Tyler here! Naturally, when Jessica asked if I wanted to write a blog, I decided to take the opportunity to lay out why the Defender is the absolute optimal vehicle for a family road trip. Now, because I am writing this post, I will share that I have always wanted a Defender. Always. If Jessica were authoring the post, she might say that I get fixated on odd things, and this “need” for a Defender is just another example of these fixations, and is in fact, quite a recent development. I will add to this divergence of opinions that I have photos of Land Rovers that I have taken from vacations at least six years ago, because as I said, I have always loved them. With that said, I rest my case.
Joking aside, I did really want one. As we were planning our big European trip (our first as a family of four) it started to become clear that the simplest and most economical way to tour Europe for the length of time we had in mind, was to buy a used car at our starting point in London, England. Jessica has told the “how we came to own a Defender” story here, so I’ll skip all that and just say we did buy one. Hooray for me!
Now, I must admit that the excitement of owning a Defender started to turn to anxiety as the pick up date got closer. What if this vehicle didn’t live up to my hype? I’d never actually driven one before we bought ours. What if it was a bust?
Good news folks, it was not.
In fact, Jessica and I both grew to appreciate the vehicle more and more as the trip went on. What makes this vehicle the best option for a family road trip? I’m glad I asked…
Storage could be my first, second and third point. There is just that much storage. The rear load area is three feet wide, by four feet deep, and almost five feet high. That’s 60 cubic feet of storage. That’s ridiculous. After picking up our Defender in England, we drove to the biggest Tesco we could find, and loaded up on enough supplies to last this family of four for three months; we bought three months worth of diapers for two boys, bottled water for formula, and road trip snacks for all. These groceries were in addition to our luggage, double stroller, beach tent, and everything else we opted to bring simply because we knew there would be room for it.
2.) Seating Capacity.
Do your little ones have cousins or friends that are often along for the ride? Perfect — our Defender seats nine. That’s considered a bus in some of the limited transit zones in Europe and the UK where regular cars aren’t permitted to drive into. But our “bus” can so booyah, LTZ! Some can seat 12. Load them in! (Small caveat here, four of our nine seats are inward facing – that is, sideways – and are in no way suitable for a carseat). But bigger kids, pile them up!
3.) Raised Second Row Seating.
In the past, I have been guilty of saying to Henry on a drive, “Oh wow, Henry look at that cool something something out the window! Amazing!!” only to quickly realize he is three feet tall and won’t be able to see out the window. This always begins a very long exchange of, “What Dad? Where? I can’t see it.” Then, tears. But not with a Defender! The second row of seats sits about six inches higher than the front seats meaning Henry can see out the side windows no problem.
4.) Rear Load Area.
Remember the load area I was waxing on about? When it isn’t full with months worth of supplies, it can be… almost anything you want. The four inward seats (two on each side facing each other) make for the perfect spot to eat a snack out of the sun. Or, use the open floor area for a diaper change. Why not load a double stroller in, without breaking it down!? Do you have a dark tint like we do? Then feel free to use the load area as an impromptu change room at the beach (not advisable for non-tinted windows). Nap time? No problem! Fold the seats up, and proceed to have nap time wherever you happen to be. We had many half-day day trips, turn into full days because we could do nap time on the road (not literally…be safe folks and pull over). As an added bonus, the novelty of sleeping in the Defender often enticed Henry to agreeably take a nap when I otherwise doubt he would have wanted to. (i.e. Want to nap? No. Want to nap…in a Defender??? Yes. Done.)
5.) Cabin Noise.
Do your kids often squabble in the backseat on long drives? They will in a Defender too, you just won’t be able to hear them. They will barely be able to hear each other either, to the point where they may just give up arguing all together. One can hope, anyway.
I’ll never forget the day we picked our Defender up and drove down the M25 toward Dover. I started it up, and was visibly startled by the volume inside the cabin. I was equally shocked as it continued to get louder as we got up to speed. “Maybe if I don’t bring it up, she won’t,” I thought to myself, sheepishly. I finally conceded, “Um, it’s a bit loud.” Jessica, always so gracious, simply replied, “Yes, it is.” Thanks Jessica.
*I will say, after a few days we were completely used to the new normal, and are only reminded of it now when someone new comes along for their first ride.
6.) Fuel Mileage.
You might not think that a full-sized SUV that can trace its basic design history back to 1947 would be economical on fuel, but it really is. You can chalk this up to higher European fuel efficiency standards. We sold our family sedan in North America that was only a few years old for a 2003 Defender, and honestly, the Defender has the same or better mileage. Come on North America, get with it!
7.) It’s Not a Minivan.
The male ego can be such a fragile little thing. Some men need to be constantly reassured that they are still tough, they have still “got it,” and that they are indeed, super-de-duper extra manly. I believe that’s why they have started selling camo print diaper bags. Anyway. You know what is inherently not tough and cool and oh so macho? Minivans. Sure they hold lots, and have plenty of room for the kiddos, and they seem to go forever, but so does our Defender, plus it’s just way way cooler than a Caravan could ever be. Remember that ad where that minivan is traversing the wild bush of Africa? Yeah, me neither. See below, for our snorkel that can allow us to drive through up to five feet of water. Ninjas.
8.) Everything is an Adventure.
Even driving to the pharmacy in a Defender feels like you have set off on a truly grand adventure. Everything, and everywhere just seems more fun. A mundane chore suddenly becomes a joyous excursion because, “Hey, we could take the Defender!”
Bottom line is the Defender took Jessica from being a base-model, as-long-as-it-gets-me-from-A-to-Z girl to a car buff. If it can do that, you know it’s the perfect family car!