Opinion

Steve Cropley: You don’t need to head off road for the new Defender to impress

This week, Steve savours some me time with the new Defender, ponders the difficulty of launching GT cars in lockdown and ponders the fall of King Mondeo.

Monday

My first proper chance to bond with a new Land Rover Defender, and what a superb creation it turns out to be. The example I’m punting is a short-wheelbase 90 SE powered by the D250 (247bhp) 3.0-litre Ingenium six-cylinder diesel and equipped with air suspension. It also has the bog-basic 18in white steel wheels (the best, to me) plus off-road tyres, rubber mats and a snorkel, and is thus prepared for rougher treatment than it’ll get in my hands. What I’m most impressed by is the first-level stuff – the quality, the design inside and out, the powertrain refinement, the creamy torque, the accurate steering, the suspension’s quiet, long-travel bump absorption and, the biggest surprise of all, the cushioned quietness of the tyres on any surface. This weekend, I’ll be driving.

Tuesday

How on earth do you launch a 650bhp GT car to an action-starved community of customers and hacks when they can’t even walk around it, let alone hear or drive it? Bentley this week chose the media centre at the scenic Anglesey Circuit as a studio for its launch of the third-generation Continental GT Speed, where CEO Adrian Hallmark and chief engineer Matthias Rabe made live presentations electronically, and took questions the same way. It worked perfectly. Although rain beat against the big windows that formed the backdrop, there was enough of a view of freedom across the circuit, plus periodic aerial views, to make the whole production much more novel and memorable than a factory-based event would have been. As a result, the new Speed made a unique entry into the motoring world. Covid-19 may be a curse but it also breeds impressive innovation.

Wednesday

If there were an award for the decade’s most crass, ill-judged piece of broadcast nonsense, it would surely have to go to the ‘Go Left’ radio jingle currently being spread about by Highways England, evidently as a way of saving our lives on its so-called smart motorways.

On my reading, it suggests that if your car unexpectedly conks, and there’s no junction or refuge area handy, all you have to do is to ‘Go Left’ and bring yourself to a halt in the nearside lane – for want of a hard shoulder – then abandon your car through the passenger door and scarper up the bank. From there, you can watch with interest as onrushing trucks generate clouds of tyre smoke swerving around your lifeless pride and joy until one of them rear-ends it at the full 56mph, reducing it to a carpet of shattered glass and fist-sized parcels of torn metal. A chain of similar collisions (with strong prospects of fatalities) will then ensue, closing the motorway for hours. Not everyone will see it, however. The politicians allowing a catastrophe will be looking the other way.

Thursday

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