/ 18 November 2023

Doing France in a new Defender

The new Land Rover Defender has a sleek modern exterior and retains the reputable off-road performance of its predecessors.

As we all take a deep breath after the excitement of this year’s Rugby World Cup, there is a brand that worked tirelessly behind the scenes to assist with the orchestration of this event. 

Is there a better way to see how it helped direct this massive tournament than to travel to France? Not that I can think of. That is exactly what I did, while the event was still in full swing.

The Defender is a model that has undergone a few changes over the years. Traditionally, it was the Land Rover of choice for avid adventurers and cross-country trekkers due to its sturdy nature, robust looks and brilliant off-road capability. 

Now the famous nameplate is venturing on a new journey — but don’t worry, it’s still a Land Rover.

The new Defender off-roader is being advertised in a new way. It is a gorgeous, eye-catching vehicle that combines the reputable off-road performance of its predecessors with a sleeker, more modern design. 

After the arrival of the new shape, initially, not much changed around the marketing of the Defender as it continued to be the best off-road vehicle Land Rover produced.

However, the brand soon noticed that its flagship was attracting those seeking luxury baked into their off-roader.

To adapt to buyer demands, the Defender has become a more status-driven luxury model. In line with this shift, Land Rover has launched its all-new Defender House in France. If you are familiar with the marque, you’ll know its different models have houses that fit their personalities.

Considering the Defender’s new identity in terms of status and luxury, there is no better place in the  world to host this brand than the south coast of France, considered home to luxury and wealth. 

That being said, our journey began in the city of Nice, where it’s clear that big money is present. Old buildings, narrow streets and British rugby fans were plentiful. 

The stage was perfectly set for an interesting experience and the first stop was Defender House. 

It’s a gorgeous property situated on a stunning coast-facing hillside with a perfect view of Nice. The beautiful house is modern and spacious, which speaks to the new nature of the Defender.

There was no shortage of, well, Defenders at the Defender House, so before long we set out to experience the P400e in the mountains. 

This potent SUV is most certainly comfortable, with a rugged, yet stylistically forward, interior. 

The SUV’s powerful petrol engine made overtaking simple and the hybrid addition reduces fuel consumption and provides instant torque, giving the driver the impression that the vehicle is smaller than it actually is.

We headed out to experience the hybrid Defender. We were not sure what to expect of the roads in the coastal mountains, which got narrower and narrower.

Considering that driving a car with such a large presence is challenging under normal conditions, and adding the element of driving on the “wrong” side, on some of the narrowest roads imaginable, it would be fair to say that the experience was rather nerve-wracking. 

Nevertheless, the views took care of the nerves as we wound our way through the mountains and stunning tiny villages.

On a slightly different topic, there is something about driving in France that needs to be touched on. If you thought that our taxi drivers were reckless, then you haven’t experienced French motorcyclists on mountain roads. 

Their fearless driving habits are almost admirable but they do tend to scare the life out of you on a corner. Okay, now back to the Defender …

When we returned the vehicle to Defender House there was excitement in the air. The reason? A once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a Rugby World Cup match.

What would you imagine is the perfect way to watch a rugby game? Well, Defender had a good understanding of it. Piling us two by two into the latest Range Rover and driving us into the rugby grounds, under the stadium, and as close to the field as possible, was certainly a great way to do it.

Once we arrived, with the biggest grins of disbelief, we were escorted into the Defender commercial box, where we got to experience good food, drinks and company before the game kicked off. 

Being a passionate Springbok supporter, watching the England vs Japan game, I found myself rooting for the Japanese among an overwhelming number of British fans.

Defender was ever-present throughout the game, hosting important individuals in style, while showing the world the strength of its product through various advertising efforts.

Our excursion ended too soon, but before leaving, we had to see the neighbouring country of Monaco — a parallel universe, where luxury products are commonplace and a yacht costing several million doesn’t impress anyone. 

Walking the streets, we came across the famous Formula One racetrack, which left us in awe at being a part of something that millions of people across the world only get to see once a year.

The trip was short, but Defender flexed its muscles for us to wrap our heads around its new mindset. It’s a brand that inspires and strives for greatness. 

Its past continues, etched in capability, but its looks push luxury and demand respect with a substantial display of status. 

What a pleasure it was to experience this brand in action. Here’s to the luxurious future of Defender, without forgetting its past.