This triumphant new version impresses with its capabilities and comfort, however, Charlie Flindt feels bad about leaving his mucky fingerprints on the interior
Charlie Flindt is impressed with the Land Rover Defender 90 — but worries it’s almost too lovely for hands-on farming with its luxurious interiors.
Take a look at Charlie Flindt’s take on the Subaru XV, which prompts a grin on Hampshire clay.
LAND ROVER DEFENDER 90
After a couple of days in the Defender 90, I knew I needed a second opinion. I booked the shorter version of Jaguar Land Rover’s triumphant new machine specifically because it’s the version more likely to end up on my farm (I prefer rear windows and seats over VAT savings), but there was something not quite right.
My neighbour has seen off three score and 10 harvests, and a SWB Land Rover for every seven of those, so I was sure he’d be able to put his finger on it. I had to chuckle when he said he was warming to its looks – he was one of many who said that. It’s the Ford Sierra all over again. Then he climbed in and we set off round his acres.
The 90 impressed him. It made short work of the gullies and 1:1 ridges he uses to scare the bejeezus out of joyfully screaming grandchildren, although we tutted at the button pushing needed to set up the transmission. We even found some mud on a Hampshire ridge, although the Defender didn’t seem to notice it.
Talk turned to crops and the state of them after the cold, dry spell. As usual, we farmers agreed that we needed what we didn’t have, and the Land Rover’s big windows and lofty platform provided perfect viewing. It even settled nicely into ‘pootle’ mode, which is the perfect speed for farm inspection – although, disappointingly, ‘pootle’ doesn’t feature on the menu of driving options.
Perhaps that was the ultimate compliment; talk turned away from critical analysis of our vehicle and towards the problems of establishing shooting strips on recently ploughed corners. The Defender became part of the landscape. Mind you, it didn’t stop the keeper from flying out to check who was in the unusual vehicle. We apologised.
On the road home, the Defender showed its all-round skills. Motorway speed is stable and quiet, a million miles away from the challenges of keeping an old 90 on the straight and narrow. But there was still this nagging issue.
It was solved when I was trying to get the rear seats to fold to something useful. I failed miserably, but somehow managed to skin a knuckle. Then, on opening the driver’s door, I left a splat of blood on the luxurious lining – and felt guilty. There, in one gory moment, is the problem with the new Defender. It’s almost too lovely for hands-on farming. Old Defenders were delivered in a state of such raw utilitarianism that they went straight to work without a thought. Blood, entrails, .22LR cases, overexcited toddler vomit – all of them sat happily in an old Defender’s interior, with only a seasonal brush/hose out needed to restore ‘factory’ condition.
I await with interest the ‘Hard Top’ version, which, we are promised, will be a little more utilitarian and, perhaps, more able to absorb – metaphorically and literally – a smear of blood. Rear windows and seats (which I never did get to fold) might not be so important after all.