One sunny summer’s day, five people in four 110s arrived at the Texaco filling station at the Bloody Oaks on the A1 for the 385-mile round trip. You could almost hear the sound of Texaco’s share price increasing as we glugged the fuel into the tanks before heading off on the long haul north.
Editor John Pearson and the others saw a gap and filtered into the light morning traffic, leaving me still sorting myself out. As the 'broomwagon' bringing up the rear, I’d be there to recover anybody who had a problem. Quite who would recover me, I don’t know.
With hindsight, as I was in the least powerful 110, I should have been lead vehicle. That way we’d be able to keep together easily rather than me having to gun it to catch up with the others.
We’d changed our testing parameters slightly for this run. As the Defender isn’t primarily a motorway cruiser, we kept the dual-carriageway maximum speed at about 60-65mph, rather than the 70mph we subject the (slightly) more aerodynamic Land Rovers to. On all the other roads, we tried to stick as close to the limit as we could, as we do for the others.
Occasionally we swapped position, giving John a breather from doing battle with the airflow due to his chunky roof rack and lights. Of all the 110s on the run, his was most aerodynamically challenged, so he was unlikely to get anywhere near the combined fuel economy figure of 26.1mpg, especially given the long stretches of dual carriageway.
After what seemed like a lifetime, we dropped off the A1 and headed for Knaresborough. Staff writer Kev Mills’ 110 was bouncing noticeably as he hit undulations – I reckon his rear dampers are shot, probably because he normally lugs around a big load.
News and features editor Mark Saville was constantly having to change gear on the new Defender. With the Td5, Tdi and V8, we could drop it into top at 50mph and it would pull from 40-plus mph: sixth gear on the new gearbox is really just for cruising and best suited for 55-plus mph. This would be where the older 110s would score over the newer version.
Before we left the filling station at the start, we’d all guestimated how economical the Land Rovers would be, based on our previous experience of them. I know what my 300Tdi is capable of, pretty much in any scenario, and it can vary quite wildly if it spends its time in traffic round town or on long cross-country runs.
John, meanwhile, simply said:
‘My 110 does 25mpg, irrespective of the road types and conditions.’ We weren’t driving for economy, but there was still a bit of rivalry to see who would be the best.
We rolled up and down the hills on the B-roads to Kettlewell, with the occasional puff of smoke from the exhaust on the new Defender telling us that Mark had changed gear yet again. Kev pulled in to refill. As he normally runs on LPG, he had no idea how far his 110 would do on petrol and, as the fuel gauge isn’t that accurate, he didn’t want to risk it.
We left Kettlewell on the road to Middleham, which runs along Coverdale. The warning signs about the severity of the hills suggested that the road would be all but empty – but it wasn’t. The world and his wife seemed to be using this road – perhaps because they knew they would be unlikely to end up stuck behind a slow-moving HGV, as they would on the bigger roads.
Kev and I both fluffed gearchanges on the steep ascent at Park Rash, reducing us to crawls as we struggled to find the right ratio to regain momentum. John and Mark disappeared into the distance, shortly followed by Kev. I found the relative lack of performance of the 300Tdi hindering me again and it was nearly half a mile before I was able to get into third gear and start chasing down the others.
We obviously arrived at Middleham at lunchtime – none of the racehorses that the town is famous for was out and about. In the gloom of the low cloud, everything seemed still and tranquil – as if waiting for something big to happen. Maybe they were waiting for the convoy of 110s, which disappeared almost as quickly as they had materialised.
We were now back on major roads, so could build up the speed again. Well, we could have if we hadn’t become stuck behind a Wensleydale Creamery lorry. John managed to blast past on a clear section of road, but the rest of us were marooned behind for a while.
The lorry driver pulled over to let the queue past at Aysgarth, so we hurtled off to catch up with John, leaving the other drivers behind. Defenders may be perceived as slow but, on roads like this, they can more than hold their own.
We still had some greenlaning to do before our lunch stop, so we turned off the main road towards Stalling Busk. The lane across the Stake Moss is a great drive – a light coating of topsoil over rock. Some work has been carried out here – chippings have been dropped on to the route to maintain the surface – but overall it’s in good shape.
We grabbed a few photos of the scenery before dropping on to the B6160 near Cray. The 110s just walked the section where we know
we can get spectacular photos of Freelanders lifting wheels. It was almost boringly easy. No fuss, no effort – just doing things the way
that a Defender does.
We headed west and along the picturesque valley of Langstrothdale – already starting to fill up with the parked vehicles of walkers and other visitors. We weren’t stopping, though – we still hadn’t had lunch.
You’d guess that Cam High Road was an ancient Roman road by its arrow-straight path, even if you didn’t know from looking at the maps. Again, there was nothing to trouble the Defenders – and John was pleased with the improvement offered by his Terra Firma suspension on his 110.
The other three 110s had anti-roll bars fitted, but John’s, with all the extra weight up top, was anti-roll-less. The handling was still on a par with the others, though.
Lunch was a bit of a non-event. We arrived at the Wensleydale Creamery at Hawes before closing time, but they’d already stopped serving food. We were a bit later than normal – by now it was 4.30pm – but as we’d left the Bloody Oaks at 7am, we were a bit peckish. At least one of the local cafés was still open, so we grabbed a bite to eat and a well-deserved rest.
Last time I did this route it was getting dark as we left Hawes, so all
I got to see on that occasion was the gloom picked out by the headlights of the P38 Range Rover.
This time, I had the opportunity to enjoy the scenery.
The famous Ribblehead viaduct stood ahead of us, dwarfed by the striking landmark of Ingleborough, a 724-metre (2375-foot) hill that some would call a mountain.
I’d approached Ingleborough from the west on a Greenlane of the Month assignment some time ago. Coming from the north this time,
I could mentally place where everything else was in the vicinity.
We got caught behind slow-moving vehicles on the run in to Skipton, so almost freewheeled in before turning on to the A65. I was left behind again as the others powered up the hill – the 300Tdi just didn’t have the get-up-and-go of the other 110s, though I eventually started making up ground as we reached the top, only to lose them as they passed a learner driver and I was slowed down again.
Eventually, we regrouped as we crossed Skipton Moor into Silsden before heading into Bradford. Rush hour had just about finished, but we were still caught at every set of traffic lights, punctuating our progress significantly. Our little convoy seemed out of place in among the other traffic in the busy city centre – loads of people turned to stare. If there had been just one Defender, I bet no one would have batted an eyelid.
The difficult driving was nearly over now. Out of Bradford we went, on to the M62. With photographer Tom taking a turn in my passenger seat, I made use of the city’s new 2+ multiple occupancy lane to gain an advantage over the others, who had to slow down for a roundabout. It didn’t give me too much of a benefit: the others charged up the hill and soon regained their places ahead of me.
And so it continued right the way down the A1. John stopped for some more fuel before the end as his warning light was showing – but only managed to get 60 litres in – that meant there were still 20 litres, or more than four-and-a-half gallons, left in the tank. Kev also shoved some more in, just in case. Mark and I noted smugly that we each had more than a quarter of a tank left.
Arriving back at the Bloody Oaks, we all refilled. The 300Tdi had used the least fuel, followed by the new Defender, then the Td5 and, of course, the V8 bringing up the rear.
We were all pretty accurate with our own guestimates on our own vehicles – but the one that surprised us most was the new TDCi 4cyl Defender. I reckon the extra (sixth) gear encourages you to drive it faster than you would an older Defender.
So on this back-to-back test, when driven at ‘Defender’ speeds, it exceeded our expectations – and who knows what we could have recorded if we’d driven economically?
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