It was only noon, but it was as dark as dusk. The sky provided a temporary respite from the torrential rain, and I lined up the Defender fifty yards from a pond the size of a pond. It was an obstacle that I would have done everything to avoid on any other day in any other car.
But not today, and not in cannons.
I was with my family in Hunting Island State Park, a wooded wonderland on the outcrop north of Hilton Head. We were previously crossing a strip of mud and sand that looked like a parking lot, but we were destroyed by a succession of recently named hurricanes. To our left the dunes and the oceans were exhausted; To the right, wind-deformed palm trees and ravaged marine forests.
I put a heavy foot on gas and rushed cannons across gravel and mud with an oyster shell towards this mighty lake of pits. The cover fell – it was deeper than expected – the water rose and covered each window; We were passengers in a car wash, passing the water like the bow of a ship …
I felt the Defender regain its grip and front lift – we just went through it. I put a heavy foot on the brake pedal and we stopped. There was silence in the cockpit. Were you in trouble? I waited for judgment.
And then, from the back seat, a small voice shouted, “Do it again, dad!”
She smiled at my wife, nodded, and swung the cannons for another round.
To appreciate the all-new Land Rover Defender 110, you have to look at it on its own terms. In other words, don’t expect Harry to be quite the same as Charles.
I am a sucker for nostalgia like everyone else. My first impression of the new Land Rover Defender was, from afar, that it didn’t evoke the same emotions as the original. I guess what I wanted was nothing to change at all other than some security and electronics features. But after spending some time with it up close, I have come to respect the option to renew on pure appreciation.
In Tasman Blue, he remembers my favorite classic Range Rover color, Derwent Blue. It is stunning with the white contrasting ceiling. It’s a vehicle that grabs attention. People kept me from getting out of it to ask questions and offer opinions ranging from “How much is this because I want one” to “It’s not the same as the old.”
Facing them head on, the silhouette is dominant; Flat down the sides, sloping around the wheels like a neckline to the shoulders. The round headlights, black treadplates on the hood, and the heavy-hinged tailgate were among my favorite styling details.
My neighbor imports a classic Defenders car and regularly holds the 110 Camel Cup parked outside. When seeing these two generations of Defender standing next to each other, it can be difficult to recognize the father in the son. But for me, what you give up on the utilitarian box lines, you make up for it with ease and comfort.
Everything in Defender feels intentionally durable. He finds a million ways to say, “I’m the tough, outgoing type.” The inner panels of the doors are trimmed with hex nails, and almost every surface is covered with rubber. It suffices to make you wonder where the line between stone washed jeans and actual jeans is. Between invention and originality. I don’t think Land Rover has crossed it here, but they come close.
For me, if the overall effect is fun, I don’t mind being visual in a particular frame of mind. I love the durable fabric and leather seats, the rubber mats on the dashboard, the rubber-padded shelves and the storage corners all around. And the fact that it looks like you can hose it down if it’s muddy. I appreciated the high ceiling, spacious interior, and large rear cargo area with military-grade rubber and plastic.
The flat-screen instrument cluster has an analog look that’s a bit like looking at an old-fashioned face on an Apple Watch. The touch screen and all the media features were intuitive and extremely easy to access without consulting a manual. The extra large steering wheel makes you feel like you are driving a serious truck, even if it’s wrapped in leather and heated. The tall, narrow skylights along the roof line are a lovely hat head for classic defenders. But the real star inside to me is the refrigerator under the front elbow pad. I found this by accident when I pushed a button inside while storing the camera, and ended up with a frosty lens. I stopped and bought a bottle of champagne to stay there until we stopped overnight. Because I can.
Every car has a sense of identity an unspoken request from its driver. Something that you feel once you are behind the wheel. Some ask for a path, some ask for a winding road, an endless flat, or in Defender’s case they ask you to take it off the road. So, we picked up the kids and headed to the heart of low-lying coastal South Carolina, where we learned that mud could be found.
Driving on the highway in Defender is perfectly fine, but on an emotional level it’s a bit like running on a treadmill in combat boots. Land Rover’s air suspension is always comfortable, even if the seats are a bit stiff on the Defender, and the 395PS ‘6-cylinder engine has “Mild Hybrid” technology that harvests power at the brakes and stores it in a battery that it later uses as extra torque for faster acceleration. What this practically looks like is much more energetic than you would expect from a six-cylinder in a car of this size.
But take the Defender 110 off-road, and everything comes together. It’s spinning on dirt like a Ferrari on an empty runway, and I’ve searched every dirt road I could find; The stronger the better. Steering wheel weight, suspension travel, tire size and gearbox feel – make you think you can take it anywhere. I felt like a little kid again, driving Tonka truck from my childhood dreams.
My final thoughts
For some, the Defender might not scratch the same itch as the original. But for me, I remembered some minor joys that I forgot along the way. Playing in the mud, splashing in puddles, exploring in the forest; Those things that once impressed you, are still waiting for you, if you know how to find them.
And I found them in cannons.