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Car reviews - Land Rover - Defender - County 4-dr wagon

Our Opinion

We like
Go anywhere ability
Room for improvement
Not the most comfortable or accommodating vehicle, especially for taller people

18 Jun 2003

THE Rover company introduced the Land Rover in 1948 and the vehicle immediately became an export success with sales worldwide.

In the first two years of its life the model earned five million pounds sterling in foreign currency, a godsend to the struggling post-war British economy.

The Land Rover has been described as "the world's most versatile vehicle", being sold in a wide variety of forms from basic cab chassis to four door station wagon.

The vehicle was instrumental in opening up the Australian outback. Anyone who has read pioneer roadmaker Len Beadell's accounts of bashing through the mulga scrub in a Land Rover, showing the way to his bulldozer and grader drivers to make roads like the Gunbarrel Highway between Ayers Rock and Wiluna, will appreciate the ruggedness and go anywhere nature of the vehicle. It is part of outback folklore.

Although the Rover company also produces the world's most upmarket four-wheel drive, the Range Rover, the Land Rover is respected for its workmanlike nature.

The County, first released here in 1985, is a tough, no frills utilitarian vehicle designed to do an honest job of work.

It has a 3.5-litre V8 engine driving all four wheels full-time through a five-speed manual gearbox.

An optional four-cylinder, 3.8-litre diesel was also available from October, 1988.

The County shares its 2mm steel box section ladder chassis with the Range Rover and the Discovery.

Suspension is by beam axles and coil springs all round, with exceptional wheel movement.

Body styling could best be described as boxy and practical with the aluminium body panels reducing overall vehicle weight and helping lower the vehicle's centre of gravity.

Lack of body overhang gives the County good approach and departure angles.

With Rover's full-time four-wheel drive system there is no need to get out and engage hubs to obtain maximum traction - a useful feature if conditions catch you by surprise.

With a lockable centre differential and exceptional suspension travel, the County is a truly go-anywhere machine.

Brakes are power-assisted discs at the front and drums at the rear. Michelin tyres were fitted as original equipment, 7.50 X 16 on 5.5-inch rims.

Steering is worm and roller, power assisted, with four turns lock to lock and a turning circle of 12.8 metres.

The square-styled body has five doors, seats five people and the body panels are aluminium for light weight and corrosion proofing.

Inside, rubber flooring and a fully moulded headlining, vinyl upholstery and under seat storage boxes, and a wading plug - for letting the water out after deep creek crossings - all attest to the practical nature of the vehicle.

A radio/cassette is fitted as one of the few creature comforts but air-conditioning became standard from 1989.

With the 3.5-litre V8 pushing around a vehicle weighing in at over 3000kg, performance and economy are, to put it bluntly, unremarkable.

The 3.8-litre diesel, superseded by the Discovery's turbo diesel in later models, is lighter on fuel.

Stark but strong, the Defender is a vehicle for rugged, practical use. Its ultra strong chassis and massive wheel travel make it ideal for serious off-road work and, although light on creature comforts, it is a popular choice for outback use.

These vehicles are designed to be worked hard so have your prospective purchase thoroughly checked before committing yourself.

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