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Motor Max: BIT OF ROUGH.

Byline: PAUL MALLEY

I WANT to apologise to Land Rover for abusing its Defender model.

Here you have a vehicle that rightfully claims to be the ultimate workhorse -and it spends most of its time under my stewardship on the road.

It's a blatant disregard for what this most indestructible of machines thrives on -hard work.

The Defender is in its element where no man dare tread: high-altitude mountain trails, crossing desert sands, wading through raging rivers.

The brochure illustrates the 4x4's off-road hauling capabilities with an example from the Italian Alps.

When bulldozers wereneeded at high altitude during work to lay underground pipelines, only the Defender could haul the machines to the mountain tops and back down 3,000 metres of 45 degree slopes.

After a week with the Solihull-built machine, I'm not the least bit surprised by this.

The Defender 90 County Station Wagon I drove looks as if it could survive a bomb blast. Very square, very squat and very bulky, it gives off the impression of being invincible.

At the very least it should be getting dirty by transporting a sick sheep to the vet on countryside soap Emmerdale.

What it should not be subjected to is the humiliation of miles and miles of city roads and motorways.

Why? Because it's hellish to drive in these conditions.

For a start, the suspension feels rock-hard. Anyone with fillings or loose teeth choosing to drive the Defender on-road should be prepared to lose them if they encounter a pothole or two.

Stop-start driving in the city was particularly painful because of the exceedingly tough clutch. Pressing the pedal down required a gargantuan effort -andholding it at biting point was on the brink of torture. The gearstick was also quite tough to manoeuvreand occasionally I missed the gearchange I was aiming for.

Earplugs should have been provided, too, such was the headache-inducing, industrialstrength noise that blasted from the 2.5-litre Td5 diesel engine.

This Defender was only capable of going from 0-60mph in 15.4 seconds and hitting a top speed of 88mph.

If you're after a comfortable road vehicle, you should note that, despite the pounds 22,000 cost, the cabin is quite basic inside.

It is spacious, however, and provides a good view of whatever terrain you're tackling. Steering also felt quite light for such a large vehicle, which is a good thing considering the muscle-sapping nature of other features.

If it's an off-roader you need Defender could well be THE top workhorse. On-road, try before you buy.

CAPTION(S):

HARD WORKER: Land Rover's sturdy Defender; BACK TO BASICS: the Defender's no-frills cabin is spacious and gives a good view
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Feb 29, 2004
Words:443
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