Off Road, In Style: We Took The New Land Rover Defender For A Spin - The Gloss Magazine

Off Road, In Style: We Took The New Land Rover Defender For A Spin

A little off-road drive in Wicklow takes on a new glamour in a Land Rover Defender… 

Inside the Land Rover Defender 110 automatic AWD (All Wheel Drive) PHEV (petrol hybrid electric vehicle), it’s all olive-coloured leather and heady new car smell. Powered by a delicious breakfast and strong coffee at Kilruddery’s Grain Store, we are settled in our vehicles for a beginners’ guide to driving the Land Rover. (If you buy one, you’ll get at least two hours’ instruction, putting it through its paces with one of the experienced and amiable Defender team.) The luxe cockpit features simple controls and fewer bells and whistles than we expect. It feels intuitive and not too complicated. Soon we are starting our exceptionally quiet engines and purring gently off-road, climbing up the Little Sugarloaf above Kilruddery. Let’s just say the heft and comfort of the car feels a little different to the hatchback I buzzed in on.

As we climb, initial trepidation – How does it all work?- is replaced by elation – How am I doing? We feel in control, delighted at our driving. As we turn the corner, we see the convoy of sleek Land Rover Defenders snaking up the mountain behind us, ten in total, a glam lady driver at the wheel of each car. Every single one of them looks entirely comfortable – gesticulating, one casual paw on the wheel, sunnies on. This is a media event for lifestyle journalists – there isn’t much talk about torque as we drive, two and three to a car, there are other more diverting things to be discussed, and anyway, this off-roading in a Defender business seems pretty easy going. Whatever is going on under the bonnet seems to be working alright, and we are relaxed.

But it pays to be careful with 2.5 tons of expensive gleaming metal under us, and when the track gets a little trickier, requiring full attention and less chat, we concentrate.

In truth, the car does all the heavy lifting, and actually most of the driving, since the mud rut setting is selected, the body has been lifted off the tyres, the speed limit has been set. The InControl driving assist feature keeps us on the, if not straight, the narrow. All we have to do is proceed at a stately pace up the mountain track, bouncing in and out of potholes. The car politely helps, detecting obstacles, tracking us back. This visibility from this height is awesome: sunlit views of Wicklow, mountains to the west, the Irish sea to the left. We catch the vanilla scent of the gorse through open windows.

Lunch is served in a yurt in the middle of a field and it’s just gorgeous – open fire, sheepskin rugs on wooden benches, pretty flowers in glass jugs. We’re on the lemonade – we still must make it down the mountain. Descending is fun, now we’ve got the hang of it, and we are almost disappointed to have to take to the open road. But that’s pretty awesome in a Land Rover too – across the beautifully bleak braken-flanked military road, past the Glenmacnass waterfall from Sally Gap to Glendalough and Laragh. There’s a connection to the landscape through those vast windows, but we feel cocooned.

At Laragh we slip in through the gates of The Deer Stone, an idyllic development of five cosy architect-designed lodges, and shepherds’ huts, which opened last year. There’s a roundhouse for yoga, piping hot little saunas, an ice bath, and the Shed, where dinner will be cooked and served by Jordan and Majken Bailey, as if we hadn’t had enough treats for one day. From the oysters served with Majken’s powerful vermouth cocktail to the apple tart-flavoured jellies served with coffee, by way of short rib of beef, divine vegetable and a gorse-infused ice cream, this was an exceptional experience.

We had the added excitement of telling the only man to brave dinner with 16 women, Jaguar Land Rover’s managing director Eddie Kavanagh, exactly what women want … in a car, that is. Eddie was a gracious host but sped off in his Jaguar before the conversation got too heated.

Land Rover is all about experience, if you are lucky enough to be a customer, you will become part of a unique club with a rich history and heritage. (Land Rover celebrates its 70th birthday this year.) It won’t be all saunas, Michelin-star chefs and lunches in yurts, necessarily, but it will be nice.

Book a test drive a Land Rover at

Sarah McDonnell was a guest of Jaguar Land Rover.


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