This Turbo Diesel Land Rover Defender Conquers All

The Land Rover Defender is the quintessential safari-style 4WD vehicle one comes to expect from this British manufacturer. Commonly equipped with a straight 5 cylinder turbo diesel engine, this sport utility vehicle sees service throughout the world from geological survey teams to border patrol. Here the Defender is put up against a harrowing 45º incline before attempting to ascend a perfectly cylindrical 3.5 meter crest.

An obvious attempt to depict this SUV’s four wheel drive performance, it does an admirable job considering the difficulty of the test. While it does struggle at the top, the metal girders used to construct the track offer nearly no frictional leverage for the four wheel drive transmission to dig in.The only equivalent would be attempting to climb an icy peak. Manufactured since the early 1980s, these vehicles have relied upon their diesel engines and fuel-efficient 4 and 5 cylinder British engines to navigate some rather unforgiving stretches of the earth.

Whether its with the Ford manufactured Duratorq, an inline four cylinder turbo diesel engine used in the likes of the Peugeot Boxer and Jaguar X-Type, or the classic late-90s Td5 – this 4WD boxy beast has a proven record of performance and versatility. It’s so prized that it’s found service with the Australian Special Forces and British Army as a lightweight and effective transport vehicle – capable of ranges of over 500 km (310 mi). At home in the deserts of the Outback or Sub Saharan Africa, it’s an SUV which has proven itself time and time again as a good mixture of fuel efficiency, performance, and maintainability.

Downfalls of the Defender

In October of 2013, Land Rover announced it would cease production of European model Defenders due to increased pressure to maintain its previous capabilities while staying in line with increasingly stringent EU emissions regulations. Production is expected to continue for select customers in Australia, Africa, South America, and the United States, but overall, this is a major shift away from its traditional customer base. Nevertheless, even with the end of production looming in the distance, its main detractor has always been its wheelbase and distance from the ground. Traditionally, many SUVs were built closer to the ground at a height just that above traditional commercial sedans. They were seen as the middle ground between pick-up trucks and cars. However, as the market shifted more to larger tires, further up off the ground – Land Rover stayed adamantly with their traditional golden range of 90-130 inches.

The Defender also suffered from its characteristic boxy shape which left it prone to roll-overs. With the sheer variety of terrains it was expected to hold up in, it simply chose to sacrifice lateral weight distribution for horizontal profile. Defenders were one of the few vehicles which were at home on unpaved, craggy clay roads or parallel parked on a busy street. Its main competitors were the Jeep Cherokee and the Toyota Landcruiser – for both domestic and overseas production.

Mind the Gap – Competition Blunders

Where Toyota ultimately overcame the Land Rover wasn’t in computer-driven, responsive all wheel drive but simply price point. Toyota could deliver a vehicle capable of surviving some harsh landscapes while being easy and cheap to repair.

The Jeep Cherokee and Wrangler series, while featuring robust American engines and transmissions, simply lacked the European flare for responsive onboard systems to compensate for troubling climbs. When compared to prior versions of the Land Rover Defender – before the advent of high-tech 4WD systems – the Cherokee and Wrangler managed to meet or exceed off road capabilities.

And finally, the Lexus GX series, while ranked in the top 10 off road vehicles by US News and World Reports, is laughably included in the same category as Jeep, Toyota, and Land Rover. These Lexus SUVs have no record of holding up on the same off road terrain that Land Rovers are expected to operate on daily. For casual campers looking for a weekend getaway in a remote cabin, the Lexus may meet expectations. But at a price point similar or greater than a fully equipped Land Rover, it’s laughable that they should be expected to perform in the same arena.

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In October of 2013, Land Rover announced it would cease production of European model Defenders due to increased pressure to maintain its previous capabilities while staying in lin