By Bennett Oghifo
The new Land Rover Defender has been put through its paces under the watchful eye of all-terrain experts from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in the latest stage of its global testing programme.
According to the automaker’s statement, the prototype vehicle visited the IFRC global fleet base in Dubai, ahead of its public debut later this year. Land Rover engineers demonstrated the vehicle’s breadth of capability to their IFRC counterparts both on and off road, before the IFRC fleet experts took to the wheel to test the vehicle for themselves on the region’s desert sand dunes. The team also took to the twisty tarmac of Jebel Jais highway, experiencing the assured handling and comfort of the new 4×4 as they wound their way up the tallest mountain in the United Arab Emirates.
The test in Dubai coincides with the renewal of Land Rover’s global partnership with the IFRC – a relationship that dates back 65 years, to 1954, when the first specially adapted Land Rover entered service in the region as a mobile dispensary. This year marks the humanitarian organisation’s centenary as it celebrates ‘100 Years of Hope’. Over the next three years, Land Rover will support disaster preparedness and response initiatives in locations including India, Mexico and Australia.
Ilir Caushaj, IFRC’s Team Lead for Global Fleets and Logistics, said: “The Red Cross supports millions of people in crisis every year, working in almost every country in the world. We operate in some of the most hard-to-reach places on earth, often working in very difficult terrain, so our teams have to be able to cope with anything. That’s why we’re proud to have partnered with Land Rover since 1954, and to be putting their new Defender to the test, as together they help us reach vulnerable communities in crisis, whoever and wherever in the world they are.”
The IFRC fleet experts tested the Defender in soft sand among the rolling dunes of the desert, where the prototype model shrugged off the steep ascents, demanding side slopes and blind crests that characterise off-road driving in the region. With temperatures in excess of 40-degrees, the iconic hairpins of the Jebel Jais highway were the next destination, as the Defender demonstrated its on-road comfort and agile handling, scaling altitudes of nearly 2,000m.
Nick Rogers, Jaguar Land Rover Executive Director Product Engineering, said: “Jaguar Land Rover is proud to support the work of the IFRC. Since 1954 our vehicles have enabled access to remote and vulnerable communities, helping them become more resilient, and we hope the new Defender will maintain this heritage.
The dunes of Dubai are the perfect place to confirm that this is the most capable Land Rover ever made. It sits on tyres with an overall diameter of up to 815mm, resulting in a very large contact patch. Coupled with our bespoke traction control system, which monitors and adjusts for a large variety of terrains, this makes the new Defender fantastic on sand and incredibly smooth on road as well.”
The test, which gave IFRC fleet experts the opportunity to experience the new Defender ahead of its world premiere, is the latest step in the new Defender’s development programme. So far, prototype models have covered more than 1.2 million kilometres of testing, including a week-long initiative with wildlife conservation charity Tusk, in Kenya, and a dynamic appearance on the famous hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.