We challenged the new Land Rover Defender, off-road in Namibia
We all know that the new Land Rover Defender will end up on streets like this.
The urban jungle weather is nothing more stressful to tackle than well, a puddle or a high curb or a herd of Saturday shoppers.
Why is that?
Simply because it's desirable, but in order for it to have that desirability that, Kudos, it also has to have credibility.
And in order to get that, it has to be driven.
It has to prove itself.
Somewhere like here.
It was clear from the outset that this was going to be a test like nothing I had ever experienced before.
After dressing as the human embodiment of seven ups Fido Dido and boarding a medium sized turboprop, a Beechcraft 1900 D, if you're interested We flew from the capital of Namibia Windhoek up to a Opowo in the Northwest Kunene region of the country.
This is where we met our Defender, an indice silver P400.
From here we would be embarking on a three day drive through what I hoped would be not only stunning scenery, but more importantly Truly testing terrain, because let's be very clear about this.
The new defender needs to be reliable.
And I hope this journey we've put it and the seven others in our group under enough stress to weasel out any weaknesses.
Anyway, enough preamble.
Why didn't throw First day, first impressions we've done about 65 kilometres mostly on the sort of gravel roads, but I just thought I'd give some of my initial thoughts because there are certain things that after three days living with a car, you just become accustomed to things don't you and you don't notice them anymore.
The first thing you say is the air suspension on this car which is pretty much standard across all of the new defenders is Amazing.
I mean, this is a fairly rocky sort of gravel road.
We're doing 60 miles an hour there.
And it's no less comfortable room being on tomorrow.
Yes, tiny feet, a little bit of vibration but that's just telling you what the road surface is like it is amazingly comfortable.
Other things I really like getting into the interior in something that, yes, it's very nice expected, we got a touch screen down here, we got a world away from old defender, but there's still a scarcity to it.
If you looked through all the marketing, press material, whatever, you won't see it referred to anywhere As an SUV this is an off roader.
It doesn't feel like it's been overloaded with luxury and that's really nice, that feels that's how it should be.
This sparse authenticity is even more apparent in the pared back bottom of the range models.
That's how I'd spent mine, no thrills at all, just clothes covering the seats and not even an arm rest center comes off.
And that's the reason why these buttons and the [UNKNOWN] letters all appear well so you can just have this open area down here if you want.
But it feels small than you might think and this [UNKNOWN].
It's obviously an awful better [UNKNOWN] defender [UNKNOWN] [UNKNOWN] Against this window here and a lot more comfortable but there's still a sort of utilitarian feel to the interior of this show.
I really like, Ostrich [SOUND] [UNKNOWN]
Excuse me while I get excited, having knows what I'll do we stumble across a giraffe.>> Or Springbok, Kudu in one of those ISI books just pick them up.
Bing bing bing..
Clearly it was time for a break and a walk around of our top of the range 110 which came equipped with one crucial set of accessories.
Appropriately for the car that we've got, we have the explorer pack.
Remember the various packs you can have with these things.
So black bottom decals, the least useful I think.
Wheel arch protectors, let us move down here.
We have the snorkel.
So that means you can obviously wade through water, which we may get to experience at some point.
The roof rack, with a dynamic load capacity of 168 kilos, which is quite a lot if you think, going through corners with all that weight swinging around up high.
Move further down here.
On the other side We have the external storage which is both lockable and waterproof.
So for given to leap out and you have it there to hand and of course, the latter both of which actually sorta this was quite a styling detail and people weren't sure about this square here.
So we get to explore apartments.
covers that up a bit.
We're also going to cover for the rear mounted spare wheel.
In terms of the overall look of the car.
I think it was really nice to see it out, sort of not in a studio or a sort of a set environment just seeing it in this landscape.
It is a really, really good looking car.
And in the same way that the new mini captured the spiky but friendly appearance of its forbear So I think the design of this new Defender has an innately adventurous demeanor like its predecessor, just looking at it makes you want to head off the beaten track.
Talking of which.
I've just had a quick look at the Sat Nav.
And I kind of expect it to just be a blank screen out here.
Really, but amazingly this Is actually a road with a name.
This is the D3703 3703 3703.
It's quite unlike any named road I've ever been in before.
Look, here's some other traffic.
Traffic, you see.
Clearly it's just a Is a busy thoroughfare?
Named or otherwise it was an incredibly long trail, which gave me time to ponder.
Why is it that some people don't see this as a true successor to an old Defender?
Is it the design?
Is it the switch from a body on frame to a unibody?
Is it just too modern, too different?
