Luxurious top performers

The Land Rover Defender is a name synonymous with off-road capability, exploration and adventure. Metropol managing director Murray Dempsey, who already drives a Defender, took the opportunity to check out the latest models.

The latest interpretation of the Land Rover Defender is as sophisticated in its technology as it is comfortable on the road, which has made the vehicle a common sight around our city. The question then, is if the new Defender is still as good off-road?

Land Rover offered the opportunity to test the vehicle in a three-day adventure, ‘The Defender Journey’; driving the Defender off-road on 4×4 tracks around Central Otago and staying in one of New Zealand’s most luxurious lodges. Starting in Queenstown, we embarked on our adventure, having the opportunity to drive either the P400 petrol or D300 diesel models, both powered by 3 litre 6-cylinder turbocharged engines. A spectacular drive through the Kawerau Gorge, the petrol Defender certainly showed the best of its on-road manners and power, covering the ground and tackling the corners effortlessly and smoothly. I found the diesel to be the pick off-road.

Soon, we reached the Carricktown 4×4 track, which took us high up through the Carrick range, surrounded by panoramic views over Cromwell and the Upper Clutha Valley. Viewing the remains of Carricktown, stamper batteries, and the Young Australian Water Wheel, we were transported to the 19th century.

Bumpy, steep, and in poor condition, the 4×4 track looked a challenge, especially to drivers new to off-roading in our group. Fiercely, the Defenders conquered the ruts and loose rocky sections. So well set up for such terrain, these vehicles made it look easy. Built-in with all the toys for off-road convenience, drivers can raise the Defender for better ground clearance. Selecting the appropriate off-road driving mode makes tackling slippery, snowy, sandy, or rocky surfaces a breeze.

Each driver made it up the track like an expert, thanks to the wizardry of the Defender’s systems.  To relax and unwind after exhilaration and adventure, The Lindis Lodge provided ultimate comfort. Offering an unparalleled blend of luxury and nature, it is nestled unassumingly in the breathtaking Ahuriri Valley. It’s a beautiful spot to enjoy. As expected, the lodge, food, and location were world-class and exceptional.

What truly makes a stay unforgettable is the personalised service provided by the staff, which The Lindis team excelled at. Feeling like a valued guest in a friend’s home was a fabulous experience, alongisde the 4×4 thrill.

One of the more challenging tracks we undertook was a circuit that took us over the Diadem Range, reaching a height of 1727m. Once again, the Defender exhibited absolute sure-footedness. Its design and setup for off-road capability assists novice drivers in successfully navigating steep hill climbs where stopping is undesirable, narrow sections where looking down is unwise, and slippery and muddy areas, where you do not want to fall off  the edge.

The journey back to the lodge was one of many water crossings, sometimes on a deeply corrugated road. The ability of the Defender’s air suspension to smooth out such a ride that could rattle other vehicles to pieces, was incredible, and unlike any other vehicle I have experienced. Excitingly, there are more tours planned for summer.

On our tour, we hit fresh, deep snow and ice as we reached and descended from the summit. The drive down was in places challenging, even for an experienced off-road driver, with extremely steep gradients complicated by multiple tight switchbacks, and potentially treacherous ice on the track.

The Defender’s low range mode incorporates a hill descent system where the vehicle autonomously controls the speed of travel and rotation of the wheels, so the car won’t ever slide. Safely, and in complete control, descending a steep track covered in ice was very impressive.

After an exhilarating day on the tracks, the lodge awaited us with Champagne and a hot bath to warm up, followed by cocktails and a gourmet degustation dinner with matching wines, topped the day off nicely.

The design and technology built into the Defender provides off-road capability that lets you tackle challenging conditions with the utmost confidence, as well as swallowing up the miles on the road like a luxury saloon. Quite simply, it combines the ethos of off-road adventure,  on-road performance and luxury all in one vehicle. The  Defender Journey allows drivers of any ability to experience the joy of negotiating challenging and satisfying off-road tracks, in a vehicle that provides absolute confidence, in luxurious style.


To take the Defender Journey, choose from five tour dates during November and December 2024. You can purchase three-day, two-night tours, with accommodation at the scenic Lindis Lodge, through the link, starting from $11,999 per couple.



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