A car I got excited about since its debut. The all-new Defender. Big thanks to Land Rover Switzerland for giving me the keys to properly test their Land Rover Defender 90 P400. P400 stands for the 3-litre in-line-six-cylinder turbocharged engine with 400hp. The P400’s base price is 94’500.00CHF. Which is a lot depending on the base model’s price of 64’300.00CHF! Options like the “Carpathian grey“ metallic paintjob (2’680.00CHF), air suspension (3’060.00CHF), Head-Up-Display (1’500.00CHF), electric trailer hitch (2’700.00CHF), roof painted in black (1’240.00CHF) and some other bits and bobs end up at a price of a drastically high 112’290.00CHF.
Is it really worth to pay this confident price tag?
Walking towards that cube (yes, its huge) immediately brought me ideas about adventures and explorations that really make this car unique to me. I almost needed a ladder to get into the driver’s seat because there isn’t any easily reachable handle on the a-pillow. It’s still manageable but feels like doing your daily climbing-exercises. Once you’re in, it feels like transporting your average heavy-duty stuff with your lorry. A regular Audi Q5 or Volkswagen Tiguan feels tiny. Something I’ve never experienced like that before. But the car’s size feels predictable because of the boxy design. The surround view isn’t the best due to the very high seating position. You can barely see what's behind you.
What it’s all about
Going on adventures. And that’s exactly what I tried to do best. I set myself the goal to find some amazing places, preferably some lost places. I wanted to find out how good the car manages to reach some rarely touched terrain.
First things first I didn’t damage any agricultural fields or terrain. I just drove through unused grass.
There’s a huge community about lost places and urban exploration. Searching and finding spots, buildings, industrial areas or even whole cities where nature strikes back after the human being has left and “never” officially returned.
I have read a lot about lost places, some magic rules and how you’re able to find them. Because it’s a big thing to not exactly tell where these spots are. Luckily, I stumbled across a lost industrial area by accident while I went to a car related event at Sportec AG here in Switzerland. Saw some damaged buildings which were overgrown by any sort of plants, bushes and trees. Graffities are all over the place. And the damage is heavy. There was a fire many years ago when the ceiling and all the upper floors burned down. Only the walls have resisted the fire. Impressive to see.
By the way the new Defender has a lot to offer. Starting with the driving modes: comfort, grass/gravel/snow, mud, sand and rock crawl. Depending on the chosen driving mode the Defender adjusts various things like the air suspension with the driving height (3’060.00CHF option), electronic helpers and even the side mirror’s angle! The car even recognizes strong angled slopes and paths to adjust the driving hight automatically. Which isn’t always advantageous when entering an underground parking lot. I was afraid the car would reach the building’s ceiling. Which of course did not happen it felt pretty tight.
Anyway. This car gets you (almost) everywhere. Even on street tires (Pirelli Scorpion) it has so much grip. I used the reduction gear on gravel for steep ascent in a gravel work area.
Further a friend and I visited an abandoned train station where we drove through high grass and some old and unused train tracks. It is so refreshing to get to different places by car I never even thought to reach on four wheels.
To the interior
Once you get into the new Defender, the rustic interior comes into proper sight. Land Rover tried to create the ultimate compromise between work horse and lifestyle. Some materials look a bit cheap at the first look but feel valuable and resilient in their haptics while touching them. And of course, the screws in the centre console and door panels support the heritage inspired look of the whole car.
Further you can feel the aspects the designer wanted to archive. Storage spaces in any kind of sizes are everywhere. Starting from the door panels to the dashboard and to the huge centre console which even has a fridge in it!
The seats are very comfy for long distance traveling and deliver enough side support on heavy terrain. Although the car feels like a truck while sitting on the passenger seats it still moves like a regular SUV on the roads. The soft air suspension isn’t set up to be sporty. The Defender tends to understeer during quick cornering.
Sticking with the steering: The turning circle is impressively good and makes the Defender 90 a nimble car for off-roading. But the steering wheel itself, depending on the buttons and their functions seems overloaded in my opinion. At least it looks cool.
One thing I noticed was that the Bluetooth connection doesn’t always work as intended. Sometimes it doesn’t play the music, doesn’t recognize the phone (even plugged in) or started playing the songs without any sound. Disconnecting and reconnecting always helped against the issues. Otherwise, everything works flawlessly. Some of the expensive options are nice-to-have gimmicks. But I’m not sure it’s really necessary to have a panorama roof, heated and cooled seats.
Now what to buy
The Land Rover Defender 90 left me with mixed feelings. I absolutely liked every minute with it. So many great memories to remember with such a good car. On the other side I’m unsure if this car is that usable compared to its size. The back seats supply a lot of space for everyone back there. But climbing into the second row isn’t funny. Additionally, the boot with folded up seats is tiny. When folding the down the space (obviously) gets bigger but does not transform into a flat surface. It is almost unusable.
Now you might ask yourself if it really has to be a real purpose beside being cool. Well, in my opinion it should when I remember the price tag of around 100’000CHF. And then there’s the realistic average fuel consumption of 12.5L on 100km, maybe 10-11L on motorway driving. This is a lot for such a huge car which isn’t economic in any way.
I guess a Defender Cargo version or the P300 might be the better and cheaper choice. Otherwise, the 110 4-door version might be more practical and worth the price.