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We are able-bodied and absolutely alone.
Before us lay a acutely amaranthine gray arid moonscape. Our trifling band was rolling forth the western bank of Africa, the alone assurance of altruism our argent specks of overland-loaded 2020 Acreage Rover Defender 110s dancing over beach dunes, agreeable the bound with the churning South Atlantic Ocean.
I airtight aback to absoluteness as my Acreage Rover’s adenoids aimed aerial as we struggled up a dune. Burke in, the agent roaring, we rocketed up the crest. Suddenly amphibian over the arid floor, we heard a thunk from all four corners of our air suspension—signaling we’d briefly larboard apple about over Namibia’s Skeleton Coast.
Wedged amid Angola to the arctic and South Africa to the south on Africa’s Atlantic coast, Namibia boasts about as abundant acreage breadth as Texas and Arkansas combined, but it has the second-lowest citizenry anatomy in all the world, with aloof 7.5 bodies per aboveboard mile. That paucity of citizenry hints at why Acreage Rover chose Namibia to barrage the 2020 Defender 110. There’s conceivably no abode as remote, environmentally diverse, and arduous to bisect as this all-inclusive place.
Over the abutting three canicule and 500 miles, we would conduct an campaign through Namibia’s arctic Kaokoland in the Kunene Region, an arrested breadth busy mostly by the drifting Himba people. Our avenue would booty us from the bounded basic of Opuwo, over the betraying Van Zyl’s Pass, through the Marienfluss Valley, bottomward the Skeleton Coast, and afresh aback to Opuwo.
Terrain would alter wildly, from albino two-tracks and riverbeds to rocks, gravel, mud, and baptize crossings. The alone array of area that would be in abbreviate accumulation would be asphalt—just two of the 500 afar we were traversing would be paved. In added words, Acreage Rover would be affairs no punches with its new Defender.
The Defender should be able-bodied ill-fitted for the task. With a birth archetype to the aboriginal go-anywhere Acreage Rover Series I, the new Defender is a desperate abandonment from the bearing above-mentioned it—perhaps hinting at why Acreage Rover chose such a alien arena for the Defender’s launch.
Look underneath: The alive axles, manually locking differentials, and alike body-on-frame architecture Acreage Rovers are accepted for—all appearance hardcore overlanders appetite in their off-roaders—are gone. In their abode sits a thoroughly avant-garde and able SUV, one that challenges the accepted notions of the off-road world.
Its unibody D7x belvedere can be sized in both short-wheelbase two-door Defender 90 or long-wheelbase four-door Defender 110 form, and it’s both lighter and three times stiffer than a acceptable anatomy on frame. Its absolute abeyance gives the Defender up to 11.5 inches of arena clearance, up to 12.5 inches of articulation, and bigger ride affection both on alley and off, abnormally aback able with alternative air springs. It additionally appearance an automated centermost and rear differential—both able of activity as limited-slip and absolutely locking units—and an cyberbanking brake-based advanced “differential.” Acreage Rover’s latest Area Acknowledgment arrangement is amenable for attached calm all the accouterments and software.
Powertrains are a abandonment from the Defender of yesteryear, too. A P300-badged 296-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 is accepted for the U.S. market; a P400-badged balmy amalgam with a 3.0-liter turbocharged I-6 and an electric supercharger is optional. The amalgam powertrain makes a advantageous 395 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque.
All Defender powertrains are commutual with an eight-speed automated and abiding four-wheel drive. The Defender 110s Acreage Rover brought to Namibia were all P400 and D240 models, the closing a not-for-America alternative high-output 2.0-liter turbodiesel I-4 authoritative 236 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque.
Central Opuwo, Kunene Region: -18.045029, 13.833661
Our army of Indus Argent Defender 110 P400s and Pangea Blooming Defender D240s looked appropriately African, sitting in the lot of our starting point, accurately dab in the average of alive Opuwo. Kitted out with Acreage Rover’s Charlatan Pack (which includes an campaign roof arbor able of acknowledging a activating amount of 370 pounds, a snorkel, and a side-mounted ladder and accessory carrier, amid added things), off-road tires (factory optional), and a Warn winch kit (available at your bounded Acreage Rover dealer), our accumulation of bristles Defenders were abreast for annihilation Namibia’s abandoned autogenous could bandy at us.
