Land Rover vs Lexus: SUVs ancient and modern

Published: 26 June 2007

Do we prefer comfort and luxury or the simple pleasures of a car with character? Asks Ben Oliver

Of all the cars on sale in the UK, I don’t think you could identify two more different than the Land Rover Defender and the Lexus GS450h. And I have both parked on my drive right now. The Defender’s basic design might date back to the middle of the last century, its interior might be cramped and crude and its road performance ponderous, even with the new diesel engine. But off-road it is utterly unstoppable, and in its pale olive paint and grey lettering mine looks sensational. It has genuine, hard-earned character, and I haven’t enjoyed driving anything as much for a while.

And why is the Lexus such a contrast? There are faster, more expensive cars to compare the Landie to, but none that feel more like Buck Rogers to the Defender’s Fred Flintstone. The hybrid Lexus feels like it has landed from the future. As well as being unfathomably clever, it is built with the precision of a Swiss watch and the luxury and gadgets of the presidential suite at Caesar’s Palace. It’s fast too, though it’s happiest on motorways and doesn’t like to stray onto B-roads, let alone off-road. But after six months it just leaves me cold; can’t make me grin like the Defender did the first time I drove it.

So, over to you. Got an unlikely pairing parked on your drive, or had one in the past? Prefer your Lada to your Lamborghini? Tell us all about it.

By Ben Oliver

Contributing editor, watch connoisseur, purveyor of fine features