This is one tough SUV.
007's first car was a Sunbeam Alpine, but he'll be driving Astons in the new Bond film No Time To Die, while the bad guys will be driving Land Rover Defenders.
You may recall the minute-long ad that aired back in February that was meant to coincide with the model's and movie's imminent release. In the action sequence, a trio of Santorini Black Defenders could be seen leaping into the air before careering down a Scottish heath with Triumph motorbikes in pursuit, tackling swamps, rivers, and tough terrain before one of them completes a full roll, battered and bruised but well enough to keep on trucking.
The Defender has now launched, but you'll have to wait until April 2021 to watch the 25th James Bond movie, set to boast the best stunts and car chase sequences yet. As part of the Defender 90 first drive event, we got the chance to get behind the wheel of one of the stunt cars used in the film for an utterly unique experience.
Why did Land Rover want us to try this out? As Stunt Co-ordinator Lee Morrison, the guy responsible for all the stunts from the past five Bond movies, revealed, all ten Defenders used in the film - the first ten to roll off the production line, in fact - were almost entirely stock 110 X P400 models. Same 400-hp 3.0-liter engine, same eight-speed transmission, same chassis, same air suspension.
To protect the drivers, the Defenders were fitted with a roll cage, racing seats and five-point harnesses, under-body protection, motorsport fuel cells, and a fire-extinguisher system. Otherwise, these are the same Defender 110s you can buy right now from your local Land Rover dealer.
Aiding me on a drive around a makeshift course on a patch of unused grass at Gaydon's proving grounds, was Jess Hawkins, the stunt driver that piloted the middle Defender that went 15 feet in the air and remained airborne for over 90 feet in the heart-stopping chase sequence. No CGI here.
Hollywood stuntman Morrison, who's doubled for Captain America, Indiana Jones, and 007's Daniel Craig, said he thought the Defenders would last a few takes. As it turned out, Jess and her co-drivers managed seven. And the Defenders simply wouldn't die.
The blonde warrior, Hawkins, who currently races in the W Series and has previously worked as a stunt driver on Fast and Furious Live, grips the vertical handbrake lever, just in case, and barks at me to "GO, GO, GO!" as we slalom around the rough terrain, ESP permanently disabled, trying to avoid smashing into the hay bales that marked the course.
The Defender was in its element, composed and powerful, darting around what looked like a Glastonbury field stomped on by 200,000 people over three rain-drenched days.
That ten minutes of power-sliding in the mud in Land Rover Defender #004 (the other car on the event naturally being #007) revealed more about the car than the two hours spent driving from London to Warwickshire. There is nothing skin-deep about the new Defender's rugged good looks. It might have swayed away from the traditional body-on-frame construction of the original, but, built to last and to handle the most extreme of tasks, this is one tough SUV.