Apparently it’ll be some time next year before I get my grubby mitts on Land Rover’s shiny new Defender so to tide me over until then I’ve managed to wangle some hands-on time with the next best thing – Lego’s Technic version.
Shortly after the all-singing, all-dancing unveiling of the real thing at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Lego made its own announcement at the show, revealing that its first collaboration with Land Rover would be a scaled-down kit version of the 2020 model.
Unlike the real thing, which goes on sale next year for north of £40,000, you can buy the Lego kit right now for a more reasonable, although not cheap, £159.99.
In the box you’ll find more than 2,500 pieces to recreate everything from the instantly recognisable chunky bodywork to a working winch, adventure roof rack and Lego’s most sophisticated gearbox ever.
The guts of that gearbox form the first 100-plus of the near-900 stages of the build and set the tone for what is a pretty complex build. Using a seemingly random collection of cogs, rods and funny knobbly things, you eventually end up with a working four-speed sequential gearbox which, once it’s mated to the front section even features low and high-range modes and forward and reverse gears.
And unlike sets where the mechanicals get buried under the bodywork, here even once it’s finished you can tilt the rear seats forward to watch the ‘box in operation.
The Defender isn’t on the same scale as the last year’s Technic Bugatti Chiron but even once you get past that complex gearbox there are some pretty fiddly elements to its construction and I found myself backtracking more than once. The fact that the manual includes a QR code so you can watch a video on how to marry the gearbox to the shift mechanism should give some idea just how complicated this set is.
It’s an enjoyable complication, though, as seemingly random elements suddenly link together to complete the working four-wheel-drive system with its multiple diffs, replicate the straight-six engine with working pistons or craft the intricate roof-mounted steering system that turns both the “road” wheels and steering wheel in perfect alignment.
As with all the best Technic sets it’s the recreation of incredibly complex mechanical functions using nothing more than some funny-shaped plastic that really impresses with the Defender.
And not all of it is so tough. The kit is aimed at 11-years-plus but there were enough simpler stages, especially once you get to the bodywork, that my eight- and five-year-olds could join in with the fun/serious business of product reviewing. And alongside the technical bits, the kit does a good job of providing a detailed recreation of the real thing in everything from its boxy wheel arches to little touches like the dashboard media screen and rear-mounted spare wheel.
The seats might be made of plastic rather than leather and its wading depth is a bit compromised but for Land Rover enthusiasts and Lego fans alike, the Technic Defender is happy stopgap until the real thing appears.