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This is the first Future classic to cause an argument in the C&SC office.
Not so much over its inclusion – telling in itself – but over which model we should choose.
After much debate we narrowed it down to two: the most utilitarian, commercial-spec, short-wheelbase diesel, which is as close to the spirit of the original as the luxed-up new Land Rover Defender gets; or this, the outrageous petrol-fired V8.
In the end, because we suspect so few people will be able to afford to buy one – or fuel it – we decided that the full bells-and-whistles V8 was likely to be the one most coveted, even if many in the team would rather have the poverty model.
Not that any new Defender justifies that tag: even the cheapest is more than £40k, and the short-wheelbase V8 is nudging £100,000 (the LWB tops it before you add any options).
Time was that would seem ludicrous, but such is the cult that has surrounded Land Rover in recent years that a six-figure sum is no longer a surprise – pukka Works V8s fetch up to twice that.
But no Defender before, even that limited-edition run-out hot rod, has felt like this car on the road.
The new Landie has you reaching for words such as ‘poise’, ‘refinement’ and ‘agility’ – its styling might be a caricature of the enduring Solihull workhorse, but in character this is more like a rugged-looking Range Rover.
Sure, there’s a utilitarian feel to the interior, with rubber mats, stylised rivets and a tough-looking trim called ‘Robustec’ (that you suspect is more expensive than the leather it is substituting), but there is nothing utilitarian about the way it feels and performs.
In short-wheelbase form it barely has a boot that warrants the description – there will be no lugging hay bales in this Defender – and the spec list reads more like a Bentley or high-end Mercedes than a Land Rover, with its heated steering wheel, front armrest refrigerator, 14-way electric seats and 3D-surround camera system.
That said, those who do fancy venturing into the odd bit of farmland will appreciate the sophisticated Terrain Response system, the excellent approach and departure angles, electronic active differentials and high-riding air suspension, but chances are it will be to show off at a festival rather than rescue a sheep in need.
More pertinent to most buyers will be the 22in gloss black alloys and the quad tailpipes that emit a sound of distant thunder as the Defender deploys outrageous performance for a car so tall and heavy.
This is a car to tempt Mercedes-AMG G63 buyers put off by its obnoxious side pipes and conspicuous consumption.
It might be a Defender in name only, but the latest chapter in Landie history still has cult appeal – albeit from a different branch.
Images: John Bradshaw
- Engine supercharged 5000cc V8; 518bhp @ 6000-6500rpm; 461lb ft @ 2500- 5500rpm
- Transmission eight-speed auto, 4WD
- 0-62mph 5.1 secs
- Top speed 149mph
- Mpg 19.3
- Price from £98,575