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Land Rover Defender 130 V8 review

4 months ago

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Dan Prosser | Ti co-founder


11 December 2023

We trundled past waterfalls and gushing brooks, through old railway tunnels and tumbledown farmyards, over narrow tracks that clung to hillsides and past giant conifers that reached into the clouds. The way was slick with mud, the runny kind that seems to dissolve all friction between your shoes and the earth. If these were pretend off-roaders, they wouldn’t have lasted a couple of hundred yards.

Not that this was off-roading as Major John Blashford-Snell and the rest of the 1971 Trans-Americas Expedition crew knew it. They floated their Range Rovers across rivers on inflatable raft, winched off tree trunks to crawl along the rainforest floor and even used dynamite to clear a path through the thickest bogs. They needed three months to cross the treacherous 250 miles of Central America’s Darién Gap alone. Meanwhile, we had heated steering seats and steering wheels, air suspension that lifted our cars high above the ground, Hill Descent Control to stop them running away from us downhill and automatic terrain response programmes to help them scramble back up again.

A modern Land Rover, especially a Defender, makes logging tracks like these look like the gravel car park at Daylesford. These machines are so capable away from paved highways that you don’t need any particular off-road driving ability to go really quite far into the woods. You could pass your driving test on Monday and go everywhere we went on Tuesday, no problem. But that wasn’t what made me realise just how useful a Defender could be in real life – that happened later on, once the sun had gone down.

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