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Thoughts after a day's test drive


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This saturday I managed to obtain a full day test drive with the new Defender D240. Well equipped, including ATPC and the rear locker.

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Some background: I've personally had a '95 RRC 300TDi and now a '99 P38a 4.6 V8. My daily driver is a '17 (MY18) Mercedes E-class Coupé.
I like driving, and I like well-executed technology.

Now, on to the Defender. Picked it up around 10 AM from the Land Rover dealership in Leuven. The salesman didn't say a word about not taking it off-road, and it already had some battle scars, so of course I took it off-road.
First impressions were good. Seating position is excellent, high and upright, and pretty good visibility out the front. Out the back and sides, not so much. Pulling out of angled junctions is... interesting. The rear view mirror with camera is disorienting and I didn't like it at all. The sunroof was broken when we picked it up, both the roof and the sunshade would close, but not open. Probably something with the buttons...

It moves along nicely on the motorway too without any fuss. Previous complaints about the throttle mapping are valid, but once you're used to it, it's much better. Stop/start is better left disabled, as always, and then the response when pulling out into a roundabout is much, much improved.
Once you actually start watching the rev counter, it feels like you're driving a faster P38a diesel auto. It revs its nuts off to get moving, even with minimal throttle input.
Gearbox response is alright, and I expect it to improve a lot from letting it learn. I know from my Mercedes that new gearboxes learn *a lot*, and can absolutely make two identical cars feel worlds apart.
The brakes are stupidly twitchy. All that bobbing around you see in videos of the Defender is 100% due to the brakes. So much as breathe in their general direction and you're lurching forward.

After about two hours of driving with hiking boots on, my right ankle was hurting. Something about the angle of the pedals just isn't comfortable. And I've driven my P38a for about 16 hours with those boots on, so they're not the problem ;)
But that's only a problem if you actually manage to drive it for two hours without going mad from the rattles and the squeaks. On-road there's a rattle coming from the B-pillar, off-road there's a squeak coming from the grab handles on the dash. Infuriating, especially for a vehicle of this price. Actually, a lot of the interior doesn't fit a vehicle of this price. Either make something utilitarian and cheap, or something comfy and expensive, but not something cheap and expensive at the same time. The plastic in the boot is so bad I'd expect better from the average Lada. Same with the buttons on the steering wheel, godawful.

Sadly most of the difficult off-road around here is either very narrow and scratchy, or has too much chance of serious damage. So I mostly stuck to easy green lanes.
On rough gravel roads and rough cobblestone roads, it's supremely comfortable. You can really feel the upsides to the independent suspension, the front-end gets much less upset at bumps and potholes. If you're going to spend your time driving gravel roads at speed, this is your vehicle.
The hill descent control works very well, but the button is very unintuitive to use. And appears to also control the ATPC. Terrain response works well, no complaints there.
We got it well cross-axled, if you'd taken that line with an older Defender, you'd be stuck. This one didn't even flinch at it. Pretty good travel in the rear too.

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And not too shabby in the front.

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It looks a bit less impressive than with a solid-axle vehicle, because the wheel isn't angled. But it's still an impressive amount of travel.

We also popped it up on the lift in the workshop. Here it becomes abundantly clear she's a big girl:

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For reference, the Lightweight that was on the lift just before barely fit on the inside of the ramps. This one needed some aiming to fit on the outside of the ramps.

The bottom is flat and well-protected:

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The rear arms are rather beefy:

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The fronts, a bit less. Beefy enough that it won't break, but not sure I'd want to get it hung up behind anything.

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It's got some good jacking points on all 4 corners:

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And it has a lot of plastic air deflectors on the underside that won't survive some harder off-roading:

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Oh, and the front brake calipers look like they're Britpart, looks absolutely awful:

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All in all, I was disappointed. I really wanted to like this car. When we returned it at 4PM, I'd gone from wanting it, to being sad I no longer want it. Maybe in 10 years, with some of the early bugs ironed out, and for a tenth of the price, I could have fun exploring its limits off-road. But as a replacement for the Mercedes... no. For that price I'll just buy a hybrid E-class and spend the tax savings on my P38a to make it better on the motorway.

