Land Rover Defender wins 2022 Drive Car of the Year Best Upper Large SUV

The brilliant modern-day rebirth of an off-roading icon will introduce a whole new generation to the Defender name. 

Upper Large SUVs are the Swiss Army knives of four-wheel drives. They must be comfortable and spacious, capable on-road, practical and well-equipped. That list of expectations satisfies one type of buyer. 

But then there’s a completely different buyer who expects them to be able to tackle any off-road track, tow with competence and efficiency, and be the ultimate outback touring vehicle.

This duality of purpose makes Upper Large SUVs the vehicles with the biggest breadth of capability on the Australian new car market. So it takes an accomplished machine to win the Drive Car of the Year Best Upper Large SUV award.

That’s exactly what the reborn Land Rover Defender is: one of the most accomplished and capable vehicles on sale in Australia today.

We’ve clocked tens of thousands of kilometres testing variations of the new Land Rover Defender on-road and off, and every time we get behind the wheel it impresses us with its consummate blend of quality, refinement and ability.

For most of us, the first time we drive a Defender will be on a sealed road, and you’d scarcely believe that a four-wheel drive of this quality around town would be as capable as it is off-road.

Of course, that’s part of the Land Rover brief. It had to be capable of both roles, without compromise. Even in standard trim, a Land Rover Defender will go a very long way off-road no matter how skilled the driver.

The styling nails the brief. The cabin is exceptional in both its design and execution, and the driving experience from behind the wheel is typically Land Rover. That is, a high seating position, excellent visibility, and powerful, effortless performance.

Between petrol and diesel, short and long wheelbase, there’s a Defender to suit almost any application, whether you intend to cross the continent or simply run around town.

Defender’s pricing spectrum sits it within the range of the Toyota LandCruiser, too, although neither can compete with the Nissan Patrol for outright value stakes. Still, even an entry-level Defender with steel wheels doesn’t feel like a cheap and cheerful proposition.

The ace up the Defender’s sleeve is the sense of luxury and quality it delivers for the driver. We followed the research and development journey for this new model from the beginning, and got the sense that the design and engineering teams knew exactly how serious the job was.

The judges unanimously noted the way the Defender transitions from on-road to off-road without raising a sweat and is capable of tackling anything that you throw at it.

In every sense, the Defender is the quintessential Land Rover – stylish, beautiful to drive on-road, incredibly capable off-road, and just as comfortable in the valet parking at a hideously expensive hotel as it is crossing the Simpson.

Article Credit: Trent Nikolic
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