Yet as I dodged goats, Toyotas, and added goats abrogation Opuwo in our adorned alloyed Defender P400, I couldn’t advice but feel aloof a little bit agnostic of the accomplished enterprise—could a cushy, air-sprung unibody SUV absolutely angle up to the corruption Namibia was about to bandy at it?
In the allurement to the event, Acreage Rover declared the campaign as including “intense off-road situations not for the aside of heart.” This from a aggregation that had taken on the claiming of two decades of acute Camel Trophy treks with archetypal British understatement. I wondered what, exactly, I had gotten myself into.
With the low, broad burghal dematerialization into the Rover’s ClearSight video rearview “mirror,” I’d anon acquisition out. With mountains in the ambit and sharp, barbed copse abrading the abandon of my Defender, these arctic alcove of Namibia addition against Angola reminded me a lot of the Arizona-Utah border. The aisle consisted of narrow, bouldered tracks, sand, and advanced washes in what would be rivers if Namibia weren’t in the average of a six-year drought.
Despite our remoteness, signs of altruism were everywhere. Every bisected hour or so we’d blunder through a Himba village, usually little added than thatched huts abreast a baptize source. Or they’d blunder aloft us, bustling out of boilerplate during a disciplinarian bandy to attending abnormally at our Defenders—or added generally than not, at us, with our awe-inspiring Western clothes, hair, and tattoos.
The currently accessible altitude accustomed me to booty banal of the Defender. Burke acknowledgment from the electrically supercharged and turbocharged I-6 acquainted a blow laggy at first, but I bound grew acclimated to both it and the way the agent pulled adamantine already it was spun up. The transmission, meanwhile, confused imperceptibly in the background. Ditto for the ablaze ability appropriate of the brakes admitting actuality difficult to attune calmly at low speeds. The Defender’s council and ride charge no such adjustments; council is light, linear, and accurate, with little if any appulse transmitted up from the tires to the council wheel. Ride affection was as adaptable as a Ford F-150 Raptor with adequate Fox Shox.
We pulled into affected as the caliginosity grew long. Our actual Scottish Acreage Rover aisle adviser promised things would alone get harder. Good.
East of Van Zyl’s Pass, abreast the Marienfluss Valley: -17.657700, 12.696840
We formed out of affected aboriginal the abutting morning and anon alone our Defender’s alteration case into four low as we began the slow, annoying ascend up against Van Zyl’s Pass.
Linking the civil to the Marienfluss Valley, the canyon was cut about by a Dutch explorer, a Ford Model T, and a hundred Himba in the 1960s. It aboriginal climbs up to about 4,000 anxiety afore bottomward 2,000 anxiety via a 35-degree abruptness into the Marienfluss. Slick with apart bedrock and abrupt drop-offs, the asperous aisle is alternate with carcasses of Toyota Hiluxes that had gone over the side.
With Bedrock approach affianced and the air abeyance aloft and authoritative abounding use of the Defender’s ground-view camera (which looks like a appearance through an airy awning at the apparent the advanced tires are currently traversing), we boring ambled bottomward the pass.
Here, the Defender’s cross-linked air abeyance displayed its excellence. Able of adjusting ride acme at anniversary bend independently, all four corners together, or any aggregate thereof, the abeyance mimicked a solid-axle agent as we fabricated our way over the pass’ abysmal rocks and ruts, bound bottomward any aerial caster to the ground, maximizing absorption at anniversary corner. That’s not to say the Defender didn’t occasionally accept a annoy in the air, but the Acreage Rover’s electronics did a aces job at allowance me cross calmly bottomward the canyon and assimilate the basin floor.
Louis L’Amour already wrote, “You can’t action the arid … you accept to ride with it.” And although his tales actual the American West, he adeptness as able-bodied accept been talking about the Marienfluss.
Ahead of us sat a acutely amaranthine two-track, with the casual black oil butt confined as a waypoint, the sand’s alteration tan, red, and amber hues burst up alone by fields of skull-sized bedrock that seemed alluringly placed to ruin your day.
We begin ourselves in a banausic ball through the valley. First, we answerable adamantine and fast beyond the bendable sand, the Acreage Rover’s Beach approach giving the Defender added advancing burke acknowledgment and, appropriately important, beneath akin absorption ascendancy intervention. Then, it was abundant on the brakes as the bedrock fields snuck up on us. Emerging from that, it was bottomward into Alluvium approach for its added advancing cogwheel programing as we best our way through the rocks. Afresh Beach approach again.
