The Land Rover Defender (known by most – depending on the wheelbase chosen – as either a Land Rover 90 or 110) was a British built 4 x 4 utility vehicle developed from and finally replacing the iconic Land Rover Series first launched in 1948. First introduced in 1983 the last model of this design classic was produced in January 2016 when European design regulations rendered the Defender’s design redundant.
The post 1983 may seem in many respects similar to Series III version of the Land Rover but this re-imagined Land Rover had for example permanent four wheel drive – derived from the Range Rover – and progressively over succeeding years more powerful and varied choices of engines were made available from 2.25-litre petrol and diesel engines, to 2.5-litre petrol up to 3.5-litre petrol only version and a V8 was particularly used on the 90 version.
Either by cleaver placing or by coincidence, the use of larger 4×4 as private vehicles – as opposed to their more agricultural focussed predecessors, played well into Land Rover marketing. Using the badge “County” the Defender 4x4s were sold as multi-purpose family vehicles with improved interior trim, ride, colour options, wheel rims and seating.
Land Rover was beginning to capitalise on its home market and to make an impact on the European market but elsewhere in the world the legacy of poor quality from the days of British Leyland meant that in other target markets such as the Far East Toyota Land Cruisers and Nissan’s Patrol were dominant.
Due to the introduction of the Discover model in 1989 the old 90/110 was re-christened the Defender when it acquired the new and well performing 200Tdi engine which improved the Defenders ability to cruise at higher speeds and tow heavier loads.
In 1998, the upcoming Euro III emissions regulations the Defender was given an all-new 2.5-litre, five-cylinder in-line turbodiesel engine, badged the Td5. For 2002 model year, the Td5 engine was further refined to satisfy ever-more stringent emission regulations. Again to clear emissions hurdles for the 2007 model the TD5 engine was replaced by Ford’s Dagenham built DuraTorq line engine. Combine this with the replacement of four inward-facing seats with two forward-facing seats and the Defender 90 4×4 a four-seater vehicle and the Defender 110 4×4 a seven-seater.
External and internal safety regulations due in 2015 spelt the death knell of the Defender. On the plus side various reports suggest that the Defender’s replacement may be announced by Land Rover – in part based on the DC1oo concept car shown at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show – before the end of 2106 – we’ll have to wait and see.
Photo from Land Rover