Damon Hill used to say that getting back in an F1 car after the winter break was always a shocking experience.
I feel that way about Defenders. No matter how many you’ve driven, no matter how rude and crude you expect them to be, the moment they raffle into life you know that you are in for an experience unmatched by any other car. Just like Formula 1.
It takes a little gaffing used to. The latest Defender now comes with a 2.2-litre diesel engine with the same power and performance as the old 2.4, but which meets the emissions standards it needs to in order to be sold in European markets. But it’s no more refined. In fact I think it could show my 25-year-old, three-cylinder Kubota tractor a thing or two when it comes to noise and vibration.
But it’s amazing how quickly you get used to it. Just like Damon in his FW16, within an hour or two life in the Defender appears almost normal. Of course it’s not, for just like an F1 car the Defender was built to do things other cars can’t even contemplate. There are forest tracks around my home in Wales that are pretty terrifying at this time of year and I’m ashamed to say I ran out of courage long before presenting the Defender with an obstacle that caused it even a moment’s hesitation.
Of course these cars are pitifully slow and hopeless on a long run, but you might as well criticise F1 cars as being rather impractical for taking to Tesco. In the environment for which they are built, they remain at the pinnacle of their respective disciplines.
Engine: 2.2 litres, four cylinders
Top speed: 82mph
Power: 122bhp at 4000rpm
Fuel/CO2: 27.5mpg, 274g/kg