LAND ROVER DEFENDER
90 TOMB RAIDER
Copyright 2001 www.yahoo.com
[ December 19th 2001 ]
sleeping with Lara Croft...Hang on a minute, there's
someone at the door.......OK, back again. Where
was I? Oh yes. I tried sleeping with Lara Croft
blasting out of next door's new, let-the-neighbours-know-we've-got-one
up in the end. I gather she was raiding somebody's
tomb, but having woken up the dead on the way
there, I suspect there was no one in. She should
have tried creeping up at 6 o'clock in the morning,
without the music. Mind you, her Land Rover would
have attracted plenty of attention on its own.
It's arguably the most aggressive-looking vehicle
to have a drive-on part in a movie since Ian McKellern's
tank crashed through the wall in his modern version
of Richard lll.
should know, I had a chance to drive it. The Land
Rover, that is, not the tank. Quick to capitalise
on the film's box-office success, Ford-owned Land
Rover launched a limited-edition range of Defender
90 Station Wagons and 110 Double Cabs, complete
with most of the tough-girl make-up that was applied
to the big-screen version.
Lara Croft, a couple of things stand out about
the Tomb Raider Landie. Firstly, its overtly muscular
appearance is not a sham - underneath all the
cosmetics it remains the stout workhorse it ever
was - and secondly, it is destined to be the most
collectable vehicle to roll off the Solihull production
line in the history of the company. Only 250 have
been built and there are not many left, and all
of those are 90s.
can have any colour you like as long as it's Bonatti
grey - a deep anthracite shade that looks stunning
and sexy even without the bolt-on hardware. Add
the chequer-plate cladding, a full-length roof
rack, a rear step, side rails, a robust exterior
roll cage, special pewter-grey Boost alloys and
an array of roof-mounted spots and it becomes
a unique, stand-alone vehicle in a crowded market
of me-too 4x4 clones.
chequer-plate theme continues inside, where the
rear floor and front foot wells are covered with
the stuff. And the gear lever sports a huge, engraved
aluminium knob, exclusive to the Tomb Raider version.
Other designer touches include specially commissioned
fabric covers and a leather-covered steering wheel.
in case your neighbours are still not certain
of its origins, there is a special plaque attached
to either side of the body, which declares its
role as the most expensive bit of merchandising
ever to have spun off from a movie. Although,
with a storm-away price of £22,995, it's a scant
£1,645 more than the standard Defender County.
That seems to be a reasonable premium for so much
appeal was not universal. I stopped off in a small
town in Surrey, which I shall call Blu-Tac in
view of the number of stuck-up people who live
there, and as I was locking the doors a retired
military type tapped me on the shoulder. " That's
a damn awful thing to do to a Land Rover, what!
", her clipped vowels making it sound like Lend
Rovah. " What's the good of sticking that rubbish
all over it, eh? Answer me that, if you will."
than you might imagine, Major. For a start, the
roof rack is sturdy enough to carry a couple of
mountain bikes, which I did, and the four roof-mounted
spotlights guided me easily through several of
Surrey's many BOATs in the dead of night. (BOATs
are Byways Open to All Traffic. A number of them
criss-cross the North Downs and I use them to
put off-roaders through their paces). Why in the
dead of night? Because I could. When God said
'Let there be light' I think he had in mind something
less searing than Lara Croft's big beauties.
the chequer-plate cladding serves a purpose as
I found out when I had to clamber onto the wing
to release an owl...sorry, that's a typo...a low
branch tangled in the roof rack.
from the metal-clad floor, the foot-well bit of
which is only pretend, the interior layout is
pretty much standard Defender. Which means there
isn't much room. Thankfully they have dropped
the socially embarrassing middle seat and replaced
it wit a large lidded box, padded to stop things
rattling. But as ever, the door is only a couple
of microns from the driver's right arm and the
wheel can only successfully be swung around above
having to contend with a platform that leaves
rear-seat occupants with no choice but to face
each other across the car, vis-à-vis, the general
ambience has been raised a notch or two and its
possible to drive the Tomb raider without having
first to don a potato sack to feel the part.
it has a rudimentary air-con system, the choices
are limited to Iceland, Greenland and Aberdeen.
