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Land Rover Defender (1983-2016) review – ride and handling

An all time classic

Evo rating
Price
from £25,000
  • Utilitarian icon that demands every bit of your attention to drive
  • Utterly exhausting to drive, ancient, leaky and hopeless on road

The 70mph speed limit on motorways and dual carriageways looks sensible when you’re in a Defender. It steers, in the loosest sense of the word, as the amount of work required at the wheel to get the Defender to do anything can be rather alarming. That’s true just trying to keep it in a straight line, so the suspension’s inability to track straight and true is as distressing as the slovenly response and vagueness from the steering system.

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You might imagine that something set up to traverse difficult terrain might as a consequence offer a degree of comfort on the road. Not so here, as the Defender bumps, rolls and heaves around like a scuttled schooner in a storm, its on-road dynamics the very definition of 'woeful'. Thankfully that’s less noticeable when it’s in its natural off-road environment, as the Defender is at its happiest when it’s diff-deep in crud, with or without sheep or sacks of feed in the back.

 Dynamically it’s challenging then, but for some that’s part of the fun, though we prefer it when cornering isn’t so buttock-clenchingly worrisome. The steering’s dim-wittedness isn’t helped by the curious driving position, which pushes you as close to the door as possible. It’s so tight for space in there you’re only really able to turn the wheel properly with an open window; one giveaway sign of a Defender owner is a well-weathered right arm on their waterproof waxed jacket. The turning circle is dreadful too, making parking a real chore, though those big steel bumpers mean if you’re touch parking you’ll not be the one needing to visit the body shop.  

Find used Land Rover Defender's for sale on the Classic and Performance Car site here.

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