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New Defender blows hot and cold

2009-09-28 09:31
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Land Rover
Model Defender
Engine 2.5l turbodiesel
Power 90kW @ 3 500r/min
Torque 360Nm @ 2 000r/min
Transmission Six-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 14.6 sec
Top Speed 140km/h
Although most ardent Defender acolytes will no doubt think of hanging themselves with their snatch straps before buying one, Land Rover's fashion conscious Fire & Ice Defender range is now locally available.

It's pretty much your garden variety Ford Transit powered, ladder-frame chassis and coil-sprung Defender embellished with all manner of detailing unbecoming to an off-road vehicles.

It makes little sense, but will surely sell well in a style obsessed market like South Africa.

Land Rover says the Fire & Ice range is inspired by the most rugged landscapes on earth, we think it’s a rather cynical parts-bin branding exercise featuring hideously expensive paint...

Recaro seats, with leather and Alcantara trim, on a Defender? Any bets on how well this combination will wear?

Alcantara trimmed Defender?

Both models (either Fire or Ice) feature black roof and bonnet finishes.

Sporting a Vesuvius orange lacquer, the Fire model could make a great survival vehicle as it would be impossible to miss in the bush when rescue crews are trying to locate you...

Its sibling - Ice – is rather unsurprisingly finished in Alaskan white, a colour which is in turn, not at all dissimilar to standard Defender white…

Like a Range Rover? No, not really. Not at all.

The colour schemes are repeated on the Defender’s mercifully redesigned centre console too.

Seats are heated and the cabin is disconcertingly trimmed out in a blend of leather and Alcantara, and we all know just how hard-wearing the latter is...

Five spoke diamond turned alloy wheels aim to further distinguish these Fire & Ice models from their standard Defender sibling. One cannot help but question the validity of exquisitely turned out alloy wheels on what is supposed to be a utilitarian off-road workhorse.

Both front and rear illumination configurations differ slightly from the stock Defender too, with an SVX inspired front headlamp design, and LED-embedded rear lights.

LED lights on a Defender – is the sky falling or what?

Options include a A-frame protection bar, raised air intake, ribbed aluminium undershield, wing top protectors and a chequer plate protection kit in black.

A luggage rack or a roof sports bar system will accommodate additional shopping items which overwhelm the interior load capacity during particularly focused retail therapy sojourns.

Characterful, awesomely capable, yet the LED illumination headlight trail will never look right at night in the bush, now will it?

Off-road, still the boss...

Land Rover has shored up off-road ability by providing an extra skidplate for the steering rack.

Truth be told, if you manage to find the time to actually venture off-road the Defender’s class leading approach angle, straddle height and wheel articulation makes it awfully accomplished over broken terrain.

It might still do without axle lockers, yet the off-road biased suspension system ensures you keep wheels in contact with the surface being traversed (no matter how broken it is). 

If you do run into significant wheel lifting or cross-axle difficulty, the heavy-duty Bosch traction control system enacts brake actuation on the wheel(s) without traction, tricking the axle differential into thinking it does have a remnant of mechanical traction (wheel resistance) under drive.

This ABS action prevents jettisoning of torque to the opposite wheel, which is the default characteristic of an open axle differential in severe off-road conditions.

When the ABS enabled traction control engages in earnest, an opposing wheel on either the fore or aft axle can be driven with up to 100% of the torque application, unlike a conventional axle-locker, which can only lock in a default 50/50 split.

Industry leading loop times ensure the ABS actuated traction control intervention does not leave you digging holes in terrain – or sliding alarmingly backwards – before it intervenes.

The Defender’s centre-locker and ABS managed traction control would appear to best the best of both worlds.

Defender's traction control yields better manoeuvrability than a conventional axle locker, yet sacrifices little in the way of traction security, thanks to the meticulously calibrated operation parameters - perfectly calculated for the Defender’s mass and low-speed off-road operational nature.

Having ABS onboard shores up the Defender's driving safety on-road quite a bit too, whereas with a Land-Cruiser 70 your cadence braking skills have to suffice in an emergency situation...

Global Fire and Ice production will be limited to 850 units, with local allocation running at 100 units.

Prices start at R 378 000 for the 90 SW and R 418 000 for the 110 SW.

Inside Wheels24

Opel Astra 1.4T Enjoy auto – understated and smart new hatch

When it comes to the mid-size hatchback choice, there are a few default choices, a few bland ones… and some often overlooked cars. The Opel Astra hatch is an example of the latter, writes David Swanepoel. - Sponsored

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