A quick look at the picture accompanying this review might look like little more than a basic shot of a big 4x4 amid lush grass. Yet it tells a thousand tales. In this case I've picked just one - and it's about change.
This vehicle is the new Land Rover Defender in unfamiliar guise for those who remember its famous antecedents, which are still plentiful on our roads. It is such a wipeout contrast with the old I'm going to state the obvious just once (unusual for me): forget the past and what you would have expected from this motor.
It took me a while to do so. Not least because of a couple of nagging questions: who and what is it for?
My goodness it is a big, tall, bulky stalwart of a 4x4, now lavishly endowed with technology, comfort and space. The headroom is ridiculous. My version had five seats, a 2-litre (240PS) diesel and air suspension as well as its inherent ability to go nearly anywhere.
Behind the comfort of sturdy seats, roomy cabin, softer-touch materials and latest interconnectivity lies an array of extensive engineering for which both the marque and model are famous.
The result, in this case, was an unexpected degree of driveability on-road. We took in a nostalgic trip to, and around, the midlands and a heart-warming visit to Belfast as well as several around-town drives.
Our off-road forays made low-key demands on the war-chest of tech at our disposal should the slippery, betimes hilly conditions have posed the slightest challenge. Initially, I felt a bit intimidated by the sheer size of the vehicle on narrower country roads especially, but its reassuring behaviour soon banished that. And what a view of the road we had. Talk about driving position. This is on a par with the best.
The monocoque all-in chassis - which has air suspension on the long-wheelbase 110 model - contributed a lot to making this a smooth operator regardless of road conditions.
I could lower or heighten the rear suspension if I wanted to load something; I didn't, but it was good to know. There's also a retractable tow bar that operates via a button in the boot. The Defender can tow 750kg unbraked and 3,500kg braked; AWD and twin-speed auto box are standard. There are numerous drive modes to suit the sort of terrain you are traversing.
It's a heavy machine so I thought the 2-litre diesel did well enough to use 9.1 litres every 100km (31mpg); the eight-speed auto gearbox helped a lot. There was plenty of rear room: so much so I changed out of soaking clothes there with ease (I double checked: the rear windows were tinted). And there was a nice additional slot under the fair-enough sized boot. Opening the side-swinging tailgate door was easy - these things can require muscle sometimes. And to that tailgate clung a full-size spare. It blocked my rear vision a bit, but large side-mirrors helped, as would a special camera system if needed.
On more aesthetic matters, I wouldn't be a fan of the infotainment display; it was too faint in definition and we had to go around the houses a few times to get ordinary results for ventilation, audio and so on. The dash is large and blocky but I thought its part-fawn colour made it look a bit dowdy. There were myriad charging ports placed where you might not expect to find them.
But is the whole package not too posh for those who need a less salubriously bedecked workhorse? Is the name too embedded in our psyche for drivers of large passenger 4x4s - including its own stablemate, the Discovery - to switch allegiance? Especially when you consider it starts around €60,000 for the short-wheelbase 90 version. My 110 long-wheelbase model costs from €68,000. For a Defender? I hear you say. Wait for it: the model I had on test costs about €95,000; the range-topper X model costs €130,000-plus.
Despite that, I'm told quite a few have bought or ordered one. No doubt they see it giving them a mix of comfort and doggedness for their lifestyle and/or business. But the commercial versions due later on will be of much greater practical relevance to most buyers. Some realities don't change.
Land Rover Defender:
From €59,410; Defender 110 prices start from €68,160. Vehicle on test (110 long wheelbase), €95,514; 2-litre diesel, 240PS, €1,200 tax, AWD, air suspension; Terrain Response; panoramic roof, heated front seats, 19in alloys, acorn grained leather/woven textile seat facings, 10in Pivi Pro display, Meridian sound 400w/10 speakers, 3D surround camera, 360° parking aid.