land rover

Jaguar Land Rover has a great opportunity right under its nose

Currently the Jaguar Land Rover range starts with the XE saloon

WHAT’S your worst nightmare? Perhaps it’s giving an important work seminar wearing nothing but a bikini – even though you’re a bloke – or being locked inside a hi-fi shop overnight with every stereo system set to play Justin Bieber’s greatest hits on repeat, ad nauseam.

For me it’s trying to explain Jaguar Land Rover’s plans for world domination to someone who doesn’t understand cars. The Jaguar stuff’s fairly simple – you start with the wonderful XJ, replicate in slightly smaller sizes and then chuck in a two-seater sports car for good measure, but I’m completely lost when it comes to Land Rover. There’s no Land Rover-shaped Land Rover any more, a Discovery that looks just like a Range Rover Evoque, and a big Discovery that’s now tremendously ugly. Then there’s the Range Rover, but it’s accompanied by another Range Rover that obsesses over Nurburgring lap times and looking good outside footballers’ homes, a really small Range Rover that now looks a bit like a Land Rover Discovery Sport, and the Velar, which sits somewhere between the two.

All of which hurts my head (and probably yours) slightly. So rumours that JLR’s looking to expand its range of offerings even further are going to have me reaching for the Nurofen.

The manufacturer’s Indian bosses are reportedly thinking about snapping up another brand to boost its luxury offerings, with everything from Aston-Martin to MG under consideration. Even Jeep’s been linked to a potential deal, although this would be a bit like Liverpool snapping up Arsenal.

Then there’s serious consideration apparently being given to launching what’s being dubbed the ‘Road Rover’, which would be a sort of tarmac-orientated twin to Land Rover’s current offerings.  All of which would make it… a Rover, surely?

Rover would be a great name to bring back. If VW can successfully turn Skoda from the butt of motoring jokes to a champion of sensibly-priced family cars, how hard can it be to turn an (admittedly tarnished) British brand back into the luxury name known for cars like the P5 and P6? BMW so nearly did it with the 75 but famously bottled it in 2000. Jaguar Land Rover, with its clever engineering and healthy cashflow, might just crack it.

Admit it – a properly engineered Rover with wood, leather and some Jaguar-esque tech beneath the skin really wouldn’t be a bad thing. Better than presenting that work seminar in a bikini, anyway…

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Bring back the Land Rover Defender – before everyone else ruins it

Production of the Land Rover Defender ended last year

ABOUT a year or so ago Britain made an historic – but rather controversial – decision. It decided to terminate its decades-old relationship with an international institution.

Since then crime’s increased, prices have gone up and there are mutterings from our friends in the farming fraternity over what they’ll turn to now for support. There have also been heated debates in pubs up or down the land over whether pulling the plug was the right decision, but my mind’s firmly made up.

We definitely need to put the Land Rover Defender back into production.

Since Britain’s best 4x4xfar by far exited the stage last March there’s been a weird void when it comes to truly hardcore off-roaders – and no, the Ford Kuga you have parked outside isn’t going to fill it. For all its terrible handling and lack of shoulder room it had a curious role in keeping rural Britain ticking, and ever since it departed the stage some very unfortunate things have been happening.

For starters crime really has been going up. With no new Defenders to buy people have simply been nicking the old ones, so much so that NFU Mutual is now reporting that thefts are up 17 per cent over the past year. The lack of supply also means that people prepared to pay for legitimate examples are having to stump up more for the privilege; a Defender bought brand new by Rowan Atkinson two years ago has just been sold on for a £20,000 profit, and that’s unlikely to be down to simply having a famous name on the logbook.

But worst of all is that in the absence of any brand new ones the Land Rover’s hard-earned reputation is being trashed by the tuning brigade. Every week I’m sent press releases by companies specialising in aftermarket cosmetic kits for Defenders, and they’re all absolutely dreadful. But people who normally buy Audi TTs and BMW X5s are signing up, turning the poor old Landie into a bit of a glorified tart’s handbag. One of only four or so cars to have made it onto the Sub Zero section of Top Gear’s Cool Wall is now a bit of a fashion victim.

Clearly, the only answer is to put the Defender back into production and restore order.

Forget all those emissions regulations getting in the way. Theresa May needs to instigate a special Defender Reintroduction Bill in the next Queen’s Speech, and make it her top priority once Britain leaves the EU.

In fact, let’s sneak this one in early!

The new Land Rover Defender is… an Isuzu

The Isuzu D-Max has been modified by Arctic Trucks to cope with extreme off road situations

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.

This reborn Land Rover Series I is more important than you think

It might not be the new Defender but this latest Land Rover has an important job to doLAND ROVER’S latest offering isn’t quite what I was expecting. After years of teasing us all with a Defender replacement it’s simply decided to dust off its archive drawings and bring one of its old models back.

I jest, but only slightly. The latest offering from the people who make the best 4x4xfar isn’t the Defender’s actual replacement – you’ll have to wait a little bit longer for that – but they really are offering as-new Series Is. 

It’s the first time you’ve been able to do that since 1958 – and while they’re perfectionist restorations rather than brand new cars, it leaves me with very mixed feelings. 

The Series I might be the Land Rover that started it all but it’s got a very different place in my head to the sacred cow far too many people have made it nowadays. Not that long ago I’d spend Saturdays in disused quarries and muddy fields watching these things being thrown up tricky inclines and bumper first into baths of cold, mucky water. It’s a bit like that wonderful moment when you unleash the Golden Retriever and watch it immediately dive into the nearest pond. Getting grubby and having fun is what old Land Rovers are all about.

But nowadays it’s rare to see a Series I rolling around in the dirt because they’re so valuable, and I suspect it’ll be the same with these ‘new’ ones. There’ll only be 25 of them – making them rarer than a Ferrari F40 or a Bugatti Veyron  – and the price tag of anything between £60,000 and £80,000 means they’ll cost about the same as a BMW M5 or a 911. They’re just too precious for anything approaching proper off-roading.

Yet there is a weird bit of reverse logic to bringing the Series I back, because the parts are greater than the sum. Chances are you’re never going to spend the price of a small house on a 1950s Land Rover but it proves you can get just about any part imaginable for the scruffy old one your mate’s got buried in his garage. Try doing that with just about any other car you could’ve bought new in 1958.

Not being able to get bits anymore affects more cars than you might think. I know of people who struggle to keep cars from distant periods of history like the 1990s going simply because Volkswagen no longer makes obsolete bits of metal for the Corrado’s sunroof. There are loads of perfectly good Rovers, Fords, Peugeots and the like which risk getting thrown away simply because the parts don’t exist anymore. Cars like the MGB and Mini have a big enough cult following to justify the parts being remade, but most don’t. Which means a lot of our motoring heritage risks being killed off because the spares no longer exist.

Land Rover – even if its by showing us a hugely expensive ‘new’ car – is taking a step in the right direction by making the parts. All we need now is for everyone else to follow suit.