Edited by elbekko
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I drove one, albeit on road, when considering my new daily driver toy ...and was utterly underwhelmed

 

Cut test drive short and returned it

Not for me as a daily driver, .........and the PCP monthly payments were bonkers !

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Nice to hear a report from someone that has actually driven one. What a shame it didn't sell itself to you. Maybe the squeaks and rattles are an attempt to make it appeal to the Defender purists 🤣

Was all that mud underneath of your doing, or the work of previous test drivers?

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Ben was kind enough to let me join him for part of the testdrive and let me take the wheel on the way back to the Workshop. I came in from a completely different angle, knowing it was not a vehicle to my taste (way too modern with too many automatic features, like most of the cars on sale today), but I was hoping a drive would make me more positive. It didn't really... For reference, my first Land Rover was a newly bought Defender TD5 used as a daily, followed by a number of P38 Range Rovers. For the last couple of years my daily is a Lotus with the Range Rover still put to good use as a workhorse. 

I had seen the new Defender at the offical presentation in Belgium about a year ago, and was keen to have a drive. It's certainly comfortable, both on and off road, and has you moving effortlessly at a swift pace, in a nice seat and with ample room. It drives a bit too effortlessly even (unless you watch the rev counter, as Ben already said), feeling quite detached. Which is fine for something designed to just move you from A to B, but I had expected more from a Defender. The steering is very light, the brakes annoyingly touchy.

Off road it handled everything we could find without a fuss. As expected, I never doubted this would be a highly capable vehicle, just like other (modern) Land Rovers. The advantages of the independent suspension certainly outweigh any negatives, especially for mixed use. I've always been a fan of EAS, no surprises there. In the new Defender it can also be controlled from the boot, making it very easy to hook or unhook a trailer. Perfect for a working vehicle that wants to offer as much comfort as possible.

We didn't get a chance to really explore the different settings of the Terrain Response. I think you'd really have to push to reach the limits of the standard setting and benefit from the other programs. There is the possibility to configure some settings, like throttle response and how quickly the e-diffs activate. I still think having to play with a touch screen while off road is a bad idea. If not a simple lever (or 2), I'd prefer the single big button as in the Disco 3/4/RRS. On the plus side, the gearstick is much nicer to use than flappy pedals. And most controls are more or less where I'd want them, didn't have to look for much. Visibility isn't great, the cameras do add a lot but I don't want to have to rely on them. There a several design details that I don't understand or like, but that's personal taste.

In conclusion, if it was my money and I'd have to chose something recent, I wouldn't hesitate a second and go for a RRS or even a Disco4. But I certainly wouldn't say it's a bad car and I can clearly see a market for it.

Filip

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2 hours ago, Happyoldgit said:

I wish I could work up enough enthusiasm to actually book a test drive but the vehicle, reviews and marketing are not proving enough to actually want to try it, let alone buy one.

Same! I had a look round the used Range Rover stock at my local dealership the other day and couldn't be bothered to walk inside, deal with the salesman/wear a mask and take a closer look at one

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On 9/21/2020 at 2:37 PM, Escape said:

Ben was kind enough to let me join him for part of the testdrive and let me take the wheel on the way back to the Workshop. I came in from a completely different angle, knowing it was not a vehicle to my taste (way too modern with too many automatic features, like most of the cars on sale today), but I was hoping a drive would make me more positive. It didn't really... For reference, my first Land Rover was a newly bought Defender TD5 used as a daily, followed by a number of P38 Range Rovers. For the last couple of years my daily is a Lotus with the Range Rover still put to good use as a workhorse. 

