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On paper, the combination of some of the toughest off-road terrain on the planet and a reviewer who simply doesn’t get off-roading as a hobby might seem like a bad idea. Nevertheless, this was the challenge set for the new Defender, which was going to be pushed to its absolute limits over 700 unforgiving kilometres in Namibia by Top Gear deputy editor Jack Rix.
Setting out from Opuwo in Namibia's extreme north-west corner, Jack started his road test on one of the only tarmac roads in the country and his first impressions were good. The original Defender is not just an icon, but a national treasure, so this new iteration had a tough act to follow. Day one offered a gentle introduction for Jack, with 140km of changeable surfaces, from washed out gravel tracks, to sudden ruts, and corrugated roads - all serious suspension tests, which the Defender dealt with admirably.
THE FIERCEST OFF-ROAD TEST IN NAMIBIA
Although already impressed with how much punishment the new Defender can absorb and still keep plugging on unscathed, the second day was going to deliver the biggest challenges yet for both Jack and the car. With 300km to the next destination, the Van Zyl pass awaited, which is the fiercest off-road test in Namibia. Driving over the pass, the track plunged 600 metres to the valley below, with some of the steepest parts 35 degrees. This, Jack noted, is like driving down a black ski run covered in boulders in a two and half tonne car. He took comfort in the fact that the aluminium chassis, the DX7, is the stiffest body Land Rover has ever made.
TECHNOLOGY THAT IS “PURE WITCHCRAFT”
With the next 20km taking two and a half hours to traverse, Jack deployed some of the Defender’s intuitive technology to navigate the terrain. He was particularly awed by the 3D Surround Camera, which provides an incredible 3D view of the car from the outside, and is “pure witchcraft”.
Even smarter is ClearSight Ground View, which takes an image of the road ahead, and feeds it to the display screen to show you the position of your front wheels and what’s going on under the car.
A CAR WITH PHENOMENAL CAPABILITIES
After passing day two’s tests with flying colours, Jack acknowledged the Defender had made him look like an off-road expert, when really he’s just been putting the car into the right mode. The final leg of the journey saw Jack cruising through sand dunes in breathtaking Skeleton Coastal Park, then heading inland up a mostly dry riverbed, “having pretty much the most fun you can have with your clothes on.”
For someone who started out as a sceptic, by the end of this one-of-a-kind experience, Jack was well and truly a convert to the pleasures of off-roading in a car he sees as having absolutely phenomenal capabilities. After three days of relentless abuse, not a single thing had broken or gone wrong, not even a flat tyre. Excited by what it can do and the places it opens up, Jack concluded his glowing review by saying that in the new Defender, “I’ve got the whole world to play in.”
Learn more about the new Defender and start planning your own off-road adventure.
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