Could this be the ultimate adventure tent set up? Land Rover Defender and Autohome roof tent review
Land Rover has teamed up with specialist manufacturer, Autohome, to develop a roof tent for the new Defender 110
Find out the verdict of Camping magazine Editor, Iain Duff, as he puts the tent and car to the test during a weekend in the Lake District.
Words and pictures by Iain Duff
- New Defender v old Defender
- Driving off-road
- Video review
- The roof tent
- Room with a view
- Pricing and costs
- Our verdict
- Fact file
Introduction: The Land Rover Defender 110 + Autohome roof tent
With more than 70 years of heritage and a vast army of devotees to keep happy, the new Land Rover Defender has a lot to live up to. But it's fair to say the designers have come up with something that is more than worthy of the famous name.
The new Defender is as tough and practical as its iconic predecessor and they share the same distinctive, boxy shape. But it doesn't take long to discover that this is a smart and refined 4x4 that's worlds apart from the no-frills original when it comes to everyday driving. It's just as comfortable on the school run or the daily commute as it is tackling steep, off-road tracks and rocky trails.
The old Defender, on the other hand, was primarily a workhorse, a utilitarian tool rather than the sort of vehicle you would use on a day-to-day basis. But don't let the smooth driving and luxury interiors of the new Defender fool you into thinking it's just another boring SUV. It's designed for action - and combining it with a roof tent opens up a whole new world of adventure.
For around £2,500, you can create what might just be the ultimate explorer's dwelling. Adding a roof tent to the Defender turns this 4x4 into a mobile basecamp, giving you the freedom to go wherever you want and set up camp in minutes.
For most of us that would mean spending a couple of nights on a campsite or a remote, off-grid spot in the hills. It's the perfect shelter to prepare for - and recover from - a day hiking in the Lakes, wild swimming in Wales or surfing in Cornwall.
But if you are planning something more ambitious, the new Defender is the perfect vehicle for a lengthy overland expedition.
The new Defender v the old Defender
For all its frills, Land Rover is keen to point out how functional, practical and durable the new Defender is. Some fans of the old-school Defender remain to be convinced, however.
It's too nice, they argue. Too comfortable. Too high tech. Too easy. And we get that. It's the same arguments put forward by aficionados of VW splitty campervans, genuine, retro canvas tents and even traditional football grounds.
They say that what you gain in comfort and convenience with their shiny modern-day equivalents, you lose in character.
It's a fair point. But on the flip side, not everyone wants suspension that makes your teeth rattle when you go over a pothole. Some of us quite like heated leather seats, sat-nav and Bluetooth connectivity and most drivers are fully in favour of power steering.
And that's before we get onto the technological jiggery-pokery that enhances the Defender's off-road capabilities.
What's the new Land Rover Defender like to drive?
To put the Defender and tent combo through its paces, we took it to England's adventure and camping capital, the Lake District, heading north to Keswick from Camping mag's Lincolnshire HQ on a drizzly Friday morning.
The most difficult conditions we had to cope with were the inevitable end-of-the-week A1 traffic jams. It was hardly the sort of challenge the Defender was built for, but to be fair, it coped admirably with the constant stop-starting.
Now if I'm honest, I'm no motoring expert - my interest in the Defender lies more in what's on the roof than what's under the bonnet. Thankfully, the new Defender has all manner of computerised gadgetry designed to make motoring easier, without the need for much driver input, including the Terrain Response system, which helps adapt the vehicle to the road conditions.
When we did eventually get beyond the tailbacks onto the open road, even I could tell that it drove beautifully. And when we reached the Lakes, it was a joy to cruise along those winding country roads with the hills and mountains as a spectacular backdrop.
How does the Land Rover Defender perform off-road?
Before reaching Cumbria, we grabbed the chance to put the Defender's off-road capabilities to the test at the Land Rover Experience facility, near Skipton. And that's when the fun really started.
With the help of the various off-road modes, we were soon deep in the North Yorkshire woods, zipping up and down steep inclines, bumping over railway sleepers and fording a river like something out of a Hollywood blockbuster.
