Words Andrew Middleton, Images Andrew Middleton & Hendri Mouton
In a world of cheesy, chrome smiles, spray-on mud and the fattening of our cars to match the expanding girths of their owners, the Defender is a welcome breeze of nostalgia. One must keep in mind that the basic architecture of this Defender dates back to 1983, when the first 90s (which reflects their wheelbase in inches) were introduced. Since then, the only significant changes have been in the engine, gearbox and a few minor interior departments, so don’t expect Rolls Royce comfort.
What we have here is the ‘new’ Adventure edition. It’s available in white, orange or grey, all with a contrasting black bonnet, unique interior and exterior ‘Adventure’ badging, plus LED headlights, leather seats, diamond-cut alloys and alloy bash plates.
Production for the Adventure edition will be limited to 600 units worldwide, of which only 15 short-wheelbase versions will come to SA. So, this is a rare shorty.
Last updated in 2012 from the oldstyle interior, the new models lost the Defender’s signature air vents under the windscreen, allowing for a bigger dash and heater vents that don’t just cook your
kneecaps, but warm your face, too. Sporty leather seats make up for some of the Landy’s comfort issues and look fantastic.
However, the rear seats are bolted above the rear wheel arches in a position so high that taller backseat passengers get a great view of the driver’s bald patch, but not much else. The rear pews also take up lots of space and are not easily removable without tools – they do fold up to the sides, but leave only enough space for a 55l fridge, some camp gear and very little else.
If you’re buying a shorty, it’s best just to put the rear seats in your lounge and use the extra cargo space as required.
As for the signature ‘window-open, elbow-out’ driving position, it’s not just for show. If you must keep the driver’s window closed, strap a packet of Winegums to your elbow; this will reduce the bruising from constantly bashing it on the door frame. Also, the steering wheel is massive, and set in place without possible adjustment; and the seats don’t go very far back, either.
So, if you’re built like a lanky spider monkey, or made the running as a prop forward in high school, you’ll struggle. Fortunately, my 5’11’’ frame fits the Landy like a glove and I was comfortable – one quickly adapts to the limited space.
Considering that other Land Rover products (like the Range Rover) have some of the highest-quality interiors around, there are aspects of the Defender that disappoint. An aftermarket front-loader CD player which is more ‘CitiGolf’ than Range Rover and was possibly bought from Cash Crusaders, makes its cheapness known through four awful little speakers − also possibly from Cash Crusaders. And, if you travel at anything above 100km/h, tyre roar drowns out your favourite song – not expected on a R700 000 vehicle. I suppose the advantage of this primitive set-up is that the dash is easily modifiable for extra switches or a two-way radio.
The ‘hose down’ nature of the interior is welcome in a world ruled by fragile smartphones and the sensibilities that go with them, but here, when your clay clogged gumboots get all over the mats, it doesn’t matter one iota. A simple trip computer and, perhaps, a driver airbag would be nice, though.