What better way to continue evaluating our new Defender than to celebrate Christmas with a trip to Moab, UT this year?
It's now been about 2 months and 1700 miles since picking up our '20 Defender Model X from the dealer and I couldn't be happier with it. Do I think it's perfect, no, but it does meet my expectations of the truck and more.
As I've stated before, I think the new Defender is a great replacement for the LR3 & LR4 as its inherent design is as a utility vehicle capable of performing a large range of tasks. A solid daily driver that can haul your kids to school as well as it can haul a load in the back, or haul a trailer. I do wish for a more off-road specific version as I lean heavily towards the "rock crawling" spectrum of off-road enthusiasts, perhaps Rover will release something in the future, but it's ok with me if they leave this up to the enthusiasts and fabricators to make this happen. And that is already in the works from many sources worldwide.
As for our trip, we headed out just after work on Dec 24th making last-minute hotel accommodations at the Aarchway Inn. We weren't looking for anything special in accommodations, just a hotel that was pet friendly as Aris our husky was coming with, and a place that offered a basic breakfast so we could hit the trails straight from a home base. This was our first trip over the continental divide in the Defender and the power and gearing of the truck did not leave me wanting for anything more, it easily cruised up the high mountain passes with rarely a downshift, and I could have easily found myself speeding well above the speed limit if it wasn't for the heads up display of our MPH. Smooth and quiet at speeds approaching triple digits (Utah offers an 80 MPH speed limit, and we all "know" it's ok to add another 10 ;) )
For our first trail day, we decided on Kane Creek, most of this trail is quite easy though the obstacles have either gotten harder in recent years or the fact that the last time I was there we drove my '98 RR trail truck with 37" tires, bumpers, sliders and no care for bodywork. It starts out easy enough with a sandy trail winding its way along the desert floor, eventually leading to some tougher sections a few miles in. Our first real challenge was a heavy off-camber turn to the right with a boulder at the inside apex of the turn and steps up the left side. The long wheelbase of the D110 hurt our maneuverability here and I struggled to find a line that kept our passenger door away from the boulder. With a fair amount of rock stacking, multiple repositions, and even a jacket wedged between the passenger door and the boulder, we managed to squeak through with nary a dent. At this point I said, well we're not going back this way, a decision I vaguely regret as we encountered tougher obstacles further on.
Soon we reached the stream crossing section of the trail, the water level was low and mostly frozen over which made for an easy trip most of the time. The ice crunched loudly and often popped and cracked as we drove the twisting trail around and through the stream. There were sections that the ice gave way but luckily the water level is low this time of year and it did not impede our progress. It's stated there are over 50 water crossings on the trail, it didn't seem like that many to me, but who's counting.
After the stream crossings, it was time to start climbing uphill and into the rocks.
This section can be tricky with even a well-built truck with large tires, lockers, and flexy suspension.
The Defender's traction control, terrain response and other systems all worked incredibly well to maintain forward travel with nary a tire slip. Where we ran into trouble was the long-wheelbase causing us to high center multiple times.
Once again, a bit of time stacking rocks and planning our route enabled us to continue our progress.
I did get too close to the driver's door on one section, leaving some minor denting and a scratch across the door seam between the front and rear driver's doors. Guess I might have to plan a wrap to cover things up and spice up the design of our truck some too.
We made it through this and the rest of the trail, so all in all it was a successful and enjoyable day.
We had no mechanical issues, great weather, a mostly happy pup (Aris doesn't like wheeling with all the vehicle motion and scraping noises), and some great trail time testing out the Defender.
Once back on the highway we cruised back to Moab, and some dinner.
NOTE: one issue with traveling on Christmas day was that we found no open restaurants in Moab, luckily a grocery was open and the hotel had a microwave, so we were able to put something together for our Christmas dinner.
So concludes day one of our three day Moab Christmas Weekend.
Check back soon for part two, for Fins-n-things and Onion Creek. - I'm also working on our Youtube video for this holiday trip which will be included in the post, our you canfollow us here.
Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year!