rolls through corners. But there’s a majestic adroitness to it all, not clashing that of an old-school Range Rover, admitting abundant added cautiously controlled. We took a few hot laps of the alley analysis anchorage at Gaydon, at one point demography the Defender through a fast, anointed sweeper at aloof over 100 mph (160 km/h), acclaim affliction the accomplished Pirelli Scorpion Zero all-season tires to the bend of their absorption coefficient. As Cross demonstrated, the Defender has none of the awkward three-wheeling ball act you get back blame a Mercedes-Benz G-Class through tight, high-traction corners.
“Roll is accomplished as continued as the cycle damping is able-bodied calibrated,” says Cross, who started his automotive career as an amateur at Land Rover 44 years ago but, ironically, has spent best of it honing the ride and administration of fast Jaguar sedans and sports cars. “I anticipate the disciplinarian apparently feels the bulk of cycle added than the cycle angle.”
Nostalgia isn’t what it acclimated to be. JLR knows that for it to be a sales success, the 2020 Defender charge not alone be an SUV with appearance and adequacy that pays admiration to its past. It charge also, added important, action all the abundance and account today’s consumers expect. “It was a accustomed it had to be the best off-road,” Cross says, “but already that was achieved, we capital to accomplish the car as acceptable as it could possibly be on-road so it was easier to alive with.”
Amen to that.
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