We take the Land Rover Defender 90 for a swim to prove it's still hard-as-nails

NEXT time you see Bear Grylls in Man vs Wild in a remote jungle, ask yourself this.

How did he get there in the first place? Helicopter, probably.

But what about his film crew? In a 4×4.

Something strong and unflappable to carry all their kit. Something like a Land Rover Defender.

Now, we all know Defender has been reinvented as a trendy, tech-rich SUV with cameras, wifi and heated seats.

We also know that most will go no further off-road than a scout hut. But the good news for farmers and the world’s adventurers is that underneath all that glamour it is still a workhorse. A proper, hard-as-nails workhorse.

Once you know what buttons to press, you can point it at anything and be 100 per cent certain to reach the other side.

To prove my point, here’s me and my two boys — it’s half-term, innit — bog-snorkelling in the more basic £44k Defender 90 on coil springs. Others have fancy air suspension. As expected, this thing is beyond brilliant.

It tamed the old Camel Trophy test route at Eastnor in Herefordshire without missing a beat — and on all-season tyres rather than full off-road.

And trust me, it was hardcore emerging from ditches up to your elbows in mud.

The only option on it was a £1,020 rear-diff, which I’d recommend, especially if you tow things.

So, which is better? The three-door 90 or the longer, more expensive five-door 110?

I tested the 110 before lockdown in March and that is just as remarkable off-road. So one deciding factor is how big do you need the boot.

The 110 also feels calmer and more relaxed on the road and rides like its half-sister, the Range Rover Sport.

The 90, being shorter, rolls around a bit more and is more fun. Do you know that tractor tipping scene in Cars with Mater and Lightning McQueen? It’s a bit like that.

Especially if you go for the 400hp, 3-litre six-cylinder petrol in the X model costing £77k.

That’s X-rated bucking bronco. But I will say it hangs on well. I’d go for the 300hp petrol.

I also prefer the stance of the 90. Tick the box for the jump seat up front and that turns it into a six-seater.

Key facts


Price: £43,625

Engine: 2-litre turbo petrol

Economy: 300hp, 400Nm

0-62mph: 7.1 secs

Top speed: 119mph

Economy: 24mpgCO2 : 260g/km

Out: December

But it’s only for kids — and short ones at that. Flip it down and you’ve got a picnic table.

Or delete the centre console for walk-through access. The 110 comes with five, six or seven seats.

Other observations. I stopped counting after finding six USB ports. The electric canvas roof is cool. You might not want to hose it out with a jet wash but it does have rubber flooring. Cheaper 90 Hard Top van is on its way.

Niggles? The wing mirrors don’t tilt when you reverse. That jump seat is so tall it cuts off anyone sitting in the back.

You could waste hours during your next Tier 3 lockdown looking at colours, body wraps and accessories on the Land Rover configurator.

But you don’t need to because even in basic form, the Defender is world-class.

Even so, I bet Bear Grylls said “yes please” to the rooftop tent.

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