It Just Keeps On Keeping On: Land Rover Defender

The Defender’s heritage traces back to the original Land Rover Series launched in 1948. Designed to be a rugged all terrain 4×4 vehicles, the Defender (the official name since 1983) is heavy on performance and light on convenience and comfort. Like the Jeep, the Defender was updated each year but in ways that were barely noticeable leaving it today with that “raw” 40s feel.


It’s noisy, underpowered (2.5L turbodiesel), can barely hit 85 as a top speed and is far more comfortable on a forest trail than a city street. It is however unarguably practical and reliable for those who want a reasonably priced ($22,000) rugged 4×4. Land Rover had scheduled it to discontinue the Defender in 2016 but sales continue at a healthy clip meaning the “ugly duckling” may have another year ahead of it.

The Ultimate Off-Roader for the Rich: Mercedes-Benz G Class

About the same time the U.S. Army was looking at the Hummer, the German Army was in need of a “Geländewagen” or off-road vehicle. Mercedes-Benz teamed with the Canadian firm Magna Steyr and created the monster G Class that more than satisfied the German Army’s requirements.

Unlike Hummer, Mercedes saw the huge potential for a civilian model of their geländewagen and promptly brought out a model to market to the general public. It was, and remains, a hit.

Like the other models in this story, the G Class has retained its original boxy, militaristic profile. However, that is where the similarities end. If required this thing will perform with the best of the off-roaders and it should. The off-roader comes equipped with an obscene 610 hp V12 biturbo engine, coil springs and gas-pressurized shock absorbers. Front stabilizer bar, permanent all-wheel drive with 2-speed transfer case and other off-road features it has the stuff it needs.

Inside however, this thing is all hand sewn leather luxury. Like the Hummer, this $220,000 off-roader has found a huge market for folks who think a gravel parking lot is off-roading but love the look and status of the G Class.

African Queen of Off-Road Vehicles: Toyota Land Cruiser J70

If you need a ride that will take you across mud, snow, ice, loose sand, up an impossible incline or over a monster boulder or even cross a river, then you want a Toyota Land Cruiser J70. That’s a “J70” not the $80,000 V8 Land Cruiser that is sold in the U.S. today. Unfortunately to get one of these original off-road warriors you have to live in Africa or Australia.


The J70 has been legendary among drivers dealing with rough terrain from jungles to deserts to mountain tracks stretching back to 1960. The J70 series is the worker bee among Land Cruisers, a virtually indestructible vehicle and one that has a lot of energy in it. Like many of the rides mentioned here, the Toyota started out as a tough number and changes from the original design have been modest. When you have a good thing, and you focus on a single mission, it appears that staying the course is the road to success.

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