Land Rover Defender SVX 90 soft-top (2008) review

Published: 12 August 2008

Land Rover Defender SVX 90 soft-top (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 2 out of 5
  • 2 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5

By CJ Hubbard

Associate editor

By CJ Hubbard

Associate editor

This is the Land Rover Defender SVX, a special edition built to celebrate Land Rover's 60th anniversary. Based on the short-wheelbase 90, the Defender SVX is available as station wagon or soft-top, and just 1800 are being produced for sale worldwide. The Defender's a hell of a thing, an institution – a car you should drive before you die. Or before Land Rover kills it. Whichever.

So what's so special about the Land Rover Defender SVX?

To get the full SVX hit go for the soft-top version. Every SVX gets metallic black paint and satin black 60th anniversary decals (making these about as subtle as possible, despite their door- and bonnet-filling size), silver detailing including the front grille (not the most successful aspect of the design...), and unique clear-lens lights – including the alarmingly contemporary LED rears. Then there's the reinforced aluminium front undershield, and flash looking 'diamond turned' alloys. But only the soft-top includes a standard fit roll-cage.

Since you're all thinking it we may as well say that, yes, this does look like it came from the Lara Croft accessory catalogue. But like the original open Land Rovers, the SVX soft-top stacks its spare wheel behind the front seats and features a flat load bed – complete with useful lockbox hidden underneath.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Land Rover Defender SVX first drive.

Looks drafty. Where do you put the passengers?

Going the full roll-cage monty is the best way to show off the SVX's bespoke Recaro seats. It also clearly demonstrates that there's just the two of them. This makes the SVX something like a sportscar of the mud-plugging world. But without a roof you'd struggle to fill the spare seat during a UK summer, let alone any other time of year; fortunately the SVX does have one, a tailor-fitted fabric job with lots of zips and velcro.          

This, however, is so complicated it requires a crack team of military experts to disassemble. And good luck putting it back up in a hurry if you get caught in the rain. It also sounds as if the wind resistance is literally going to tear it off at motorway speeds, so you'll be wanting earplugs or a decent level of tolerance for the SVX's upgraded stereo. Especially as someone seems to have mistakenly interpreted 'upgrade' to mean cheap looking aftermarket headunit, and a subwoofer. Seriously. A sub. In a Defender. Still, at least there's an iPod connector.

Does it still drive like a medieval torture device?

Actually, the SVX is surprisingly civilised. Some recalibration is necessary, obviously – and heaven forbid you ever need to use a concrete surfaced motorway – but last year's major revisions have done their best to erase the Defender's truly sadomasochistic side. The steering is light enough at low speeds to almost overlook the ridiculous turning circle, the brakes brake, and the six-speed gearbox is entirely agreeable so long as you've got enough potency in your left leg to move the clutch pedal.

All the crunching and banging from the full-time four-wheel drive only adds to the charm. The SVX is powered by the 2.4-litre turbodiesel also introduced in 2007, and although 120bhp doesn't sound much, 276lb ft in a 90 with no tin lid is pretty handy – especially as it's available from just 2000rpm. Top speed is a gobsmacking 82mph, 0-62mph takes...patience. But once you're up and running there's no need to keep anyone waiting, as the torque punches the SVX along very nicely. It even makes a decent stab at cornering quickly, if you're careful.

Click 'Next' below to read our verdict on the Land Rover Defender SVX.

What about the anti-SUV lobby?

A Defender isn't an SUV, it's a tool – designed for heavy duty off-road work, an environment where the standard dual-range transfer box and 47 degree approach and departure angles make the SVX almost unstoppable. It gets respect rather than aggravation. The looks of this particular variant do occasionally raise an eyebrow – or engender an actual 'wow' from G.I. Joe-minded children. Easily solved by letting it get a bit muddy.

While it might have air-con, electric windows, and a heated front windscreen, the SVX is still essentially an antique. It's like the modern motoring equivalent of canal boating – you could go faster if you wanted to, but in truth it's better to relax and enjoy the scenery. Just don't let too many people know it still only manages 27.5mpg combined, and emits 274g/km CO2. At least you can get Land Rover's CO2 offset scheme.

Verdict

The SVX starts at £30,495, with the soft-top as tested coming in at a hefty £32,800 – a far cry from the Defender's £18,905 entry-level. But the difference is irrelevant as the UK allocation is just 300, and they are already sold out. Hopefully the owners will occasionally get their feet wet, even if the SVX is a piece of living history.

Here's to another 60 years – though somehow we doubt the Defender as we currently know it will be around that long. Get one while you still can. You'll enjoy it.

Will you miss it? Should Land Rover make sure the Defender exists in 60 years time? Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say.

Specs

Price when new: £32,800
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 2401cc 4-cyl turbodiesel, 120bhp @ 3500rpm, 276lb ft @ 2000rpm
Transmission: Dual-transfer six-speed manual, full-time four-wheel drive
Performance: 15.8secs 0-62mph, 82mph, 27.5mpg, 274g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1705kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 3649/1790/2021

Rivals

Other Models

Photo Gallery

  • Land Rover Defender SVX 90 soft-top CAR review
  • Land Rover Defender SVX 90 soft-top CAR review
  • Land Rover Defender SVX 90 soft-top CAR review
  • Land Rover Defender SVX 90 soft-top CAR review
  • Land Rover Defender SVX 90 soft-top CAR review
  • Land Rover Defender SVX 90 soft-top CAR review
  • Land Rover Defender SVX 90 soft-top CAR review
  • Land Rover Defender SVX 90 soft-top CAR review

By CJ Hubbard

Associate editor

comments powered by Disqus
  • Land Rover Defender SVX 90 soft-top CAR review
  • Land Rover Defender SVX 90 soft-top CAR review
  • Land Rover Defender SVX 90 soft-top CAR review
  • Land Rover Defender SVX 90 soft-top CAR review
  • Land Rover Defender SVX 90 soft-top CAR review
  • Land Rover Defender SVX 90 soft-top CAR review
  • Land Rover Defender SVX 90 soft-top CAR review
  • Land Rover Defender SVX 90 soft-top CAR review