New Defender is king of the hill

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THE latest Land Rover Defender gets a 2.2-litre diesel engine that complies with Euro5 emissions rules and also offers better refinement.

Other than that and some minor trim changes, it’s much as you were. It’s still the go-to choice for serious off-roading.

So what’s new this time round? Something quite fundamental actually.

The old 2.4-litre diesel unit beneath the Defender’s bonnet has been replaced by a far more refined and, more importantly, EU5-emissions compliant 2.2-litre diesel engine.

Although the cubic capacity of this engine is smaller, power and torque are unchanged, so it does feel as if you’re getting something for nothing.

The top speed has been raised to 90mph compared to 82mph for the previous version which makes motorway driving far less of an ordeal.

Land Rover clearly knows the difference between change and progress.

It’s interesting to see the fairly rapid progression in diesel engine tech, Land Rover switching from the rattly Td5, to the far superior 2.4 and now to this more urbane 2.2-litre.

Of course, there will still be the eccentric die-hards who feel they’re missing out on the true Defender experience if they don’t suffer vibration grey-out when they switch the engine on, but all things considered, this is a change with very little in the way of meaningful downsides.

A whole book could, and has, been written on the Defender’s off-road abilities. Suffice to say it remains the most unstoppable thing if you’re also equipped with the knowledge and experience to get the best from it.

The Defender has never been the first nor last word in interior sophistication but it has improved in recent years.

The fascia features a single large moulding supported on a robust steel rail that helps eliminate the sort of twitters and squeaks that made the old Defender’s interior sound like an audio track for Bill Oddie’s Wildwatch.

Instruments have been filched from the Discovery3 production line and there are numerous ergonomic advantages.

A passenger side grab handle offers two-handed support during gnarly off-road manoeuvres, while there is also a lot more usable stowage.

Two console options are offered: a practical open tray design that keeps contents handy or a lidded design that offers 14-litres of storage out of harm’s way.

Operating in a virtual class of one, the Land Rover Defender almost becomes a vehicle that’s exempt from the usual rules of assessment.

For most of the people, most of the time, a Land Rover Discovery is an infinitely more suitable choice.

There remains a section of the population, however, for whom nothing other than a Defender will fulfil their requirements.

They neither want nor need complex electronics or fancy luxury accoutrements.

The Defender still has that balance between basic ruggedness and technical progression spot on for these customers.