THE DEFENDER is dead. You might have heard rumours to the contrary, but there are no billionaires plotting to put Britain’s favourite 4×4 back into production. Land Rover’s said no, and that’s that.
Which probably isn’t a bad thing. The Defenders I see at car shows these days are custom made specials blighted with ridiculously oversized alloys, interiors lined with leather and precious metals and sound systems so powerful they can be picked up on a seismograph. Hardly the four-wheeled farmer’s friend I grew up with when I used to go green laning with my dad in his Land Rover One Ten.
I suspect the rural set aren’t shedding the tears you might expect because they’ve done what anyone does in the event of a vacuum; they’ve gone for the next best thing instead. When I used to get dragged around cattle auctions in Cumbria and Shropshire (don’t ask) the farmers who didn’t bring Defenders all had Isuzu Troopers parked outside. So it’s fitting that it’s this minnow of a Japanese manufacturer that’s done the most convincing job yet of rustling up a Defender replacement.
The D-Max pick-up truck isn’t new, so chances are the farming types will already know it’s hardy enough to drag itself out of a muddy field without complaint, but Isuzu’s sent it off to boot camp anyway. It’s teamed up with a company called Arctic Trucks, who’ve insisted the D-Max watches nothing but Bear Grylls documentaries and learns how to make shelters out of twigs.
What’s emerged is a proper off-roader with raised suspension and big, knobbly tyres, the latter of which can be inflated and deflated with an on-board pump. That means – and I know this is highly topical at the beginning of August – you can essentially float on top of soft snow rather than getting bogged down in it.
Admittedly having an extra six degrees of approach angle is probably a tad excessive for navigating supermarket car parks, but if you’re in Cumbria or Yorkshire this winter and there’s a repeat of last year’s floods or a freak snowdrift you’ll definitely want one of these to come to your rescue.
At £33k for the double-cab version it’s not the cheapest way into a mud-plugging off-roader, but it’s still £11,000 less than a Land Rover Discovery and roughly the same as a Discovery Sport. Neither of which have massively raised ride heights and on-board compressors.
It’s sad the Defender’s gone, but it doesn’t mean it’s taken hard-as-nails off-roaders with it.