Our six-part series tracing the evolution of our original Land Rover, has so far taken us from the Series I in 1947 to the Defender launched in 1990. In the final chapter we look at Defender between 2007 and 2015.
Further improvements to our Defender allowed for quieter, more efficient long-distance cruising, without compromising its renowned off-road capabilities.
The Defender made another step-change in April 2007 when the Td5 engine was replaced by the four-cylinder, 2.4-litre Puma unit.
It used direct injection and turbocharging to generate 121BHP and a huge 265lb-ft of torque, but it also hit the tough new Euro IV emissions regulations. The engine was coupled with a revised, quieter transfer case and a new six-speed manual gearbox, which allowed a longer top gear for quiet, efficient long-distance cruising.
Not the kind of driving the Defender was originally designed for, but something it was now unquestionably capable of. 'The new engine propels the Defender at speeds as high as 85MPH with amazing civility, and the new six-speed gearbox moves with precision,' said CAR magazine after driving the vehicle from London to Belfast in one day.
The engine was revised again in 2011 to meet the new Euro V regulations. The latest engine technology allowed it to downsize by 200cc yet maintain its power and torque outputs. It was quieter, and when fitted with the diesel particulate filter, emitted less pollutants than any Defender before it.
- The 2012 Defender which can be easily identified by its large alloys and bonnet 'bulge'
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- 2012 Defender's wading capability
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- 2012 Defender off-road
Visually, these new four-cylinder diesel-powered Defenders were distinguished by a distinctive ‘bulge’ in the bonnet, and by the blanked-out air vents under the windscreen which were no longer needed by the more sophisticated air conditioning.
Inside saw a more modern dashboard with ‘eyeball’ air vents and controls for the electric windows, heated seats and heated screens, and the four inward-facing rear-most seats on both the three- and five-door station wagons were replaced by two folding, forward-facing seats.
But not on the Station Wagon Utility, a new production body style for this generation of Defender. It was a 110 Station Wagon with no third row of seats and blanked-out side windows to the rear compartment, creating an off-road van capable of carrying a crew of five.
“The new engine propels it at speeds as high as 85MPH with amazing civility, and the new six-speed gearbox moves with precision.”
Further proof of the Defender’s endless configurability came at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show with the unveiling of the Electric Defender Research Vehicle. Inspired in part by the silent, electric Defender vehicle tested in 2011, Land Rover built a fleet of seven Defenders to test the suitability of electric powertrains for use across its range.
The 300-volt lithium-ion battery and 94BHP electric motor were able to propel the Defender for up to eight hours in typical low-speed off-road use, and the electric drivetrain with its huge torque proved perfect for controlled progress over difficult terrain.
To celebrate the legend, in 2015 Land Rover commissioned the Defender Celebration Series, three very different Limited Edition models, each celebrating a crucial aspect of the Defender DNA.
The Heritage, Adventure and Autobiography editions were revealed on Anglesey’s Red Wharf Bay as six other Defenders – each one equipped with heavy-duty agricultural harrows – drew a one-kilometre outline of that iconic shape in the sands where Maurice Wilks first sketched it. A 68-year adventure was ending where it started.
Defender gets drawn into the sand on an epic scale back in 2015.