This is the fast-road version of the Defender Challenge rally car (April 2014 issue), with uprated suspension, monster brake kit and a load more grunt than normal. Sturgess of Leicester (sturgessgroup.co.uk, 0116 282 6868) lent us its Stage 2-tuned demo car, 'Skippy', for a play.
Engine: 2198cc 4cyl TDCi, Stage 2
Power/torque: 185bhp/380lb ft
Top speed: 100mph (est)
0-60mph: 8.2 seconds
Combined mpg: 28.3 (standard)
LRO RWT mpg: 23
Price as tested: £58,665
380 MILES TO GET THE FULL LOWDOWN...
Do you notice the £28,260 of mods?
It looks tougher, goes and stops quicker, and handles better on-road than a 90 has a right to – but it’ll still go anywhere off-road too. So, yes. Pricey, but brilliantly sorted.
What’s that chirping noise?
There’s so much torque from the gruff whooshing 2.2 that full-throttle launches set the 265/65 R18 BFG All-Terrains chirping as they break traction in second gear. The big, fout-pot brakes are so strong, they’re eager to lock them up too.
How does it cope with twisty stuff?
The six-speed gearbox gets a lightweight drilled lever topped with a ball modelled on the shell from inside a Kinder Surprise egg. The surprise here is the sweetest, most precise, gearshift of any Land Rover I’ve driven. That makes the 90 a joy to hustle along B-roads, with confidence that you’re not going to get a box of neutrals when you down-shift into a corner. Unreal handling tweaks fire you safely round the bend too.
What does it feel like when pushed hard?
It’s exactly two years since I took a regular 2.2 TDCi 90 station wagon along the bumpy, undulating, road from Kettlewell to Middleham, but this time I had to keep reminding myself that I was in a Defender. The firmer suspension gives amazingly taut body control, yet absorbs bumps brilliantly too. It’s a bit like a historic rally car – physical, not that refined, and a complete blast.
It’s still a Defender, remember...
I managed only 250 miles on a tank of diesel, but it took nearly 400 miles in the comfy and supportive SVX-style Recaro seat for my left leg to start cramping up. My right palm was numb and black from gripping the suede-rim Momo wheel and my ears were ringing too... Yep, I didn’t want to get out of it. That said, it’s not the easiest thing to manoeuvre without jerkiness at parking speeds, and the driveline clonks – it’s a Defender!
What's the point?
LRO’s Real World Test gives an independent, ‘real world’ fuel economy figure based on a varied and enjoyable 380-mile route, rather than sitting on a dyno.
It’s a big drive to do in one day, so we get up early and start by brimming the fuel tank at a garage on the A1 in Lincolnshire.
By doing the same at the end, it’s easy to get a precise ‘combined mpg’ figure – meaning a blend of motorways, fast A-roads, country roads, a couple of long greenlanes and a rush-hour city crawl. And, we find out more along the way!
Our test route
Bloody Oaks services, Stamford > A1 north Knaresborough > Arncliffe > Kettlewell > Middleham > Bainbridge > Stalling Busk (byway) > Hubberholme > Cam High Road (byway) > Wensleydale Creamery, Hawes > Settle > Silsden > Bradford > M62 east > Ferrybridge > A1 south > Bloody Oaks services, Stamford