A FEW weeks ago John Watts, our commercial monitor editor, drove a pre-production 2007 Land Rover Defender and thought it was a great improvement. Over the weekend it was my turn and Land Rover not only sent up the new model but also the outgoing one to compare.
I tried the old one first. I could go on about it but to put it simply – and politely – it was functional and unrefined. I’ll leave it at that.
The new model is just so different. It looks similar, but the comfort, ride and reduction in noise is dramatic to the point that you could almost call it refined. As John said, you can now hear the radio – and actually have a proper conversation.
The improvements mean that local authorities, government departments and utility companies are still getting a go-anywhere vehicle, but now with added driver appeal.
One thing that hasn’t changed much is the turning circle, which is still similar to that of a cross-Channel ferry.
The Defenders had to go back on Monday morning as they are used in the Land Rover regional test days for fleet customers, so if you get the chance to try them, do so, as the difference is amazing. Well done to the designers and engineers at Land Rover for bringing this 1940s anachronism into the 21st century.
ANDY Wertheim, Mitsubishi manager, national fleet, and Paul Greenwood, used car manager, came up to Leeds to discuss new models due in the UK in the next 12 months. Andy told us that, despite serious competition, the Outlander2 is finding homes in niche and specialist fleet companies.
They shared information on their used car disposals and performance and seemed reasonably confident that used car prices will remain stable due to limited availability of most models in the range – even the cars. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are still Mitsubishi’s main focus though.
IN Barcelona for a top-secret pre-launch car test at Spain’s equivalent of Millbrook, called IDIADA. The security facilities are like something from a James Bond villain’s lair.
The screening is considerably more exhaustive even than airport security as they have all manner of scanners and check all your baggage and even your pockets. There are concrete bunkers alongside all the tracks so if a helicopter or light aircraft is spotted overhead by the control tower, the test cars dive into them. Manufacturers love this feature.
A VISIT to the office by Ford’s Jon Gunn-Smith, large car product manager, who was responsible for bringing the new Mondeo to market. Production started on time in February, ready for Mondeo to be in showrooms on June 29. The first three months of production has been allocated, mainly for fleet and dealer demonstration, but none to rental companies as Ford is cutting back dramatically on short-cycle business.
The Mondeo 2.0-litre TDCi Zetec 140 will be the most popular model new, and potentially used. Model mix is running at 4% saloon, 24% estate and 72% hatch. Having driven a pre-production Mondeo a few weeks ago, I believe user-choosers are in for a pleasant surprise.