Should Landrover have gone down the G wagon route?
Route, I suppose what I'm trying to say is that a lot of people struggle to see this as a new defender, because it is such a huge step change from the old one.
But I think there is another way of looking at that.
Apparently the first time they actually considered redoing the defenders, it was back in 1971.
So 50 years ago To go, and they've had various iterations since they've actually had about six or seven attempts at producing a new Defender and this is the one that finally finally got off the ground and we're driving.
So if you imagine all those iterations that perhaps should have taken place in the interim, then the step wouldn't seem.
As big as it does between old defender, and new.
For a quirky comparison, imagine a Ferrari hadn't bought out any front engine v 12 between the 250 GTO and the 812 superfast, there would probably have been uproar He's lost all its charm and character.
What's all his grip and why is it so fast?
In the media night like me trying to serve fools quickly, and before we knew it day one was over five had been lit and sleep was very definitely needed for what letterhead.
Welcome to day two.
At the moment, I'm halfway along van sills pass.
This is The most difficult off road trail in all of Namibia and you join me at the top of the most difficult bit.
I'm a little bit scared actually.
Because I'm basically I put my trust in the person that's going to stand there and he's gonna stand there and speed is with that hand and then.
Steering's on that.
So if I don't look at the camera or you, it's because my life is in somebody else's hands and it very much concentrated on what they're doing.
So the car is in, let's check.
So I go into terrain there, and I selected Roku, so I can see both diffs and locked And we've got the hill the centre as well.
We're in high.
We've got the suspension raised up, and we're in low ratio as well.
Here comes Alex.
Exactly what's gonna happen.
That's the exciting man.
So you can kind of see where we're going.
And we want to be in low range which we are in ROTC, which we are of course and Hill Descent on, not on minimum.
So if you want to bring it down a couple of clicks, so it's right at its its lowest, probably won't use it for this first section.
Once you're through You carrying on down you should be able to take your feet away that the hill doesn't take you down.
Okay, as you can see it's just nice and slowly nice and gently.
You may find the greater release control comes in if you stop the car on a steep slope, the great Release control feathers the break off slowly.
You might find it you're releasing, it's not moving.
Don't be tempted to give it an accelerator.
[LAUGH] It will release generally, that's what it's designed to do.
We've got the right height set up yet we're wearing off road height.
So yeah, we've got maximum ground Clearance.
So we're all good and ready to go.
I will be watching you.
I would literally rather be doing a fifth gear oversteer shop right now.
The car's just slithering down.
I think there are some cars off to the side of the valley Way down there.
They'd have crashed.
All my trust is in him.
[SOUND] I dread to think what faces I am pulling Western [LAUGH].
Vandals past is named after Benjamin van Zell.
He clearly man Dutchman incredibly he forged this trail in the 1920s with a Model T Ford and the help of hundreds of local hinda tradespeople.
He presumably simply carried the car.
It took him many months but that he did at all is remarkable.
That just feels absurd.
And even when you're sort of up like that and sort of you can tell wheels are off the ground, and yet it finds tractions and climbs over things and yeah.
[LAUGH] It's so much fun as well.
Certainly even the steepest speed humps or gnarliest curves in London shouldn't pose a problem.
There was still plenty more of the past to travel, and I soon found I was tackling substantially tricky sections with all the carefree nonchalance of the baboons scratching its behind, as well as all the suspension and transmission trickery.
I found one of the most useful things was the screen showing the feeds from the off road cameras, which are situated under the wing mirrors and point at the front tires.
Both cameras are of course also useful for keeping trendy 22 inch our eyes pristine through pesky width restrictions.
Eventually, we did reach the end of vandals pass and transitioned onto the stretch of land that he named after his wife.
This is the [UNKNOWN].
Wow, look at this.
Suddenly, it just goes from red sand to fine white sand up here.
Vash is one of the most extraordinary sites I've ever seen.
Now fun low rock crawling is a rather engaging I suppose.
This is much more likely.
This is nice in a territory.
Back in sand node high ratio, bit more speed car moving around.
This takes me down to the ground
Strings light which can throw bits that are off person.
But it is also accurate this hollow steering lock needed.
You know an old defender through here would be kind of terrifying because although you feel more connection You wouldn't have anything like the precision that you've got in this.
When this starts to slide you had a bit of luck in and it's right there.
You know where it is.
I love driving his hand.
It's just so much fun.
Now just to show that it's not actually all fun and games out here, and what can happen if you do happen to have an accident.
Here's one we prepared earlier because there's a Anbu Peter.