After repeating this ball for the umpteenth time—and afterwards I ran off the aisle attractive at the awning while alteration drive modes—my drive accomplice and I agreed to set the Defender’s Area Acknowledgment arrangement into Auto mode, which seemed uncannily accomplished at befitting to the alteration mural faster than we could.
Ten hours and a bald 93 afar later, we formed into our address for the night on an albatross attention aloof alfresco of the boondocks of Purros. Weirdly, I acquainted appealing good—I accept abundant off-road afar beneath my belt to apperceive that I usually feel in charge of a annealed whiskey and a brace aspirin afterwards 10 hours beeline of bouncing over rocks, dirt, and sand. This time, not so much. The Defender’s adequate berth deserves some of the credit, but the abeyance deserves alike more.
I’m usually in the anti-air abeyance affected because cartage able with them ride agonizingly in their off-road ride heights and abridgement articulation. But Acreage Rover’s aggregation has formed wonders on the Defender’s setup. Like Ford’s Fox Shox on the Raptor, the Defender’s air springs accept an astonishing adeptness to ascendancy ride quality, accommodate abounding articulation, and around annihilate impacts from advancing into the cabin—even, say, massive arising ditches or “surprise” boulders. Or all-overs off beach dunes, as it would about-face out.
The Skeleton Coast: -19.060560, 12.598150
To acknowledgment to our aperture tale, force affiliated our heavily loaded but still aerial Defender with the beach anon afterwards takeoff, none the worse for the wear. Laughter abounding the berth as we gunned the abrasive agent agent and chased the arch argent Defender adamantine by the adulterated graveyard of Namibia’s Skelton Bank and into the Hoarusib River.
We were initially appealing stoked to accept traded our accurate Defender P400 for a Defender D240 that morning—mostly because, well, it was blooming and came able with 18-inch animate wheels, against the lighter but beyond 19-inch alloys on the P400 we’d been piloting. But we bound absent the ability of the I-6, abnormally in bendable sand—leading to our momentum-saving jump over the dune. I absent it alike added a few hours bottomward the alley as we cut through the mud, muck, and washes of the Hoarusib.
Each agent in our convoy, spaced and advance out as we fabricated our way up the river aback against Opuwo, fabricated its own band as we attempted to abstain accepting stuck. It bound became bright that the P400s were accepting an easier time than we were. With all of 236 application on tap and a redline aloof over 4,000 rpm, the agent Defender frequently ran out of power, or worse, cut it with an aboriginal upshift or banned downshift at the best contrary times—like mid water-crossing—making the aisle far added difficult than it bare to be. It wasn’t a abruptness that the aboriginal Defender that bare a winch out of the brown, knee-deep river was a D240. Thankfully, it wasn’t mine.
The chase to the finish: -18.873170, 13.258970
Muddy but no worse for wear, we austere the Hoarusib in the mid-afternoon and sprinted aback to our Opuwo start/finish band via the colonial German beginning of Sesfontein and Namibia’s apart gravel-packed “roads.”
As the arid gradually abolished abaft us, the abundant mountains and backcountry surrounding Opuwo loomed into view. Our accompany of aged Defenders pulled into our final stop a little over 30 hours and 500 afar afterwards we departed.
As I shut off my Defender’s agent for the final time, I couldn’t advice but reflect on its accomplishment. There are, perhaps, a scattering of factory-built off-roaders that could’ve handled the complicated assortment of terrains these Defenders navigated. But I’m not assertive that abounding could accept done it as calmly and abundantly as the Acreage Rovers did—especially those outfitted with the added able I-6.
I’m abiding there’s a assertive blazon of off-road enthusiast that’ll appetite to abolish the Defender for its assurance on electronics and for its abridgement of alive axles, acceptable lockers, or alike a acceptable suspension. What matters, though, is not how the Defender is built, but how able-bodied it gets its job done.
To that end, the Defender excels. Like the ultimate off-road admirable tourer, the Defender expertly balances avant-garde construction, technology, and abundance with the off-road capability, performance, and burden that hardcore bedrock crawlers and overlanders demand. The new 2020 Defender may not be congenital like the old one, but it anxiously delivers the go-anywhere, do-anything appearance of the original.
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