Land Rover took their time to develop a new Defender. In 2016 the last of the legendary 110s came of the production line. In the rugged terrain of the Cederberg mountains I found out, whether the new one is a worthy successor to the icon created in 1949.

For a car designer it is always easier to create an entirely new vehicle, than trying to reinvent a legendary icon. Mercedes-Benz faced this challenge a couple of years ago, when their famous Geländewagen, the G, reached the end of its life circle, after almost 40 years. When the old one was terminated, the new one took over immediately. From a distance it still looks exactly like the previous one, despite being a completely new vehicle.
Land Rover had appointed no successor, when the popular Defender with a huge worldwide fanbase was officially terminated on 29th January 2016. Their last model was the Heritage, in a traditional green, which I took for an appropriate farewell trip to Namibia.
The Landy originated in 1947 on a beach. As a drawing of a square, utilitarian 4×4 in the sand. The ‘Series I’ was launched at the motor show in Amsterdam on 30th April 1948. In 1990, when Land Rover introduced a second model, the Discovery, the icon previously known as the short 90 and the longer 110, needed a real name as well. From then onwards it was known as the Defender.
In 2019 the New Defender finally made it’s debut. Proudly bearing both the name as well as the wheelbase number ‘110’ of the old one. And in Daniel Craig’s very last mission as the world’s most famous spy the modern Defender was supposed to have an impressive cinematic 007 action role in April 2020. But due to the worldwide pandemic, the premiere of the 25th Bond movie was delayed for an entire year.
Subsequently the highly anticipated launch of the Defender was cancelled a couple of times as well. But now, I am finally sitting behind the wheel, trailing a large dust cloud behind me on this rough track through the red rock territory of the Cederberg region.
In my opinion the new looks work very well. The modern Defender is different from the Discovery and Range Rover, more individual, but with the same comfort. It is a stylish SUV with all the bells and whistles, including the latest terrain response system. And there are many subtle design elements proudly showing DNA samples of the original. Or as Land Rover design boss Gerry McGovern puts it: ‘It was inspired by the past not constraint by it’.
And as with the old one Land Rover offers hundreds of accessories to individually equip your personal Landy. It is sold in four different guises: Explorer, Adventure, Country & Urban. Initially only available as the long wheel-based 110, the 90 will follow shorty.
There is a 2.0-l., 4 cyl. twin-turbo diesel and a 2.0-l., 4 cyl. turbo-petrol on offer. But the flagship P 400, featuring a potent 6 cyl. turbo-petrol impressed me the most.
And while I am rock crawling in the reincarnated Defender to the top of a crumbling sandstone outcrop, only seeing blue sky through the windshield, I picture myself taking the New Defender on an adventurous trip to Namibia to welcome it properly. But before that, I am going to admire it in ‘No time to die”.

Land Rover Defender 110 D4H/P4/P6
Engine 2.0-l. 4cyl turbo-diesel, 2.0-l. turbo-petrol, 3.0-l. turbo-petrol,
paired with an 8-speed auto
Power 177/221/294kW and 430/400/550Nm
Top Speed 188/191/208 km/h
0-100km/h 9.1/8.1/6.1 seconds
Ground clearance 291mm
Price from R1 050 100 to R1 574 500
www.landrover.co.za