This was apparently fleeing Angola in the war in the 80s and had an accident.
It was abandoned.
Interestingly Long Hair dash.
You can see the inspiration for the new one.
Match rest or other rest in peace.
After a morning it's such slow speed on vans hills pass.
It felt like we really needed to cover ground out here.
The defendant was often drifting through bends at 60/70 or even 80 miles an hour as we headed west towards the coast.
We followed a dry riverbed and thunder down through vast and varied valleys we pass to from Camp mountain we saw giraffe.
There were landscapes that look like the moon and there were landscapes that look like Mars.
Each new VISTA seemed to be trying to outdo the previous one fishing gobsmacking Granger It was almost a relief to stop for a puncture.
At the time we got to camp for the night I felt almost over saturated with all the driving I've done and the things I'd seen.
But of course, nice sun doesn't mean there's nothing to see.
And so little light pollution which is star gazing seemed very much in order.
And The advantage of having something with a ladder up to a roof rack is that I don't have to mingle with all the scorpions or anything bigger without that, for that matter.
I can lions jump hats and talks.
I can see [INAUDIBLE]
Having successfully avoided becoming a midnight meal on wheels, the Golden Dawn on day three sort of striking out into the narrative which means last place.
This is the world's oldest desert with a vintage of at least 50 million years.
More specifically, we were heading with specially granted permission to the Skeleton Coast.
Let's talk about the actual car that we've got here.
It is a defender 110 fairly obviously so we know we're going to get the.
Event 90 as well and will be the commercial vehicle and then there will be a P HEV.
However, for the moment we have got the top of the range petrol engine which is the P 400 and HEV so this is also a mild hybrid.
In fact, what that means is under the bonnet, we've got A six cylinder, three liter petrol engine with a turbocharger.
And then on the back of that there is an electric motor, which rather like various other ones we've seen and he's done it Sadie's.
This has done it.
It charges the 48 volt electrical system.
[SOUND] Check for the stones.
[SOUND] Not your usual piece of cataracts.
I do have to watch road a little more than I would otherwise As I was saying, B400MF, and that charges the 48 volt electrical system.
It also runs an electrical supercharger, which obviously helps build boost pressure.
It doesn't do what the EQ boost system doesn't say does which is sort of an add power through the electric motor itself.
But I'd say it feels pretty good.
It's very responsive.
This engine certainly is putting out 394 brake horsepower and 406 pounds of torque and despite weighing.
2300 kilos just over actually.
It does not 60 miles an hour in 5.8 seconds, which is pretty impressive.
So this defender is really sort of If it's an off road hot patch to that extent.
Despite this particular 110 coming in at the best part of two and a half tons with all the kit on the roof, it really didn't drive like the lumbering four by four you might expect.
It's obviously no Lotus, but the way it responded to throttle and steering really did belie its weight.
Think perhaps of the balletic hippos in Disney's Fantasia and talking of balletic here is possibly the world's most ungainly race, explains why I'm slightly out of breath for this next bit, is known as the Skeleton Coast originally because of all the whale bones and fish bones that were washed up here, but then subsequently, for all the shipwrecks that have been here, some of which can be now found up to two kilometers inland because that's the way The sands have moved.
Incidentally this is also home to one of the world's largest sand dunes nearly 400 meters in hight.
To put that in perspective, the Shad is only 310 meters high.
The driving that followed was some of the most demanding I have ever experienced.
Speed, dust, water, rocks, sand, mud, deep mud, high ratio then high suspension, the concentration and constant adaptation to the terrain is mentally exhausting.
Even the defender kept me physically far more More isolated from the impacts than I'd expected.
In terms of the Terrain Response modes, we also used rock crawl quite a bit in vans hills for obvious reasons.
The other one we've used an awful lot, in fact, which I'm in at the moment is the sand mode.
We've also used it on the scouting coast, but we're going down a river bed at the moment which is mostly dry and sand mode is the best for this.
What that does is as you can hear it holds on to the gear.
It also gives you a very sort of a soft throttle for the first 20% and off of that a very responsive throttle.
So it means that you can be very gentle when you're getting away.
But also then, when you need to suddenly have a lot of response to get through the patch of soft sand which can be completely on the pan to be honest as you're approaching it, then you've got all that response straight away.
To help dig yourself out of it, it's pretty look.
Hardly, David attained the levels of inside that.
Although, I am not sure he would have much to say about cars.
And here we can see a new Defender, in it's preferred habitat.
Born only recently, it nonetheless has to adapt quickly.
