Sunday Drive: Land Rover Defender 110 First Edition P400
As is usually the case, the new Land Rover Defender is available with an almost bewildering array of engine, body style and specification combinations, allowing buyers to tailor the excellent new SUV to their needs.
We had previously sampled the Defender 110 P240, propelled by a powered-up version of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine, which left us nicely impressed, but how about if you tick that box to drop the 3.0-litre straight six engine hooked up to a 48-volt mild hybrid system? Is that worth the extra money asked?
Well, yeah, it really is.
* Land Rover upgrades the Defender for commercial duty
* Road test review: Land Rover Defender 110 SE D240
* First drive review: Land Rover Defender 110
* Last classic Land Rover Defender 4x4 rolls off production line
The D200/D240 turbo-diesel and P300 turbo-petrol engines are all 2.0-litre fours, meaning that the P400’s six is the largest, most powerful engine in the Defender line up. Well, so far at least – there is a V8 SVR version coming that will not only be startlingly fast, but also – no doubt – excitingly expensive.
But this particular P400 we drive here has an extra layer of special by virtue of the fact that it is a ‘First Edition’ model.
The First Edition - which is available until the end of 2020 – is available in D240 ($125,900) or P400 ($137,900) forms and is based on the SE specification, but adds around $5000 worth of gear, including a black contrast roof with panoramic glass, the Black Exterior Pack, special “gloss sparkle” 20-inch wheels, heated rear seats, ClearSight interior rearview mirror, Matrix LED headlights, the most advanced version of Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 off-road drive-mode system and, of course, First Edition branding.
While it should be pretty obvious to anyone paying attention right now that Land Rover has pointedly steered the new Defender away from its rugged workhorse ancestors, it should be pointed out that the company has also gone drastically above and beyond to make sure the new one was every bit as capable off-road as it had ever been.
Even if it was just to prove a point to all the moaners who would grumble that “it isn’t a real Defender...”
And they certainly did prove that point, with the new Defender being almost frighteningly capable off the sealed stuff. Almost frightening, if it wasn’t so damn calmly assure and supremely confident, that is.
While our initial pick off-road was the diesel engine, due to its more progressive throttle response, the P400 petrol six was the clear choice on it thanks to its brisker throttle response and sheer effortless grunt. It also sounds pretty damn good too...
But the First Edition has a trick up its sleeve when it comes to the whole off-road thing too, thanks to the inclusion of all-singing version of Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 system that allows for, among many other things, customisation of the throttle response in off-road situations, something we would welcome in every off-roader, to be honest.
This handily erodes the diesel engine’s big advantage off-road, while keeping the petrol six’s on-road dominance nicely in play. So, in other words, we have a new favourite.
Land Rover had done something we wouldn’t have thought possible with the new Defender and aimed cover the ground that spans luxury and comfort and staggeringly adept, relentless off-road ability. Which, considering how bad the last Defender was at the first thing, would seem utterly inadvisable.
However, the new Defender nails both seemingly incongruous aims in an utterly effortless fashion.
On a sealed road the P400 is effortlessly quick, impressively agile and superbly comfortable. Seriously, it is Range Rover comfortable. And that is never an accusation that was thrown at the old one...
The interior has a brilliantly practical blend of easy-clean, yet high-quality materials that also somehow nail that luxurious, yet rugged thing and when you drop the Defender into low-range and head off the sealed stuff that this seemingly impossible blend of talents fully reveals itself.
The first thing that you notice is that the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission is so good at slickly moving through its ratios that it barely seems like you are in low-range, but come to the first substantial obstacle and you are left in no doubt as the Defender simply crawls over it with a simply remarkable lack of drama.
It also becomes quickly obvious that, despite all of the clever and almost seamless electronics that do a lot of the heavy lifting off-road, the Defender is also blessed with a base level of pure mechanical off-road competence that is actually above and beyond most others as well.
With ground clearance of an impressive 291mm at its full height, the Defender also packs incredibly impressive approach, breakover and departure angles of 38, 28 and 40 degrees respectively, as well as a class-leading 900mm wading depth.
That basic mechanical ability combines impressively well with the Land Rover’s latest generation of off-road and stability electronics to give the Defender supremely confident feel off-road, tackling even the most imposing obstacles with a casual indifference and. Perhaps most surprisingly, impressive comfort.
So is the First Edition worth the extra over the SE?
Well, for a start the additional equipment soaks up all the additional money asked and then some, so – yeah, it’s well worth it.
Plus there is the little extra layer of special that those ‘First Edition’ badges subtly display, but mainly the Defender is pretty damn awesome, whatever form you choose it in. The P400 First Edition just that bit more so.