If you check this earlier report on the Defender you'll see I had some reservations about the major revisions that occurred in 2007. Five years on, it was good to have an opportunity to give the current model a good run to see if I'd changed my mind – even if it was a 110! I don't mean to be hard on the 110, it's by far the most popular variant here and has great capacity, makes a better tow vehicle than the 90 and rides better, but I prefer a shorter 4WD, like a 90 or two-door Wrangler, especially amongst trees.
This was the first Defender I've driven with the 2.2 litre engine, derived from the 2.4 which came out of the Ford Transit. Output of 90kW and 360Nm at 2000rpm is as before; the changes were to make it meet new Euro emissions rules, and included pruning 200cc of capacity. I quite like this engine and – along with the 2.4 – it may turn out to be the best that's ever been in a Defender. Despite modest capacity and power of "only" 90kW it always did what was asked of it without complaint, suggesting once again that some of the current crop of high-output diesels are more to please the manufacturer's marketing department than for practical value.
I was fortunate to be one of the first to extensively try a Defender after traction control became available on it in NZ and was impressed, although it was no match for a Defender with cross-axle diff-locks. It's fairly obvious that these electronics have been tweaked in the ensuing years because the 110 was brilliant, able to easily clamber up and over track obstacles that would have stumped the early model, at least on its first attempt. This was probably the single most impressive aspect of the 2012 model, especially as I hadn't helped it by airing down the 235/85 x 16 tyres (see separate item below).
But hold the phone: some Solihull people 4wdNewz has spoken to hint broadly that the "new" Defender, due 2015, will be sold alongside the "old" Defender, at least in some versions, for several years. Update: Here's an interesting article on the next Defender posted on Autospy.co.nz.