If it is to survive in these harsh surroundings.
And then we saw some more actual wildlife.
I think if there's one animal I could have Wish to see on this trip it would have been a lion.
But second was an elephant and he is, just amazing to see it.
That is a bull elephant, we think it's probably not to old.
They could live anything up to sort of 50 years old.
What a thrill?
Wow, so cool.
We've got another elephant up here.
He looks enormous, this one.
He's right on our route.
If his ears are pinned back, then he's coming for you.
You hear that?
if his ears are pinned back and he starts charging, he's coming for you.
If they're out, it's a fake charge.
Needless to say, I kept a keen eye on his outboard radiators.
And this was still on my mind when we eventually finally got stuck a few minutes later.
We didn't even have the worst of it, as this footage from a few days later shows.
Eventually we waited squelch scrambled and drifted our way to bizarrely the Manchester United trading post.
Which made me wonder when you defended be deemed fashionable enough and senior class car parked outside Manchester United over here or Chelsea for that matter All snow and now we're back on to well what I'm now classifying is road in normal life.
This wouldn't be a road but after what we've been through this feels like a road, And that's really the end of the road section of this trip.
And I just thought I'd take a minute to think about how the cars survived the vibrations that have gone through this car.
Sort of before we get to the big impacts.
We have not.
Have any warning lights on at all?
It hasn't been sort of serviced every night or anything.
I've just filled it up with fuel.
But yeah, the abuse these can take.
One question I did ask was, how much of this route could a discovery have done because a lot of people have said, well, this really is just.
Have a discovery five in a lumberjack shirt and some steel toe cap boots.
And to that, I would say well, yes, but if you drop a brick on some normal shoes, then you're not gonna walk very far.
Because I think once that a discovery in terms of sheer traction, could do pretty much most, if not all of what this could do.
In some situations, you'd probably need a more skilled driver to do some of the things than you would in this.
Less skilled driver.
But in terms of the departure angles, the break over angle, and the general robustness, this Is a step above.
We've barely touched the underbelly of this, which is extraordinary given what we've been through.
And some of the step ups that by the end we're just taking for granted.
And yet this it's unbelievable, to be honest to me, and those are the things where discovery just wouldn't be able to do it or any other SUV for that matter.
So, there's also do bear in mind that this has the D seven x chassis as opposed to the discovery which has the D seven U.
And this is also sort of tougher to that extent in terms of standing up to, like I said before, the vibrations, the impact, all that sort of thing.
It also has stronger lower arms for when you're going over the rocks etc.
And what it does all go wrong.
This area of Namibia is the second least densely populated region in the world behind Mongolia, just 2.6 people per square kilometer.
So out here, there wouldn't be much help to fix all those computers that make this a defender for the 21st century.
Well, the new defender is capable of running software over the air updates.
And diagnostics for its 14 modules.
Even more reassuringly, if there is a fault and the limp home modes have been specifically designed with much more leeway in mind.
So it shouldn't lock you out with the capabilities you might need in order to extricate yourself from whatever extreme environment or even danger you're in.
To be honest, I felt like I would probably expired before the car, given the intensity of the driving would be doing.
It's so draining because you are constantly looking all at once straight ahead of you trying to spot the rock that might give you a puncture but also trying to work out.
Have you got to pick up momentum to carry speed through a river or mud section.
And then what's beyond that your other vehicles around then you're dealing with the dust from them as well.
You're trying to keep the ties straight and be sort of gentle smooth with your inputs.
In order to not add too much luck but equally, be aggressive when you need to be and it's it is a curious thing.
Being gentle in one moment and then really very sort of with angry with a car.
The next you're used to on the road or on a circuit say straight to the easy bits, you know just on your right foot and off you go here.
Just because there isn't a corner doesn't mean you won't have to slow down.
Because you've got that extra dimension of.
Is there a date there?
How big is that there?
What's that step doing there?
Is that soft ground is that hard ground.
Can you go through it at full tilt or not?
There is so much to think about and I've, I've loved that.
But also find it extremely tiring over the last few days.
As we rolled back into the bustling relative metropolis of Appu, at the end of three incredible days, I couldn't help but reflect.
I'd wanted a test of both robustness and capability for the defender.
And boy, we got one, his examinations go, it really doesn't get much more grueling than overlanding through Africa.
There is obviously a lot more to come from this Defender story we need to drive it more on target roads to start with.
But there's the 90 the commercial the P have all those things.
But for now, what this has proved the new Defender is very at home out here, which is somehow good to know Even if most of them do end up finding homes, somewhere more like here.
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