ROAD TEST: Meet the 'phenomenon' - the new Land Rover Defender 110

Welcome to a phenomenon. This is the new Defender, a car which is selling like hot cakes, writes Steve Teale.

Meet the 'phenomenon' - the new Land Rover Defender 110

That was to be expected. After all, the original vehicle was a legendary model and Land Rover put everything into making the new one equally, if not more, significant.

VISIT WEBSITE: For more about the Land Rover Defender 110 D250 SE, including a 360° view inside and out, visit the official web site at www.landrover.com.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

True story. A friend of a friend bought one, despite the high price tag, but sadly his wife didn't like it.

To cut a long story short, he did what any man would do in such a situation: he took it back to the dealer, who - surprise, surprise - paid him more than he had initially forked just a month or two earlier, such is the demand for these motors.

Here's a tip, don't try this with a run-of-the-mill car for it will cost you an arm and a leg.

Dealers simply can't keep pace with demand, which is not a bad situation to be in given that the motor industry has had a year from hell.

Now, there have always been in-demand cars, but to make money on an ill-judged purchase is very unusual. Dealers I've spoken to can't think of another example, except for rare motoring exotica.

But the Defender isn't just another new car, it is almost iconic. It was a sad day when the last old Defender rolled off the production line and grown men - gruff types, not accustomed to displays of emotion - shed tears. It was the end of a motoring era.

But it paved the way for a modern legend, the new Defender. It was greeted with much joy, but not everyone liked it. Some questioned why it was built in Slovakia and not Solihull; why does it have unitary construction rather than a traditional ladder suspension; and why does a functional car cost so much?

And why has such a simple car - known for its ability to conquer terrain due to its strength and lightness - become so complex?

Well, let's be honest: Land Rover hasn't replaced like with like. Times have moved on and motorists - even old-school Land Rover enthusiasts - want more than agricultural agility.

Behind the wheel of the new Land Rover Defender

Today's Defender is, arguably, what those pioneers a lifetime ago would have created if they had the knowledge and abilities we have now. This is a Defender for the 21st century.

So, some Land Rover enthusiasts don't like the change, just like some Mini fans don't like the new BMW MINI. So what? You are welcome to your 1960s Mini or 1950s Land Rover if that's what you desire.

But the new Land Rover (and the new MINI) is aimed at new market. Defender isn't cheap (the test model cost £56,355) but some might say you can't put a price on a legend.

Before we devote too much space to the specification, you will want to know how this thing drives? Wel, I've driven - and been driven in - a fair few Defenders in my time. They are brilliant vehicles, but not always easy to drive. Steering can be loose and acceleration gets there eventually.

Land Rover Defender 110

But the new model is a 21st century 4x4. It is quick, smooth and easy to drive. It's even easier on the eye.

The team given the unenviable task of designing this vehicle has done a fabulous job - schmaltzy but not too much so.

It comes in two broad ranges - the 90 (three-door) and 110 (five-door). The 90 is cuter, the 110 more versatile.

The test model is a Defender 110 D250 SE. It is one of the better equipped models powered by a 3.0litre 250bhp diesel engine. It is quick (117mph where legal and 0 to 60mph in 7.9 seconds) and economical (32.2mpg on a combined route).

Rather than consider it expensive, a week with this beast made me realise it's actually pretty good value. It is capable off road without being mannered on road.

All Defenders come with LED headlights, heated, powered mirrors, all-season tyres, all-wheel-drive, heated and powered front seats and a 360 degree parking aid.

It has cruise control, land keep assist, emergency braking and a system which can not only read traffic signs but adapt your driving to keep within the law. I bet you never imagined those features on a Defender?

It has a six-speaker high-class stereo, smartphone pack which allows you to control some features from apps, plus a terrain response system and "adaptive dynamics". You'd be mad to go mountaineering in a fifty grand car, but it's nice to know you could.

The test model is an SE so you get even more: even better LED lights, body-coloured door handles, electric steering column, grained leather and textile seats, 10in driver display, blind-spot assist, 10-speaker stereo system and other safety devices such as clear exit monitor and rear traffic monitor.

It is a proper off-roader which should keep Landie enthusiasts onside. It is capable of doing what Land Rovers have always been famous for - covering ground of all types.

Of course, it's not to everyone's taste. But when you consider what is in this brilliant car, you end up thinking that actually £56,000 isn't exorbitant at all.

Fun, of course. Well built, without a doubt. Impressively detailed. A motoring work of art.

It is a legend. But it's a legend you could drive every day and never tire of it.

Does it make sense? Cars rarely do, especially 4x4s, but it's easy to fall for the Defender.

Land Rover Defender 110 D250 SE

Price: £56,355. From £41,395. This model cost £66,565 because it adds a raft of options such as white metallic paint (£895), 20in five-spoke wheels (£1,150), sliding panoramic sunroof (£1,650), air quality sensor (£60), off-road tyres (£255) and three-zone climate control (£765)

Engine: A 3.0 litre diesel engine

Power: 249bhp

Performance: Top speed 117mph and 0 to 60mph in 7.9 seconds

Transmission: Automatic

Economy: 32.2mpg average

Emissions: 230g/km

Warranty: Three years, unlimited miles.