NOW I know I am a very lucky man – testing new cars and going to press launches is any petrol head’s dream job… but there are some events which really stand out above the rest.

This was one such date in the diary – the recent UK media driving day for the new Land Rover Defender, something I had long been looking forward too.

The much anticipated replacement for the trusty Defender is of particular interest as amongst the big boys toys at Howarth Towers is a much loved 1998 300tdi Defender, although I was fearing the new one would be more ‘Chelsea Tractor’ than true mud-plugger.

However, a day pushing the 2020 Defender around Land Rover’s amazing off road course in the grounds of Warwickshire’s Eastnor Castle (where the very first Land Rovers were tested) proved the latest version is even more capable then those that went before.

Although I have to say the incredible electronics now fitted to accomplish this ‘go anywhere’ ability make my old Defender look like something Fred Flintstone would have driven!

Configurable Terrain Response debuts on new Defender, allowing experienced off-roaders to fine-tune individual vehicle settings, including adjustable air suspension, to perfectly suit the conditions, while inexperienced drivers can let the system detect the most appropriate vehicle settings for the terrain, using the intelligent Auto function.

The new body architecture provides ground clearance of 291mm and world-class off-road geometry, giving the 110 approach, breakover and departure angles of 38, 28 and 40 degrees (Off Road height) respectively. Its maximum wading depth of 900mm is supported by a new Wade programme in the Terrain Response 2 system, which ensures drivers can ford deep water with complete confidence.

On dry land, Land Rover’s advanced ClearSight Ground View technology helps drivers take full advantage of Defender’s amazing capability by showing the area usually hidden by the bonnet, directly ahead of the front wheels, on the central touchscreen. Also the new Pivi Pro infotainment system has a more intuitive interface while Software-Over-The-Air provide the latest updates at all times, anywhere in the world.

But where the new car is a definite leap forward is on road (where most of these cars will spend the vast majority of their lives). A couple of hours on everything from twisty B roads to busy motorways proved the iconic 4×4 is equally at home here – feeling more Discovery-like that the old noisy Defender with ample power to deliver relaxed high speed long distance driving.

The Defender 110 (we were driving the Diesel 240 version) is available with 5+2 seating and four Accessory Packs (Explorer, Adventure, Country and Urban) plus 170 individual accessories and will be joined soon by a smaller Defender 90 and versatile and durable commercial models.

Electrified powertrains have been introduced to Defender for the first time with advanced mild-hybrid and, coming later, plug-in electric vehicle options as well as the usual petrol and diesel engines.

The petrol line-up comprises a four-cylinder P300 and a powerful six-cylinder P400 featuring efficient Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle technology. Alternatively, you can choose from a pair of four-cylinder diesels – the D200 and powerful D240 (our test car) – both of which deliver fuel economy of 37.2mpg (7.6 l/100km) and CO2 emissions of 199g/km.

The model range is Defender, S, SE, HSE, First Edition and top of the range Defender X models. The Defender 110 starts from £45,560 on the road, Defender 90 is from £40,290 on the road and a Commercial Hard Top is available from £35,500 (plus VAT).

So the big question is does this new version fill the very capable shoes of its processors? Well purists will turn their noses up at gadgets like the roof mounted rear view camera instead of a traditional mirror and the auto shifter on the dash but overall I have to hand it to Land Rover – I think they have pulled it off with enough DNA from the iconic brand in an all new vehicle that really can deliver both off road and on.

More information at www.landrover.co.uk/Defender

By Motoring Editor Steve Howarth

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