Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fire up the... Land Rover Defender X-Tech

NEVER meet your heroes, the saying goes. That's why I approached the latest version of what's an off-roading icon with just more than a touch of trepidation.

The Land Rover Defender needs little introduction because everyone in Britain is familiar with its boxy shape; it has, after all, been with us since the days of Spandau Ballet and Michael Foot vying to be Prime Minister.

Despite a series of calls to replace it with something a bit more modern and friendlier to the environment it's soldiered on regardless, doing useful duties for people like farmers and the British Army. It's also at this point I have to declare an interest; not only am I faithful follower of all things Solihull and a longstanding 4X4 fan, but my parents, for the best part of a decade, owned a Defender.

This X-Tech is Land Rover's attempt to give that old recipe a bit of 2012 street cred, which explains the snazzy silver paintwork, the black alloy wheels and the mean grille. It's not a paintjob you'd particularly want to scratch if you actually went off road, but I suspect most of the X-Tech's buyers will be more swayed by the style than a burning desire to utilise its reputation as motoring's mountain goat. Which I can understand because the X-Tech is a seriously mean looking bit of kit.

I know that not venturing into the undergrowth in a Defender is a bit like slipping on a set of stout walking boots to pop to the shops but I did get to try the X-Tech in its more likely natural environment; on the road, where it's rubbish. I know it's a high rise off-roader that's been around for nearly 30 years but if you're more used to modern 4X4s then you'll find the roly-poly handling, the wind noise, the noisy but not especially fast performance, the lack of elbow room and the dated switchgear hard work. It's also, at £27,000, not especially cheap either.

But without venturing off-road to see how the X-Tech performs as Land Rover intended this is only the half the story - consider it unfinished business. If, however, you're like most 4X4 owners and don't intend on scaling anything tougher than a kerb in a supermarket car park then it's a bit of a mixed bag. It's a seriously cool, no-nonsense machine that doesn't pretend to be anything it isn't, but it's not for everyone.

The X-Tech's far from perfect but I couldn't help but enjoy it.

As published in The Champion on November 14, 2012

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