Greater ability both on-road and off-road plus increased comfort, performance and refinement are among the major improvements introduced for the Land Rover Defender for 2007. A new 2.4-litre diesel engine offers increased torque and improved driveability while the new six-speed gearbox provides a lower first gear ratio, for better off-road control, and a high sixth gear for improved cruising refinement. Inside the vehicle, a new facia improves ergonomics, whilst new seating improves comfort for all occupants, from the four-seat Defender 90 to the five-seat 110 and 130 models. A seven-seat Defender 110 is also available.
The latest in a long line of evolutionary updates to a vehicle whose roots date back to 1948 (since when nearly 1.9 million units have been sold), the 2007 model year changes maintain Defender’s relevance while enhancing its functionality, versatility and durability.
Since the current model’s introduction in 2002, Defender has consistently sold an average of 25,000 units a year worldwide. Retail and utility customers, armed forces and NGOs in over 100 countries value Defender’s class-leading blend of towing and load-carrying versatility, alongside the vehicle’s extraordinary strength, robustness and capability. The unique combination of these attributes helps account for the model’s exceptionally high standards of customer loyalty.
Land Rover managing director Phil Popham said: “We’re building on Defender’s success with a package of improvements that will extend its off-road abilities even further, while transforming on-road refinement and comfort. These changes represent a significant vote of confidence in a product which is the foundation of Land Rover’s reputation for off-road excellence; we believe these enhancements will win the hearts and minds of new and existing customers alike.”
Defender’s new 2.4 litre, four-cylinder engine draws on parent company Ford’s acknowledged diesel engine expertise, and represents a major step forward in terms of refinement and driveability. Torque output is higher than the outgoing engine right across the usable rev range, and the 360 Nm (265 lb ft) peak is delivered at only 2000 rpm; over 315 Nm (232 lb ft) of torque is available from 1500 rpm to 2700 rpm.
Engine peak power output is 122 PS (90 kW), with more than 90 per cent of peak power available from less than 2200 rpm to over 4350 rpm – over 60 per cent of the usable rev range. Naturally, in European markets (with high quality diesel fuels), the new engine is designed to be fully compliant with EU4 emissions legislation. But with Defender’s status as a truly global product, a unique engine tune has also been developed to tolerate variable quality, high-sulphur fuels.
Based on a cast-iron block, the engine features an alloy, 16-valve cylinder head with Denso common rail fuel injection. Not only is combustion noise dramatically reduced, thanks to the excellent control provided by the engine’s solenoid-driven fuel injectors, but a new Garrett variable geometry turbocharger also helps ensure throttle response is improved over the outgoing engine. The engine’s lubrication and sealing systems have been specially developed to cope with Defender’s onerous range of operating angles.
The new GFT MT 82 six-speed gearbox provides a much wider ratio spread than before; the lower first gear offers a reduction in crawl speed and combines with the engine’s increased torque output to make towing on-road and off-road even easier. The increased engine torque also helps in-gear acceleration, and has allowed the new sixth gear to be set 20 per cent higher than the outgoing model’s top gear. This helps to improve real-world cruising refinement and fuel economy. Ground gears in both the gearbox and new transfer box help boost refinement, while reductions in clutch and gear-change loads make day-to-day living with Defender significantly easier.
Individual pedal maps specifically matched to the demands of each gear are designed to ensure throttle progression and control is better than ever before; in addition, improved anti-stall characteristics further extend the vehicle’s renowned ability to tackle the toughest terrain.
Changes to the vehicle exterior have been kept to a minimum, with a revised bonnet profile the only clue to the new Defender’s increased capability.
As Dave Saddington, Defender chief designer points out, “Defender’s timeless exterior has become synonymous with functional design. Every line and surface seems to be linked to the vehicle’s extraordinary capability, so we deliberately changed very little.
“But the interior’s a different story. We wanted to change the heating system and instruments, as well as improve ergonomics, all of which gave us the opportunity to introduce an all-new facia. In doing so, we’ve worked hard to reflect Defender’s unique purpose and versatility inside the vehicle too. The new facia is better integrated, more robust and functionally superior to the old unit, whilst still entirely in keeping with Defender’s character.”
Defender’s new facia is based on a single, large moulding supported on a robust steel rail to help eliminate squeaks and rattles. Instruments from Land Rover’s Discovery 3 provide clear, concise information to the driver, and details like all-LED instrument illumination help ensure high standards of reliability. Improvements to ergonomics abound – for example, a new passenger-side grab handle provides robust, two-handed support during extreme off-road driving. The process of modernising Defender’s facia hasn’t sacrificed its usability either, with versatile stowage shelves conveniently located for both the driver and passenger. Two console options are available: a practical open-tray design that keeps contents to hand and a large, lidded design that provides an impressive 14-litres of stowage.
In-car entertainment systems have been upgraded to take advantage of Defender’s improved refinement. For the first time, high-mounted tweeters are available in Defender and work in conjunction with the new speaker installation for significantly improved clarity and sound reproduction. An auxiliary/MP3 audio input socket is also available.
The new facia houses an all-new heating and ventilation system. Cabin airflow is up almost 50 per cent, with new aluminium plate and fin heat exchangers helping deliver impressive performance. In cold weather, the heater warms the cabin 40 per cent quicker than before and can achieve cabin temperatures a full 12°C higher. The air-conditioning system can cool the cabin in half the time of the old unit, and achieve cabin temperatures 7°C lower too. The addition of side window demist vents helps maintain visibility whatever the weather.
Seating is also comprehensively improved. New, taller front seats are designed to improve back support and head restraint ergonomics.
Robust, more supportive second row seats are introduced too. 110 Station Wagon and 130 Crew Cab models can comfortably accommodate three occupants on a new, asymmetrically-split second row seat. A spring-assisted fold mechanism helps when folding the seats for carrying large or awkward loads.
Defender 90 Station Wagon second row occupants benefit from a pair of individual, full-size, forward-facing rear seats. Providing significantly increased comfort and space over the outgoing model, these seats are also available as a third row option on the 110 Station Wagon. Accessed either through the rear door or by folding the second row seats, they can be easily folded and stowed sideways in the loadspace.
Seat trims include durable all-vinyl and cloth specifications; a half-leather option is also available to add a touch of luxury to the new cabin. Three-point safety belts are specified for all seating positions.
Upgraded sound insulation, the common rail engine’s excellent combustion control and the significantly higher top gear all contribute to a substantial overall impr
ovement in cabin refinement. In the words of Gary Taylor, Defender’s chief programme engineer, “For many customers, the step change in Defender’s refinement will be one of the most welcome advances; not only are noise levels significantly lower, but sound quality is transformed too.”
Defender’s unique vehicle architecture has been retained. The chassis frame is available in three different wheelbases, and in both standard and heavy-duty guise (for even greater load-bearing capabilities). A total of 14 separate body styles – from pick-ups and soft-tops to crew cabs and station wagons – are produced on the mainstream production line. Beyond this, Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations team offer a range of products from standard drop-side or box-body conversions to bespoke design and build adaptations into ambulances, mobile hydraulic platforms and even airport fire tenders – all of which are covered by Land Rover’s extensive warranty.