Colin Chapman, the brilliant creator of Lotus automobiles, summarized his engineering philosophy as, “Simplify. Then add lightness.” It’s an adage that JLR should take to heart.

Auto Draft

Simplicity forces engineers and designers to focus on the core function of a vehicle. Series Land Rovers, Defender L316s, Range Rover Classics and Discovery Is combined versatility with a simple elegance in their design and construction. Contemporary Land Rover models, whether Defenders, Discoverys or Range Rovers, accomplish their tasks quite well, but through complex algorithms that have taken over basic functions such as steering, acceleration,
braking and driver attention.

Susan James, Virginia Beach, VA, “fell in love” with her Defender L663. “I’ve never done this before,” she said. The Florence Nightengale effect may be to blame; their 2020 Defender has experienced a steering wheel that refused to turn, sudden descents into limp mode, usually on highways, and long stints at their willing dealer’s service department. Despite changing out cables and running endless software updates, the service teams in Virginia, Mawah, NJ, and Solihull have been unable to repair their Defender. Lance James noted that their loaner Defender has been fine. “This is how a Defender should be,” he said, and from that experience they have a new Defender on order. (Lance understands simple engineering as he owns two 1960s Dodge Darts.)

Auto Draft

Along with complexity, JLR has added weight. The laws of physics — a subject I feared in college — dictate that lower weight vehicles will require less power to move forward, will sink less in muddy or snowy conditions and will traverse side slopes at greater angles. The ’93 NAS Defender 110 had a curb weight of 4,848 lbs; a new Defender 110 weighs in at 5,035.
The ‘94 NAS Defender 90’s curb weight was 3,560 lbs. Three decades later, the Defender 90 weighs in at 4,780. A ’95 Discovery I weighed in at 4,379 lbs; the 2023 model grew to 4,865 lbs.

How about this for New Year’s resolutions?

We, as enthusiasts and consumers, pledge to eliminate our reliance on electronic visual and tactile aids by using our side mirrors, turning our heads and looking out the back window when reversing, monitoring our gauges for speed and engine conditions and paying attention when driving. JLR, as designers and manufacturers, pledge to reduce — not increase — complexity in their vehicles. The only addition they will make will be lightness.

Jeffrey Aronson
Editor, Rovers Magazine

Winter 2024