We present a different comparison of the new Land Rover Defender 2020: we are going to face it with the first Defender that received that name to try to tell you what the original concept was until its penultimate generation, what is the concept of the new Defender 2020 and what is the leap that has given between one and the other. Our ultimate goal: find out if the soul of the classic Defender is still alive in the new and all this accompanied by a spectacular video shot on the Galician coast.
Video of Land Rover Defender 2020 vs Defender Classic
The Land Rover Series I is introduced in 1947 as the European response to the American Jeep of World War II. From the first to the penultimate generation, all have been work vehicles where form was subservient to function. Their goal was to be indestructible and mistreatable to the extreme, capable of carrying tools, cement, animals, people, as well as pulling any draggable object.
As you all know, the latest generation still has great 4×4 qualities and, however it is different. To put it in perspective we have chosen a Defender 110 with a work format, from the first generation called “Defender”. Our copy has 320,000 km.
Land Rover Defender design
Analyzing the design of both cars on all 4 sides, the differences are evident: non-deformable steel fenders have given way to plastic deformation zones and the bottoms protected by the double-beam chassis and metal corners are now made of aluminum and with plastic protections on the doors.
The modern luxury SUV is much less prepared to take all kinds of beatings
Current pedestrian protection regulations will make a car like the old Defender illegal, but the evolution from the indestructible, purely functional car to the modern luxury SUV is also evident. much less prepared to receive all kinds of blows, for example against a tree. In fact, our work Defender has a crack in the roof, the result of a falling tree, precisely, which has not even been repaired over the years: if there is no water entering, there is no reason to fix it.
Interior of the old and the new Defender
The interior of the classic is austere: It’s a pure country car. Materials, settings, gear stick, pedals, steering wheel… Does it make sense to mess around here with greasy work gloves and muddy boots? Clearly the car seems designed for this, and to be washed with a hose.
At the opposite pole, the new Defender is a spaceship. Does it make sense to go in here with greasy work gloves and muddy boots? Not kidding, no matter how much it has rubber mats and has that “industrial” aesthetic, with visible screws. It’s another planet.
The technical aspects of the old and the new Defender
The technical changes are as noticeable or more so than the design changes.
The old Defender based its toughness on a rigid double axle chassis, and its traction capacity to a transmission in which only the center differential is blocked. How could it be such a great off-roader with open differentials front and rear, but no electronics? Well based on articulation and having the 4 wheels always resting on the ground no matter how twisted the situation is. With the central locking and three wheels in support, there is no stopping it and the axes articulate to infinity.
The new Defender uses a self-supporting aluminum body with complex 4-wheel independent air suspension, of variable height. Traction is entrusted entirely to electronics, with a single central lock decided by the car itself, although the rear lock is also included in the top-of-the-range version. The result is a vehicle that is much more efficient, much more comfortable, much quieter and much more capable off-road, but also more fragile and dependent on the brakes working to hold the wheels that are thrown and therefore going to suffer more on long sections of 4×4, in addition to relying entirely on electronics and not mechanics.
They are totally different approaches.
It’s a car? Is it a tractor?… no, it’s a Defender
When you get on a classic Defender, your pulse races because moving it is quite an adventure. Steering wheel and steering, pedals shifted to the left, shift imprecise and full of vibrations, the ergonomics in general with the steering wheel attached to the window… everything is terrible and that’s why it has so much character and charisma. It’s halfway between a car and a tractor, but pulling towards the tractor.
Meanwhile, in the modern Defender everything is softness, although the 2,350 kg are noticeable and it is certainly not an agile car. An abyss separates them and even by modern standards it is an outstanding car on the road, a luxury car to travel in comfort. The feeling of isolation is total.
Video of Land Rover Defender 2020 vs Defender Classic
4×4 capacities of one and the other
Despite what many want to believe, the new Defender is much more capable than the old off-road. By dimensions, it surpasses it in everything except the angle of attack (which is still formidable) and by traction capacity, the electronics are clearly superior to the only central locking that the old Defender has. There is no color, the new Defender goes through where the other would get stuck.
But it is one thing to overcome an obstacle and quite another to overcome thousands of kilometers of constant mistreatmentand this is where time will have to put each one in their place and show us the hardness and reliability of the complex suspension and traction systems of the new Defender, with dozens of articulated parts and precision gears where before there was a double rigid axle. on docks.
Behavior in the field
We arrive at the natural terrain of the old Defender and we find ourselves again with two different worlds. On one hand we have vibrations, looseness, noise beyond power and a suddenness of reactions typical of a tractor. The old Defender is awkward and clunky, a brute car that unceremoniously shakes us and stuns us. But it is also a car that feels indestructible and makes you want to drive faster knowing that it doesn’t matter and that nothing will stop you from moving forward. Its turning radius is particularly horrible, making any maneuver difficult.
At the opposite pole, we have the new Defender with an independent air suspension that it isolates us from the outside while elevating us above the ground. The silence is almost total and the absolute ease of handling. Once again we find a luxury car that pampers and protects us, full of aids and cameras so that we never have to get out to look and so that we never get stuck. The isolation is so great that it takes some of the excitement out of any adventure, but it’s still an impressive car off the road.
Conclusions: is the soul of the old Defender still alive?
We are going to draw some conclusions and I am also going to give you my personal opinion about this generational change, in case you find it interesting or if it contributes something to your own reflection.
Starting with the obvious, the new Defender shares with the previous one some excellent off-road qualities, some certain aesthetic features and the name. For all the rest, It is a modern and different product in everything from its predecessor.
The next question that we have left in the air is whether, in this modern translation, Land Rover has been able to keep the soul of this classic alive. My opinion is that NO, because Land Rover has not dared to do it. The soul of the Defender has been lost because the essence of it was the simplicity of it, the robustness of it and all those noises and discomforts that gave it character.
Companies do not live on romance, they live on results
Land Rover has done what it believed it had to do: act as a company and make the most of the name and aesthetics of a classic in its collection to achieve the maximum level of sales and economic profit today, because Companies do not live on romance, they live on results And this is the product that the market demands today… or is it not?
I personally have the feeling that Land Rover already had a luxury SUV with 7 seats, variable height air suspension and the best autonomous forward and traction control system on the market and that car is called the Land Rover Discovery. As other brands demonstrate, such as Jeep with its Wrangler, Mercedes with its G-Class or Suzuki with its Jimny, there is a demand for cars faithful to their tradition, their original aesthetics and their founding values and Land Rover has lost the opportunity to bring to market a true country beast without frills and without complexes which a lot of people would buy anyway even if it was to ride on tarmac, it would be lauded and ubiquitous in the media and even if it didn’t sell as well as this one will, it would help sell the rest of the range by keeping the essence of the range alive. brand.
As great a product as it seems to me, I’m afraid that It is not the new Defender that I and many like me had dreamed of.
Note: We want to thank Grelolandthe Galician company that organizes 4×4 adventures in Spain, Portugal and Morocco, its collaboration with this video, the locations and the permits.