LAST summer one of the few lockdown motoring highpoints for yours truly was the UK launch of the new Land Rover Defender at a challenging off road course in the Midlands.

That proved the ability of the new vehicle in the very rough stuff, although it was the bigger five door we got our hands on for the day.

Now the much anticipated three-door version is with us and due to its shorter wheelbase it will be even better as a mud-plugger… but what is it like to live with as your daily driver?

Well those awfully nice people at Land Rover entrusted me with £53,930 worth of 90 P300 X Dynamic SE for a week and it did not disappoint.

Regular readers will know I am a bit of a Land Rover nut with three currently in the big boys’ toy box an Howarth Towers (including HRH’s Evoque) and one of those is an ‘original’ Defender – a 1998 300tdi.

So I was keen to do a comparison between my somewhat agricultural seven seat crew bus and the luxurious new kid on the block.

Firstly, much has been written about the look of the new Defender – as replacing such a British motoring icon would not be an easy task – but I have to say I think JLR have got it about right. There is enough Defender DNA to make it instantly recognisable as the new version – things like the rear mounted spare wheel. ‘Alpine’ roof windows and the overall squared off design.

And Land Rover have also gone back to basics with plastic floor coverings that have removable carpet inserts and painted bottom half doors on the inside meaning the residue from muddy adventures and wading through deep streams can simply be hosed away.

Talking about wading, our test car had a neat £1,615 optional extra, air suspension, which means it can be raised or lowered (for garage access) at the touch of a button.

Unlike my car the new Defender is comfy and relaxed at motorway speeds – which is handy as very few of these vehicles will ever be pushed to their impressive off road limits.

Our car featured the 300bhp two litre petrol engine which means it had another thing my Defender is definite lacking – performance. 0 to 60 comes up in 6.7 seconds (as opposed to 6.7 minutes) and a near 120mph top speed means you will never be embarrassed at the traffic lights grand prix. However, this has to be paid for in the go juice department with JLR claiming between 19 and 28mpg depending on driving style/conditions.

Another great leap forward is on the kit list, which on my car is basic to say the least. Now you get such luxuries as LED headlights, plush interior and heated power fold mirrors. Our X Spec car had further goodies such as air con, sat nav, 360 degree camera system, leather trim, 20” alloy wheels, power memory heated seats, heated steering wheel and cruise control plus a premium sound set up.

And all this comes with that famous 4×4 go anywhere ability further enhanced by JLR’s impressive latest terrain response system.

On top of all that there were around £6,000 worth of optional extras including special Tasman Blue paint, that air suspension and a tow pack which features All Terrain Progress Control, configurable Terrain Response 2 and advanced tow assist with electrically deployable tow bar.

Defender prices start from £46,610 for the base S spec P300 petrol and go up to £57,520 for the ‘mild’ hybrid D250 HSE… but be warned, you may have to wait a while as delivery delays of around 9 months are being talked about in the motoring press and adverts on internet sites have been appearing with cars priced at several thousand pounds above list.

Meanwhile, it looks like it is time to start opening the piggy banks and working on her indoors – who is already quite impressed with the much more opulent Land Rover experience.

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By Motoring Editor Steve Howarth