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The Land Rover Defender 110 P400 is the best-balanced variant

Thanks to some twin-charged goodness under the hood

There is no denying that the Land Rover Defender has plenty of off-road pedigree. PHOTO BY BOTCHI SANTOS

The new Land Rover Defender is no stranger to the media, having been bandied by journalists and enthusiasts since its launch. It won over many fans who always wanted to be part of the Defender story—even many old-timer enthusiasts who viewed the new one as a marketing gimmick or a sellout of the brand’s rich culture, history, pedigree, and heritage.

Truthfully, while the new SUV has become far more technologically advanced and complicated—not to mention luxurious—it remains as capable as ever. It excels off the road, no question, albeit with a little (or a lot) of help from the latest technologies.

The new Defender's design can be considered iconic at this point with how recognizable and good-looking it still is even today. PHOTOS BY BOTCHI SANTOS

It’s also supremely capable as a family hauler: Whereas the old model felt like a veritable tool (crude yet highly effective for its sole intended use), the latest one is a veritable Swiss Army knife, able to conquer the toughest terrain unmatched thanks to the D7x platform that is three times stiffer than its predecessor, while being refined enough to show off at the high street (and all while keeping it practical for the daily rat race).

A few months prior, Land Rover Philippines had also unveiled the extended-wheelbase Defender 130. When we spoke to Chris Ward, the head of Coventry Motors, he said that the 110 is the ‘best compromise’ model. The 90 is a hardcore off-roader, while the 130’s long wheelbase gives it a less-than-ideal break-over angle, limiting its rock-crawling abilities.

The X-Dynamic pack adds a few off-road-oriented features, including a scuff plate, rubber mats, and a wheel cover (not installed on this car). PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

The 110 has the versatility off the road with the space for more mundane duties, like ferrying your family to and from destinations when you’re not discovering new vistas or traversing tough trails to said vistas. This one, in particular, is the Defender 110 X-Dynamic SE P400, starting from a princely sum of P11.49 million.

The P400’s main highlight is, of course, that amazing twin-charged engine. The P400 variant utilizes two turbochargers for some unholy aspiration, and throws in a small electric motor for good measure. The electric motor helps tip-in response and cruising, while the mid- and top-end concerns are catered to by the twin turbos, providing the massive lungs needed to deliver continent-crushing stride.

An engine like this is a rarity in this segment. PHOTO BY BOTCHI SANTOS

The 3.0-liter in-line-six delivers a total output of 400hp and also 550Nm at a very low 2,000rpm. Drive is then transferred to the wheels via the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. A V8 P525 option is available, and with it, the promise of 525hp (truly overkill given our terrain and our traffic conditions).

I didn’t have a chance to use it much in the city as I was busy with work down south, but on the highway, the P400’s stride was truly breathtaking. It would jump from 30km/h to 100km/h (and often beyond it) in the proverbial blink of an eye, making it the ideal point-and-shoot machine on busy two-lane provincial highways. The adaptive air suspension felt perfectly planted regardless of speed and surface, keeping the roughly 2.3-ton (2,294kg dry weight) SUV firmly planted.

Despite having off-road chops, it's just as capable of handling itself on the tarmac. PHOTO BY BOTCHI SANTOS

And despite riding on all-terrain 20-inch wheels and tires, there is so much traction on the pavement even at highway speeds in the rain. The British are truly masters of suspension-fettling. Of course, the massive multi-piston brakes are a match for the grunt, and the steering feels very fluid, light, easy, and brimming with feel. After a long day slogging at work—or sawing madly behind the wheel conquering your favorite trail—the Defender feels as fresh, relaxed, and composed as ever.

The only complaint? Throttle response in cut-and-thrust traffic is surprisingly very dull and blunted: very laggy and difficult to modulate. You either end up with too much throttle input or not enough, which allows smaller vehicles to cut ahead of you. Truly, the Defender 110 P400 is made for conquering continents than crawling in traffic.

If you want unmatched capability, go for a Defender. PHOTO BY BOTCHI SANTOS

Other relevant specs? Here are more: 900mm of flood-wading depth; 291mm of ground clearance; 28°, 38°, and 40° of approach, break-over, and departure angles (when the suspension is set in its highest off-road mode thanks to the Terrain Response software, arguably the best in the business); and 1,075L of trunk space, expanding to a massive 2,380L with the second-row seats folded flat.

The “best 4×4 x far” has finally learned a few tricks for the 21st century, relying not just on past glories and its tired name, but acquiring new technologies to bring the fight to its German and Japanese competitors.

Botchi Santos

Botchi is your friendly, walking car encyclopedia. He loves helping people choose the right vehicle for themselves as much as he enjoys picking the right one for himself. Expect him to write about car culture, test drives and car-shopping advice. His regular column is called ‘Car Life’.