Land Rover Philippines recently celebrated its 700th Defender sales milestone. This makes it one of the brand’s fastest-selling models in the market, and to celebrate, they recently held an event that lets you explore the limits of the 2024 Land Rover Defender as well for those who already own a Defender but haven’t had the opportunity to take it off road.
Land Rovers are fundamentally off-roaders, but they’re also supposed to be luxury SUVs. With that in mind, there’s no other luxury SUV out there that offers such a wide breadth of capabilities. The Defender manages to marry sublime on-road handling and comfort with its monocoque unibody chassis, yet at the same time, its off-road capabilities match or even exceed those of traditional body-on-frame SUVs that were really meant for rugged trails.
There were two types of courses for this drive: The Playground, which is more casual and open for owners and customers to use freely, while the Technical Area is more challenging and requires the presence of Land Rover-certified instructors. While it’s reassuring to have certified instructors to guide you, it’s even more reassuring to find out how the Defender manages to make you feel like an off-road hero.
Technology That Augments, Not Overwhelms
Now, I don’t remember the name of every single course out there, but there were a few that particularly stood out. The angled off-road trail enables you to put the Defender at an angle of around 25-35 degrees, or even the maximum of 45 degrees before the SUV tips over if you even dare to. The longer, five-door Defender 110 means it should be more prone to scraping its middle section due to its longer wheelbase but thanks to its air suspension that adjusts its height, its maneuverability is no different from the three-door Defender 90.
Most importantly, the Defender is not just fundamentally well-designed for the trails, but the vehicle is also packed with technology that makes you feel like an off-road hero. There are the usual locking differentials that help you go through slippery terrain with ease, the hill descent control that enables you to go down steep terrain with confidence and even without touching the brake pedal, as well as the usual low-range gearbox that smoothes the throttle response as you crawl over challenging trails.
Where the Defender stands out in terms of the tech stuff is with handy features like the ClearSight Ground View cameras. They’re not just a set of forward-facing cameras that a lot of off-roaders now come with. Where this differs is the fact that it shows what’s in front and under the front axle, therefore letting you place the Defender’s tires accurately on the trail to avoid rocks, stones, and other obstacles.
A Unibody SUV With Body-On-Frame Qualities
It’s also worth mentioning that the Defender’s wheel articulation is top-notch, especially for one that isn’t even a body-on-frame SUV. This was showcased in the so-called Elephant Holes, where one side of the wheel is up in the air while the other is still in contact with the ground. The locking differentials enable the power to still be sent to the wheel that’s still in contact with the ground. Otherwise, having just a traditional open differential would send a surge of power to the wheel with the least resistance and the one that’s up in the air.
It’s also at this point where the chassis is put to the test. Unsurprisingly, and especially for a European car, the chassis rigidity is spot on. You could feel a bit of squeaking from the interior panels when the Defender goes through the most extreme of trails due to the sheer amount of bending forces that the structure encounters, but even then, the floor is still rigid enough to avoid bending and thus, is still good enough to open the doors. This simple door test is your typical test on how rigid a car is when going over extremely uneven terrain, and the Defender is just as capable as body-on-frame SUVs.
Off-Roading Doesn’t Have To Break A Sweat
And that’s where the 2024 Land Rover Defender also amazes at–the comfort levels. As mentioned, this is a unibody monocoque chassis, which also means it performs a lot better on paved smooth roads compared to traditional body-on-frame ones. Land Rovers are also inherently supposed to be luxury SUVs, and therefore, while the world outside is very gnarly and far from tranquil, you’re still treated to plush leather seating, cutting-edge tech with the Pivi Pro infotainment system, and a ride that’s cossetting and a range of engine choices that’s powerful and potent whether electrified for efficiency or not.
This is just a short first impression of what the 2024 Land Rover Defender feels like behind the wheel. Yet, with only half a day spent, I’m surprised by how much I’ve already come to know the luxury off-roader’s character through challenging terrain that I probably even won’t be able to exploit if I got this vehicle for a longer-term test drive. Nevertheless, if you’re in the market for a vehicle that manages to combine cutting-edge tech with luxury, off-road capability, and exquisite on-road performance unlike literally any SUV out there, the updated Defender is definitely what you’re looking for.