Or at least that's how I imagined it. In reality it was probably more like Simon and Lindsey in The Fast Show ('Let's off-road!') than Vin Diesel in Fast & Furious, but the Defender makes this sort of thing so easy that you can see yourself as quite the expert.
This is where the vehicle's amazing technology comes into its own - switching to Wade mode, for example, lets you drive through water up to 900mm deep without fear of waterlogging the engine.
What's the Land Rover Defender's roof tent like?
The premium-quality roof tent has been specially designed for the Defender by Italian specialist, Autohome. When you're on the move, it's hidden away inside a rugged fibreglass roofbox, stowed flat to maximise aerodynamic efficiency.
But when you've found the perfect spot to spend the night, it goes up in seconds. Simply unclip, give it a push and let the gas-filled struts do the rest. It opens up to reveal a wedge-shaped tent, with a hard-shell roof and strong canvas walls.
Access is through one of the two side doors, using an adjustable, lightweight aluminium ladder. Getting in and out is fairly straightforward, even for someone as lacking in agility as me, although be careful in wet weather as the rungs can get slippy.
And having to negotiate the ladder for that bleary-eyed 2am toilet run requires a certain level of skill.
When it's fully open, the tent measures 2.3m long, 1.3m wide and 1.5m high and that means there's plenty of space inside for two adults, with enough headroom to sit upright and move around. A nifty LED striplight provides plenty of interior illumination.
It comes with a comfortable double mattress and a pair of pillows, so all you need to complete your bed is a cosy sleeping bag. On my Lakeland trip, I took my luxurious Robens Prairie, which seemed to reflect the Defender's combination of old-school style and technical excellence.
The beauty of carrying your tent on the roof is that it frees up the boot for all the rest of your camping gear, such as chairs, tables, stoves, etc. But there are also net storage pockets inside the tent for any smaller items you want to keep handy.
The Land Rover Defender's room with a view
Apart from the convenience of the quick set-up, possibly the best thing about a roof tent is the views you get from your elevated position. So to take advantage of that, it makes sense to try to find an overnight stopping place with a spectacular panorama.
The good news is that the Defender goes pretty much anywhere, which means finding that perfect pitch is not hard.
Near Keswick, we found a beautiful spot close to Derwent Water, with spectacular views of Skiddaw on one side and Walla Crag on the other.
The PVC front window on the Autohome tent means you can soak in the magnificent vista as soon as you rise. And if you really want to make the most of the view, you can completely open up the front.
One top tip - and this applies to all roof tents - is try to get your vehicle as level as possible so you don't find yourself gradually slipping downhill during the night.
How much does the Land Rover Defender cost?
Of course all this comes at a price - the Defender starts at around £46,000 with the most expensive model coming in at an eye-watering £106,000.
In addition you have the option of buying one of four accessory packs designed to give the vehicle a distinct character. There are actually 170 individual accessories available for the Defender. With so many options to consider, you need to spend a considerable amount of time thinking about exactly what you'd like and what you simply couldn't live without.
The model we took to Keswick (the Defender 110 D250 S) was £52,985 on the road, with the assorted optional extras taking it up to over £66,000.
Add another £2,500 for the tent and £1,200 for the roof bars and you'll obviously need deep pockets to buy into the new Landie lifestyle.
But is it worth it? Well, if you can afford it, the answer has to be a resounding yes.
The Defender lets you go anywhere - over rocky terrain, up precipitous tracks, through deep water - to the most remote, stunning off-road locations imaginable.
Land Rover Defender fact file
Land Rover Defender 110 D250 S and Autohome roof tent
- Price: £52,985 (£66,015 as tested)
- All-wheel drive
- Terrain Response system
- Air suspension and adaptive dynamics
- Heated front seats
- Standard leather steering wheel and gearshift
- 10in interactive driver display
- Sound system with six speakers
- 3D surround camera
- 360° parking aid
- Wade sensing
- Cruise control and speed limiter
- Front jump seat
- Meridian sound system
- Sliding panoramic roof
- Interior video rear view mirror
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