I had seen the new Defender at the offical presentation in Belgium about a year ago, and was keen to have a drive. It's certainly comfortable, both on and off road, and has you moving effortlessly at a swift pace, in a nice seat and with ample room. It drives a bit too effortlessly even (unless you watch the rev counter, as Ben already said), feeling quite detached. Which is fine for something designed to just move you from A to B, but I had expected more from a Defender. The steering is very light, the brakes annoyingly touchy.

Off road it handled everything we could find without a fuss. As expected, I never doubted this would be a highly capable vehicle, just like other (modern) Land Rovers. The advantages of the independent suspension certainly outweigh any negatives, especially for mixed use. I've always been a fan of EAS, no surprises there. In the new Defender it can also be controlled from the boot, making it very easy to hook or unhook a trailer. Perfect for a working vehicle that wants to offer as much comfort as possible.

We didn't get a chance to really explore the different settings of the Terrain Response. I think you'd really have to push to reach the limits of the standard setting and benefit from the other programs. There is the possibility to configure some settings, like throttle response and how quickly the e-diffs activate. I still think having to play with a touch screen while off road is a bad idea. If not a simple lever (or 2), I'd prefer the single big button as in the Disco 3/4/RRS. On the plus side, the gearstick is much nicer to use than flappy pedals. And most controls are more or less where I'd want them, didn't have to look for much. Visibility isn't great, the cameras do add a lot but I don't want to have to rely on them. There a several design details that I don't understand or like, but that's personal taste.

In conclusion, if it was my money and I'd have to chose something recent, I wouldn't hesitate a second and go for a RRS or even a Disco4. But I certainly wouldn't say it's a bad car and I can clearly see a market for it.

Filip

Glad to see the presence of a stick/lever type gear selector. I often drive my mother's Disco Sport (her farm vehicle/dogmobile) - it's comfortable and quick, but I absolutely detest the rotary knob gear selector. I find it so unintuitive and not easy to quickly grab when wearing work gloves. By contrast the lever in the FL2 was pleasant to use. I notice a number of cars going away from the rotary selector in favour of an electronic lever. Good thing IMO.

Reading these reports might at least make me consider having a test drive. I'm not really interested in buying one but it would be good to have a first hand experience. I don't think I'm really in JLR's target demographic, and neither is my bank balance 🤣

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The gear lever is a double one for me. It's not as nice to use as the one in the P38, and for most use I much prefer the column-mounted selector + paddles in my Merc.

And the really, really, really stupid thing about that gear lever: when you put it in sport to manually shift, you can't go to reverse. Have to push it right again first. No reason for that whatsoever.

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14 hours ago, mickeyw said:

Glad to see the presence of a stick/lever type gear selector. I often drive my mother's Disco Sport (her farm vehicle/dogmobile) - it's comfortable and quick, but I absolutely detest the rotary knob gear selector. I find it so unintuitive and not easy to quickly grab when wearing work gloves. By contrast the lever in the FL2 was pleasant to use. I notice a number of cars going away from the rotary selector in favour of an electronic lever. Good thing IMO.

 

Totally agree with this. I have a late L322 just before the rotary knob  and my old man has one a little newer with the rotary knob. I drive both cars frequently and it really annoys me as to use it you tend to have to look down at it to decide what you want to select. A lever is easy to go from park to drive and drive to park as you know they are each end of the movement

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On 9/22/2020 at 4:09 PM, Happyoldgit said:

I wish I could work up enough enthusiasm to actually book a test drive but the vehicle, reviews and marketing are not proving enough to actually want to try it, let alone buy one.

The dealers local to me target my employer for deals, so I’d be able to get a test quickly.  Right now, with things as they are, I have plenty of time on my hands with reduced work.  But I can’t be bothered - it holds no appeal.  But when my local vet got a knackered Lighweight project, I was out there in the sand and dust and the 45 degree heat taking a look at a bent bucket that was immobile.  What does that say?

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