They’re uncomfortable, uncivilised and unapologetic. But if you’re reading this guide with any intent, it’s probably a case of when, not if…
When it comes to motoring icons, the Land Rover Defender is up there with the rest of them. The off-roading icon has a rich heritage that can be traced back to its ancestors from 1948, but the workaday genetics are abundantly apparent in the long wheelbase, 110 Double Cab pick-up variant.
Like all Defenders, the 110 Double Cab was extremely capable off-road, but its competitors had become much more civilised and accustomed to the unavoidable elements of being a motor vehicle, such as carrying passengers and having to drive on roads. However, the advent of the new powerplant did inject a new lease of life into the truck, and was arguably the strongest generation of the Defender lineage. No surprise then, that numerous flaws were overlooked, the Double Cab sold well and is still very desirable in the second-hand market – despite the trials and tribulations that come with Land Rover ownership.
If you’ve ever sat in a Land Rover of Series lineage, then you’ll know what (not) to expect from the 110’s interior. It’s a spartan affair, even with an exhausted options list. Many things that were standard equipment on other double cabs it was launched against, such as air conditioning, electric windows, remote central locking and a CD player, were all additional extras.
Somewhat miraculously for a vehicle of its size, interior space is at a premium, too. Elbows and knees are cramped, and the passenger footwell is where the air conditioning unit is housed, should you pick up a truck that possesses such luxury. We recommend such a lavish addition, not so much as to regulate the temperature, but because it can help keep the interior dry and avoid misted windows and damp upholstery.
Wind noise is intrusive, and along with the cramped interior it’s just another part of what makes the Defender less than comfortable on longer motorway jaunts.
From the somewhat cramped vantage point of the Defenders driving seat, you are gifted with a superlative driving position. Visibility is great, and whilst there’s definitive agricultural characteristics to the driving experience, it comes off very well in the smiles per mile stakes. Ask anyone who’s driven one, and regardless of the uninspiring headlines, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The Td5 offered a step up in terms of road-going refinement and performance, but it’s still noisy and anything but rapid. Once you take it off-road, though, it will all make a lot more sense.
There is no doubting that the Defender is an icon, whether it’s dressed all in black and posing in Chelsea or covered in muck in a Welsh field. But it definitely comes into its own surrounded by sheep, rather than attempting to be chic.
Where it trails competitors in terms of on-road sophistication, once you leave the tarmac behind the Td5 leaves all challengers in its muddy wake. The 2.5-litre turbodiesel offers up 122bhp and maxes out at 87mph – if you want tinnitus – but more importantly there’s 221lbf.ft of torque available at 1,950rpm. Combine that with the pick-up guise and you have what is arguably the hardest working Defender that left Solihull. There’s a truck bed measuring 1,035mm front to back, a 3.5-tonne towing capacity and the 1,080kg payload isn’t bad either.
Whether you’re headed across fields, mountainous stretches or crossing rivers (snorkel advised) you’ll be in capable hands with a Td5 Double Cab – there really isn’t much that it can’t overcome. Simply put, it’s one of the best off-road performers on the market – still.
Land Rovers aren’t famed for their reliability, and pre-owned ones particularly can come unstuck in this regard. Whilst the Td5 may have surpassed the Tdi power that preceded it, in terms of reliability it was the same old story. Although, it was the most technologically advanced engine to go into a Defender and this wasn’t necessarily a good thing, as old-school Meccano mechanics could easily do more damage than good. This is definitely something to look out for when scouring the marketplace.
An indicator of issues under the bonnet, and an issue in itself, is any other electrical failure. When you’re looking a vehicle over, check that the electric windows, air-conditioning and remote central locking are all in working order. Problematic electrics often signify trouble with the vehicle’s ECU which won’t be cheap to set right.
Whilst there’s a popular belief that aluminium Land Rovers won’t rust, you have to remember that only the bodies were aluminium. So don’t be surprised to find a Double Cab that has succumbed to the rot. When inspecting a Double Cab, or any Land Rover for that matter, check the whole vehicle for corrosion, but particularly the chassis and bulkhead. The front and rear crossmembers, plus the hinge detailing beneath the windscreen are also problem spots.
That said, like the Tdi motor that came before the Td5, with regular servicing and maintenance the Double Cab could be your ideal companion. It’s not unheard of to see vehicles with over 200,000 miles on the clock, you just have to remember that nothing fairs well when neglected.
When you weigh up a Td5 110 Double Cab, it comes as no surprise that they were a massive hit within the utility and commercial sectors – hence that over three-quarters of them went from the factory to commercial owners. This means that it’s possible to find low mileage examples with full service history on the market. But this isn’t as good news as it sounds, as many of these have been treated as a mere utensil with the subtlety and care one gives a hammer, rather than with the thoughtfulness and care that a motoring icon deserves. Whilst full service history is a must, look at what work has been done. Regardless of the maintenance undertaken, you can’t service away the toll of a hard life at work, no matter how short it was. The most prominent signs of mistreatment are extensive and deep scratches to the truck bed, damage to the underside and unsightly dents to the bodywork. These trucks may have appealing adverts, but they’ve been abused by many as opposed to cherished by a few, which is definitely the act you want to follow. Significantly less of a big deal, especially if you’re planning on making it earn its keep, but many commercially owned Double Cabs are painted in less exciting solid colours, too.
Regardless of its purpose, if you bought a Defender Double Cab, you’d be getting a truck with presence. There’s no end of accessories to enhance your truck’s performance and many of them will give it a beefier image as well.
There’s no denying that for a truck of its age, it isn’t cheap. Higher mileage examples of over 150,000 miles, at the time of writing, could be snapped up for £8,000 if you act fast. Many of these have full service history, which we’d say is better than low mileage and patchy history. Examples with lower mileage, between 80,000 and 100,000 miles, would require around double that figure with matching service history, and prices continue upwards with a correlating decrease in mileage and higher specifications.
Once you have shelled out for a truck, provided you become the owner of a tidy example without issues, servicing costs are competitive. Thanks to the fanatical following of all things Land Rover, there will be a plethora of companies offering both genuine and pattern replacements for your truck. Whilst you may pay through the nose at a main dealership for a service, you won’t be short for choice when it comes to independent specialists. These will charge lower rates and you’ll de dealing with experts and enthusiasts, too. You should be able to find a replacement clutch for around £200, an alternator for half of that and brake pads are around £40 for a pair.
There are plenty of arguments against buying a used 110 Double Cab, many of them cheaper, more comfortable and not over a decade old (at least), but if you do opt for one, you won’t be short of reasons to justify your purchase.
Target price (high mileage): £8,000
Target price (low mileage): £16,000
Power: 122bhp @ 4,200rpm
Torque: 221lbf.ft @ 1,950rpm
Towing capacity: 3,500kg