WATCH: First impressions- Land Rover Defender back with a bang

The Land Rover Defender has made a grandiose comeback.

After a much-hyped reincarnation, this iconic vehicle offers the perfect blend of rich heritage and modernisation.

The Citizen was invited to drive the new Land Rover Defender during an exclusive launch event in England in April, but this never happened due to Covid-19.

Five months later, we finally had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of one of the most anticipated vehicles of 2020. Before we bring you our in-depth driving impression on the reincarnation of one of the world’s most iconic off-road vehicles of which the previous generation was discontinued in 2016, we thought it best to introduce the Defender by virtue of our first impressions.

The model we sampled was the 110 D240 S, which features the only turbodiesel engine offered across the range and is one notch up from the entry level D240. The 2.0-litre Ingenium four-cylinder twin-turbo powerplant produces 177 kW of power and 430 Nm of torque which is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

The Defender 110 D240 S costs R1 111 142 in standard guise. With all its optional extras, our test unit was valued at R1 307 242. Here are the highlights from our first drive:

Fresh exterior styling

The new Defender is turning heads everywhere. On the exterior it might be worlds apart from its predecessor due to its fresh design which makes it fits in perfectly with it Land Rover siblings in terms of styling. But there is still a hint of retro-ness to the design, paying homage to its rich heritage.

The vehicle’s height is impressive. Adjustable standard air suspension enables a maximum ground clearance of 291 mm and maximum suspension articulation of 500 mm. With the maximum height selected in what is called Off-Road Height, it seems like you are looking down at the driver of every other vehicle on the road, regardless of how big that car seemed before. The combination of Pangea Green paint and an optional satin protective film along with a white roof and black roof rails made our test unit quite mesmerising to bystanders wherever we went.

Interior design

The combination of materials used in the Defender’s cabin makes it quite unique. Ebony Grained Leather on soft touch panels on the dash, on the doors and centre console blends in perfectly with various plastics and rubber with open metal bolt head creating a rugged look. A combination of Windsor Leather and material insets also provide the seats with a comfortable yet durable finishing.

Sturdy ride quality

Ride quality is rock solid. It feels like you are cruising in a tank, just a very comfortable one at that. On tarred roads most blemishes in the surface are hardly felt at all during your ride, while the buttery smooth suspension is hard to miss at the first sight of gravel.

Off-roading made easy

One of the major differences between the previous generation Defender and the new one is that the low gearing selector has become completely electronic. Not always popular among purists, experienced off-roaders still have the option to fine tune their settings even without the traditional low range gear lever, while the Terrain Response system will assist less experienced drivers in selecting the right setting for the conditions.

ClearSight Ground View technology, which we’ve recently also experienced in the new Discovery Sport, is a fantastic tool for off-roading. A selection of cameras creates virtual video footage of what it looks like under the bonnet with the position of the two front wheels clearly indicated. This is displayed on the infotainment screen.

But wait there’s more…

Hard-core off-roaders, and even more civilised campers for that matter, travel nowhere without their air compressors. They are key in inflating and deflating tyres in preparation of various types of terrain and also blows up mattresses.

As part of the optional Adventure Pack, the Defender features a built-in air compressor on the sidewall of the boot. A little digital dial allows you to select the right pressure and just like that, it’s one piece of equipment less to pack for your adventure.

Be sure to catch our in-depth driving impression this weekend.

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