I’m a surgeon living in the Collingwood/Blue Mountains area, north of Toronto. I have a 45-minute drive to and from work. The weather can be quite bad in the winter, and when I leave for work, I’m getting there one way or another. I am enthusiastic about cars and electric vehicles, but have long lusted after the rugged go-anywhere Land Rover Defender from my time in Africa. My current vehicle lease is set to expire in September. It’s a Subaru Crosstrek and the AWD is great. I am debating between replacing it with a Tesla Model Y or the new Defender. I need room for my family of four and my big dog, but I have a large SUV as a second car for long trips (that could well be replaced in time as well). Which should I get? – Jay
Richardson: I used to live in Kenya and I drove a Defender there, so I can understand the appeal. The new model will be a reminder of it, that’s for sure.
Gentile: I didn’t know you lived in Kenya, Mark! You just got a little more interesting. While I’ve never lived outside of Canada, I can understand and appreciate the appeal of the rough and rugged Defender, too.
Richardson: The Defender was a terrific vehicle for the savannah, but Kenya was a dangerous place at the time and Defenders were stolen regularly by armed car-jackers. My Defender spent most of its time parked while my wife and I drove an anonymous Toyota Corolla around town. Nobody wanted to steal that.
Gentile: I bet. It’s hard to imagine Land Rover actually discontinued its legendary Defender back in 2016. At least they realized their mistake and brought it back. I love this resurgence of long-lost models like the Defender, the Ford Bronco and Toyota Supra, to name a few.
Richardson: Land Rovers have always been popular in most of the Commonwealth countries, but here in North America? Jeep ate their lunch every single day.
Gentile: North Americans are obsessed with Jeeps – they’re iconic, fun for off-roading, affordable, and have a long history dating back to World War II. Now that Jay calls Collingwood home, maybe he should consider a Jeep Wrangler, too.
Richardson: He’d hate the Wrangler. It’s far too noisy and bouncy. If he’s used to a Crosstrek and thinking about premium SUVs, that’s not a Wrangler. I’m not sure it’s a Defender either, though, if his dog is in the mix. It’s a big jump up into the high cargo area. He’d probably want a ramp.
Gentile: Well, he can always add Land Rover’s pet accessory packages: an access ramp, foldable pet carriers, or even a portable rinse system are available to secure pets and keep the cabin and cargo area clean. The Defender is spacious, filled with high-tech features and has a nice ride considering it’s an off-roading machine. But I still find it thirsty.
Richardson: The official pet accessory package is at least three times the cost of buying the same stuff at PetSmart but without a Land-Rover embossed logo. But I digress. It is a thirsty vehicle for gas. Jay’s also thinking about the all-electric Tesla that won’t cost a penny in gas. Would you recommend it?
Gentile: I’ll admit it, I’m a Tesla fan. While I haven’t driven the Model Y yet to comment on it, I have driven the Model X, Model 3, Model S and, I hate to date myself, the original Tesla Roadster when it came out in 2008. Hated that model, but every other model after it has impressed me, especially with all of the autopilot technology and instant acceleration. Have you driven the Y?
Richardson: I have not, so I can’t vouch for its capability in the snow and dirt. But I have seen the JD Power report that places Tesla close to the bottom of all car makers for reliability. It’s only ahead of Jaguar, Alfa Romeo and, oh, Land Rover.
Gentile: So should we take Land Rover and Tesla off the list and focus on another vehicle, or stick with what he knows – another Subaru?
Richardson: I wouldn’t take the Land Rover off the list if Jay wants his new car to tug at his heart strings. And I wouldn’t take the Model Y off the list if he wants an all-electric SUV. But I’d make sure to consider some other AWD alternatives, too. The new Ford Bronco Sport would be on my own list for something compact, capable and comfortable.
Gentile: That’s the baby Bronco. Jay will appreciate its off-roading capabilities, especially with the top Badlands trim. The Terrain Management system has seven driving modes so he’ll be able to tackle any terrain – mud/ruts, rocks, or snow. And there are some cool touches like the built-in bottle opener, directional flood lights in the rear that don’t require accessory power to run, and the hidden storage compartment under the rear seat.
Richardson: I really enjoyed my time in the Bronco Sport and I didn’t get stuck on some steep hills in pretty deep snow. The plastic in the cabin feels cheap, but there’s good headroom for passengers in the back, and it’ll probably be more refined in its drive than the bigger Bronco.
Gentile: Probably. But I think the bigger Bronco will be way more fun for true off-roading enthusiasts. I can’t wait to drive that one!
Richardson: Me too. Mike’s not a true off-roading enthusiast, though. He just needs to get where he has to go, not climb rocks and ford rivers. If he’s okay to spend Defender money, and he wants to break away from Subaru, he might be happier in an Audi Q5 or even a Q3. Or even an Audi e-tron if he wants to go electric. My neighbour just bought one and he loves it.
Gentile: I’d skip the Q5 or Q3 and go electric with the e-tron SUV, too. Jay already has a larger SUV for long road trips. I think electric is the way to go for his second car, commuting 45 minutes to and from work. The e-tron starts around $85,600 and the range is about 357 km – that’s enough for his daily commute. But he can get into a cheaper electric vehicle: the Volvo XC40 Recharge, Volvo’s first all-electric SUV for around $65,000, and it has a range of up to 335 km. I loved this vehicle when I drove it. It felt like a gas-powered Volvo XC40.
Richardson: The XC40 Recharge will barely be big enough for four passengers and a large dog. I think Jay wants his new car to be his primary vehicle, saving the large SUV for when he needs it. But if he wants to go electric, I’d recommend the e-tron over the Tesla any day, for its reliability.
Gentile: E-tron is definitely the safer bet, if you’re comparing it with the Tesla Y. But I still think the XC40 Recharge is the way to go if he’s looking at it as a secondary vehicle.
Richardson: That’s an easy decision to make – just go to a dealership and sit in the car and decide if it’s big enough.
Gentile: And if it’s not, stick with electric and go for the Audi e-tron. But if you want to go gas, the baby Bronco won’t disappoint.
Richardson: And the Defender won’t disappoint either, if it’s the memories of Africa that Jay’s looking for.
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