Frost-bite is held at bay by using the conventional,
lever-operated Land Rover system, which is coupled
to an industrial strength fan, of which the main
attribute appears to be noise. An Aga, it's not.
of you accustomed to padded-cell 4x4s would undoubtedly
find the Landie somewhat crude. The ride quality
would be familiar to a JCB driver and the words
handling, roadholding and Defender are, in my
opinion, mutually exclusive. You need a Discovery
for those things.
Land Rover's strength lies elsewhere. In their
own words, the Tomb Raider will '...appeal to
active drivers looking for a vehicle that delivers
serious fun as well as off-road performance.'
If I were to paraphrase that to draw out what
I think they meant to say, it would read '...appeal
to drivers looking for a vehicle that delivers
fun both on and off-road.' Hitherto, Defenders
were about as much fun on-road as spending your
holiday in a steelworks. Or to most of you, anyway.
happens, I am one of those perverse people who
has owned a Land Rover for the fun of it. Despite
its agrarian credentials, a Defender is a great
hoot to drive in London. The high driving position
is a distinct advantage and other drivers tend
not to argue with two tonnes of sharp-cornered
workhorse. The deep-grey Tomb Raider, with its
array of macho utensils looks even more menacing,
which adds to the fun. And there is the big rack
and row of spotlights that allows you to demolish
overhead trunking in multi-stories.
is derived from Land Rover's 2.5-litre Td5 turbo-diesel
unit. Developing 120 bhp and 220 lbs/ft of torque
at 1950 rpm, it's not the most powerful oil-burner
on the market, but coupled with the standard,
low-ratio transfer case it will haul the Tomb
Raider through many a scrape, as I believe Ms
from its contribution to tractive effort, the
Td5 engine has a very satisfactory sound signature
that's always present except at idle speed - the
right place to be when traversing difficult terrain.
In low range on tickover, it will 'walk' over
obstacles without missing a beat. Unfortunately,
on those occasions when I needed to power out
of a situation (which is sometimes the case when
driving off-road), the throttle was infuriatingly
slow to respond, and once or twice almost left
go on at length about Land Rover's off-road credentials
but they are so well documented I shall leave
you to believe in the legend and ask you to take
my word for it that most of it's true.
those not familiar with off-road driving, the
Defender series can be ordered with optional traction
control linked to ABS (which is also optional).
In most off-road conditions it works very well,
but there are just a few circumstances when it
becomes a liability, so experienced drivers might
prefer to save their money and stick with the
to say, the present Defender is the latest in
a long line of 4x4s that can trace their history
back to Maurice Wilk's original, cobbled together
in the first few months of peacetime following
the end of the second world war. Evolution normally
breeds stronger offspring successively better
adapted to the world around them. Certainly Defenders
have got stronger and more capable but the adaptation
to the modern world has been more painful, thanks
to the influx of lifestyle off-roaders into a
market that once was their own. The Range Rover,
Discovery and Freelander have, between them, held
much of the opposition at bay but the Defender
has to live with being what it is and all the
embellishments in the world will not change its
basic structure or behaviour.
so, the Tomb raider is about as funky as a 4x4
can get and the harsh ride and limited performance
are easy to rationalise when you own such a rare
and striking beast.
that Lara Croft was played by someone called Angelina
Jolie. She sounds a game sort of girl and one
that might suit me. I have only a vague idea what
she looks like although she evidently has a decent
set of lungs, judging by her ability to penetrate
several courses of brickwork. But I wish she had
cleaned out the Land Rover before I got it. The
lipstick and curlers I could understand but what
would she want with a bicycle pump? Answers on
two postcards please.