This article was published on February 19, 2021

After driving the new Land Rover Defender, I can’t wait for an electric version

Why I'm pumped that Land Rover is finally going electric

After driving the new Land Rover Defender, I can’t wait for an electric version
Matthew Beedham
Story by

Matthew Beedham

Editor, SHIFT by TNW

Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls. Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls.

Earlier this week, Jaguar Land Rover announced a seismic shift in its strategy. Jaguar is ditching its combustion engines entirely, and will be an all-electric brand. Land Rover, meanwhile, will create a range of six EVs that will be sold alongside its current line-up.

This will undoubtedly shock and horrify the vast majority of old-school Landy fans who love the cars for their ruggedness and utility… but I’m actually super stoked about this change. And I’m going to explain why.

The reality

Before we get to my controversial excitement though, let’s look at why this is happening, and what those old-school fans think.

With bans on the sale of new gasoline cars set to come into force over the next decade, Land Rover’s shift to electric power had to come sooner or later. Its only option is to innovate, or risk falling into obscurity and irrelevance as the rest of the world moves away from oil-based fuels.

Clearly, as one of Britain’s most iconic brands, JLR couldn’t afford for that to happen.

land rover, defender, future
Credit: Land Rover
The new Land Rover Defender is the most technologically advanced Defender ever made, and that makes it the best.

Spend five minutes browsing comments on Twitter or Facebook, and it’s clear to see that most Landy fans aren’t onboard with the idea.

“Land Rovers aren’t what they used to be,” they howl. “Good luck when that air suspension craps out, and you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere,” they cry. “Land Rovers are nothing like they used to be, they’re too complex, they’ll never work,” they proclaim.

While some worry about technological progression being some kind of regression, there is another side of the coin, my side, the correct side. The best Land Rovers aren’t the ol’ faithful mechanical wagons, no, it’s the ones we have today. Why? Because the tech is just mind-bogglingly good.

The modern way

Land Rovers have, and continue to be, some of the most capable off-roaders in the world. I know this because years of my childhood were spent gazing out the passenger window of them. And while that was a magical experience, it simply doesn’t compare to my journey a couple of months ago, when I drove the all-singing, all-wading new Defender at Land Rover’s North Yorkshire experience center.

land rover, defender, electric, future
Credit: M Beedham
The Land Rover Experience Center in North Yorkshire, UK. Deep water, wet rocky descents, and thick mud, put you and the car through its paces.

With Land Rover’s latest Defender, it has well and truly left its past behind — and that’s a good thing.

The heritage remains, but it now takes the form of a rubberized interior, and conveniently exposed rivets and bolts. Land Rover’s new Defender is rugged and charming like its older brother on the surface, but under the skin, it couldn’t be more different.

The new Defender is chock-full of 21st century features, but my favorite of them all is its All Terrain Progress Control. It’s the car’s pièce de résistance and is basically cruise control for explorers.

Set the speed and the Defender will use all of its tech to just keep on going no matter what. Traction control ensures the vehicle doesn’t slip, smart locking differentials ensure power goes to wheels with the grip, and the car takes care of maintaining engine revs and a consistent speed over whatever you throw at it. All the driver has to do is steer.

It means a total idiot like me can conquer an off-road course that would have taken years to master in an old-fashioned “analogue” vehicle. Seriously, the capability of this system cannot be downplayed.

Compare this to the previous Defender that went out of production in 2016, and you’ll find the latest version is light years ahead. The progress is phenomenal. The Defender is proof that Landy’s new tech should never be feared, it should be embraced.

defender, old, new, land rover
Credit: M Beedham
New-school against the old-school. Sure the old-fashioned charm is undeniable, but I’d take the new one every day.

The future is electric

Brands like Tesla, and off-road oriented Rivian, are demonstrating what’s possible with electric drivetrains. Even chop shops are doing EV conversions of old Land Rovers, because electric is the future.

EVs have great torque delivery, superb weight distribution, and a huge amount of flexibility over how power is delivered to each wheel. It’s a recipe for a perfect off-roader, and provides Land Rover engineers a world of opportunity for making the best vehicle its ever made.

Land Rover doesn’t have an EV on sale yet, but its sister company Jaguar does, the iPace — and it’s not a bad first showing. Henrik Fisker, the guy that just so happened to design a bunch of James Bond’s cars, drives one. Faced with the challenge of building EVs, Land Rover isn’t going entirely into the unknown.

jaguar, ipace, car, ev, future
Credit: Wikimedia
The Jaguar iPace was the company’s first foray into the electric vehicle market, and its gone down, pretty well.

What’s more, it takes just one drive of the new Defender to realize how good Land Rover is at implementing new tech to make its vehicles better. It has a 70-year history of continual improvement, and there’s nothing to suggest it will stop when it goes electric.

Knowing that its friends at Jaguar already have a hold on how to get electric drivetrains working in the real world, the British marque has the foundation for an exceptional range of EVs. And I, for one, am totally stoked and can’t wait to see what it comes up with.

For those bemoaning the fact Land Rover is going electric, I recommend you fire up Autotrader and start looking at the second-hand market.

Oh, and considering that most Land Rovers aren’t even driven off-road anymore and are seen more frequently in cities, at least they won’t be chucking out dirty diesel fumes into the face of innocent children anymore.

SHIFT is brought to you by Polestar. It’s time to accelerate the shift to sustainable mobility. That is why Polestar combines electric driving with cutting-edge design and thrilling performance. Find out how.

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