1994 Land Rover Defender 90

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1994 Land Rover Defender 90
Available in 1 styles:  Defender 2dr Wagon shown
Asking Price Range
$38,341–$71,869
Estimated MPG

13 city / 16 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 2

By 

Los Angeles Times

There is a British firm that builds military and agricultural vehicles and keeps a weather eye open for trends and pretenders.

That's why Land Rover demobilized its weapons carriers and peat busters in 1970, lined them with leather and walnut, and sold them as urban ground pounders to royals and the nouveau riche--real and aspiring.

Hence their landed names: Range Rover, Hunter and County. Also prices more like a down payment on Aspen.

Now Land Rover is stalking a new generation of echoists who wear Vietnam boots to brunch at Patrick's, carry Zippos in case anyone still smokes and ride Mulholland on $20,000 Harley-Davidsons in turquoise and cream.

And for these Walter Mittys and Heidi Mimics, there's Land Rover's 1994 Defender 90, an apt title for a personal tow truck that bristles, swaggers and looks like its factory options should include olive drab paint and .50-caliber machine guns.

With its roll cage and fold-flat windshield, a driver feels underdressed without dog tags. If lost, an untended Defender always points toward Somalia.

Viewed another way, Defender could stomp anything in Jurassic Park and keep you safe in MacArthur Park. Required dress is anything from Banana Republic. Driver's tattoos should read Defendo Fidelis. The console bin--called a cubby, a term found only in your fat Webster's--is deep enough to hold a half-dozen hand grenades.

And at $27,900, see Defender 90 as affordable fawning to Hell's yuppies once they have outgrown Jeep Wranglers and Dennis Miller.

When jesting is done, however, when its "Daktari" styling has been acknowledged, the Defender 90 stands as a serious, talented vehicle for anyone with work or play on the heavier side.

The black steel roll cage is no decorator touch. It is heavily welded and held with button-head bolts because this vehicle climbs 45-degree grades. Brush guards do not pander to poseurs. They really will scatter medium debris and keep stumps and rocks from punching out lights and grilles.

Defender has a nine-inch clearance between ground and differential because it's built more for Northwest Territories than Nordstrom.

It will wade through 20 inches of running water or muck; can pull itself out of most situations with a 8,000-pound Warn winch; and carries 1 1/2 tons of cargo, enough to splay the wheels of lesser off-pavement vehicles.

A Defender mind-set should be fully engaged before traveling anywhere in this aluminum-bodied, alfresco assault vehicle used by the Special Air Service, Royal Air Force Regiment, several British constabularies and other pursuers of threats to the realm.

If one is offended by naked bolts and rivets, best buy a Lexus. If a requirement is to arrive unrumpled in San Francisco, Amtrak would be a softer bet. Defender will skin knuckles and slap you around.

And a radio mounted in a console beneath the driver's right elbow is of l ittle concern when you can't hear KTWV over 40 m.p.h. Major sounds of Defender, in fact, are the roar of its 182-horsepower V-8, the alto thrumming of Goodrich Mud Terrain tires and the slapping of hair on your forehead.

Yet through it all, this rural truck remains a throne for anyone who ever wore a check shirt and can see through bugs on their contact lenses. It delivers an enormous sense of adventuring and freedom from a mechanical surplus that's more than enough to tame off-road situations where one simply grits teeth and hangs on.

Practical? There are no cup holders in Defender because you don't need them. Slop sarsaparilla--or enemy blood--on its rubber-covered floor and just hose the puppy out.

Tough? It can tow a pair of itself.

*

A direct descendant of traditional Land Rovers that first saw farm and military service in1948, Defender 90 is a short-wheelbase version of a batch of Defender 110s test marketed in the U.S. early last yea . They sold out before summer, so the littlest Defender will be in show rooms early next month.

The engine is 3.9 liters, same as the Range Rover County. The spare Defender, however, weighs a half-ton less than its Savoy-suited sibling. So initial acceleration is quicker--by a full second (10.4) from rest to 60 m.p.h--and it is nimbler, with the turning circle of a London taxi, which can spin on a sixpence.

It comes with a full tonneau cover and a Bimini top held by straps and snaps that are a breeze to unhook, a bear to refasten. A full convertible top is also available.

As all things internal will spend much of their time outdoors, seats are upholstered in weather-resistant twill. Plastics and rubbers are heavy duty, selected for skills in beating back heat, cold, heavy sunshine and much moisture.

Defender seats two up front. Some versions will have a forward-facing, two-person rear seat. Others will arrive with facing shelves/benches in the back. But it's risky seating, owing to low backs and no seat belts.

There are no air bags or anti-lock brakes. Windows are sliding panels with pegs that slip into the doors, much like medieval sports cars. Steering and ride are floppy and jouncy but again, approach Defender in context: This is a water buffalo built to pull and pound in the dirt, not run the boulevards in search of sushi.

Defender's four-wheel drive is a permanent engagement, with a two-speed transfer box and manual differential lock. Seating positions are pure London Transport, which is straight up and no lounging.

Our test vehicle was in Coleman's mustard, which the British, bless 'em, know as Automobile Association yellow. High, blunt-ended, slab-sided and wrapped in its cage, Defender looked for all the world like a Band-Aid box crossed with a school bus.

But romping through Sespe Creek, splashing around the Santa Clara River near Fillmore, always digging itself out of trouble and topping everything climbed, Defender showed its true role.

It's not primary transportation. Leave that to Montero and Trooper. It is not for parking outside Chardonnay. That's Grand Cherokee turf.

But as an action-hero vehicle for those who take their hardware tough and bad around the edges, Defender is about as cool as it gets.

There is little doubt it will join the trend to grungy chic.

Defender's arrival coincides with the fall catalogue of Beverly Hills Motoring Accessories. This season, the book devotes seven pages to after-market brush guards, diamond-plate running boards and light cages for all sport utilities.

You can even order parts to bring a Defender look to your queenly Range Rover.

1994 Land Rover Defender 90

The Good Genuine, serious utility vehicle. Extraordinary off-pavement performance. Priced right. Built to outlive the Pyramids.

The Bad Slurps gas Short on comfy seating.

The Ugly Every chunky inch of it.

Cost Base: $27,900 As tested, $32,100 (Includes air conditioning, alloy wheels, Bimini top, winch, brush bar and side runners.)

Engine 3.9 liter V-8 developing 182 horsepower.

Type Front-engine, four-wheel drive, soft-top, sport-utility.

Performance 0-60, as tested, 10.4 seconds, with five-speed manual. Top speed, estimated, 100 m.p.h. Fuel consumption, city and highway average, 14 m.p.g.

Curb Weight 3,560 pounds.


    Expert Reviews 2 of 2

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