Can the LEGO Land Rover Defender please fans and non-fans alike?

10317: ICONS Land Rover Classic Defender made quite a splash when it launched earlier this year as the latest in the LEGO subtheme of scaled up display models.

This Land Rover continues the trend of past fan favourites such as the venerable 10248: Ferrari F40, 10262: James Bond Aston Martin DB5, 10242: MINI Cooper MK VII, 21307: Caterham Seven 620R and several others that aren’t exactly in the same scale, but are close enough to form a coherent collection of famous cars.

Land Rover South Africa was kind enough to send us a copy to look at, but we’re going to be doing things a bit differently this time around. While we’ll give you coverage of this set from the point of view of a LEGO fan who has built countless sets over many long years, we’re also going to hear from someone much newer to LEGO to see if this set can impress on both fronts.

We’re starting off with the fan’s perspective here and our review copy, unboxing the Land Rover to find the standard LEGO plastic bags holding the pieces. LEGO is still working towards replacing these bags with recyclable paper ones but that hasn’t happened yet.

There is some added protection for the contents with the instruction booklet coming in its own separate envelope but we are again disappointed to see the windscreen pieces not receiving the same care. The large front windscreen piece was packed with the softer rubber tires but the other, smaller windscreens all came in the same packets as regular bricks.

This resulted in all the transparent pieces arriving slightly scratched and scuffed. LEGO’s continued resistance to providing better packaging for delicate transparent pieces is truly baffling and at R3 999 for this set in South Africa, we really expect better.

An artful shot at the back of the instruction book showing the set and its accessories from a top down view. Notice that you get six full wheels in this set – the 4 regular ones and two spares. One spare goes on the back in classic Land Rover fashion.

With the pieces out of the bag and the build started it’s (fun) business as usual with the standard high quality of LEGO bricks and clear instructions. Early on in the build we attach the shock absorbers to each of the four corners of the car. This forms the basis of the working suspension which is unique among the similar-scaled vehicles we mentioned earlier. We would love all larger scaled LEGO vehicles to have working suspensions but it makes more sense for an off roader like this.

Annoyingly, throughout the build, a section of the suspension hangs loosely and gets in the way of the experience. We understand that this needed to be put in place earlier in the build but a temporary way to keep it in place was needed. What’s strange is that LEGO already does this, in this very set. Four red pieces are used as a temporary stand for the build and then, on hundreds of pages later in the instructions, these are taken off and reused to make a fire extinguisher. How clever is that?

Back to earlier in the build and, to aid the off roader focus, is the fact that the build starts not with assembling the car itself, but rather accessories like jerry cans, a toolbox, traction boards and more. Aside from the suspension, 10317: ICONS Land Rover Classic Defender has another trick in the fact that it’s multiple sets in one. You can build a clean road-going versions with no accessories (called “Bulge Version A and Sleek Version B, referring to the bonnet designs) or the purely off road one with all the trimmings referred to as the “Expedition Model”.

This is revealed to you right at the beginning of the instructions, so you have some time to decide when the build eventually reaches that point. The decision isn’t permanent, however, as you can switch between the two looks with a few minutes of rebuilding.

The section right at the beginning of the instructions which alludes to the split in the build that happens near the end.

Skipping to the end of the build now and the final product is really rather impressive. At 16 X 32 X 16 centimetres (height X length X width) of the “clean” versions with no accessories, the set makes for an imposing display on both shelves and desks, and will definitely be a conversation starter if parked at work.

Looking at our final copy we’re thankful to see good colour matching throughout all the green pieces. For those unaware LEGO has, in the past, had trouble with all the pieces in a single set having the same hue across pieces which are supposed to look exactly the same. Some green colours can sometimes be a problem with past sets like the 42115: Lamborghini Sián FKP 37 having very noticeable problems with miscoloured parts. This isn’t the case this time and good colour matching helps sell the stately look Land Rovers are known for.

No matter which look you go for we recommend building the Expedition Model first so you can assemble all the accessories. The large cage around the top of the car and the front bumper (complete with working winch) form most of the distinguishing features of this variant, along with a second spare tire on the bonnet, several tools spread across the outside and the other accessories lashed to the top with rope pieces.

In Expedition Mode everything that comes in the box can be displayed on the model and the spare engine (there are two engine options – a turbo diesel and a V8) can even be tossed into the back or on top of the roof.

Displaying the other two variants of the car will result in these extras being left to the side and it does feel like, if you want these instead, a not insubstantial amount of the parts budget went into it.

We’re still very happy with the final result and we’ll never say no to some building options given to the customer. We’re sure hardcore Land Rover fans will also appreciate these extras and showing friends and family all the little optional extras.

We have, at this point, bought and built many of the LEGO vehicle sets in this scale and interestingly, despite this being the newest, it doesn’t have the most complicated build or the most unique pieces. The majority of the parts inventory and the building experience is rather standard which isn’t a bad thing – it makes it easier for newcomers, something we will get to in a minute – but those who want a challenging experience will need to look elsewhere.

We did feel a pang of sadness taking this set apart for its return to Land Rover South Africa, so set 10317: ICONS Land Rover Classic Defender definitely had an impact on us while we had it. With cool building options, a nice colour choice and a unique presence on display when done, we can see LEGO fans picking this up even if they don’t have a particular interest in Land Rovers. At the aforementioned price of R3 999 for 2 336 it will be a hard sell but, of course, you can’t put a price on the unique building experience and endless customisation of LEGO.

What about the LEGO newcomer?

Over the past few years LEGO has made a massive push into the older markets with its Adults Welcome campaign with its black boxes, huge sets and licences that kids may not recognise, or care about.

The Adults Welcome campaign worked on our own editor at Hypertext, Robin-Leigh Chetty. He bought a copy of this set with his own money as a birthday present for his dad who is a massive Land Rover fan who has owned several of the real cars over the years.

While above we were viewing the set through the lens of massive LEGO fans with a lot of experience with the bricks, we can now get the opinion of a LEGO newcomer with a better appreciation for Land Rover.

With thousands of Rands already paid and the harsh gaze of a fan of the real thing, what was the reception?

“The reception was good. I was a little hesitant at first given that my father is not really a LEGO fan, but the attention to detail on this set was greatly appreciated. As was the build quality of the pieces and the way that the instructions were laid out, with the individual packets for pieces on corresponding parts of the set all being grouped together.”

“The fact that much of this set is functional, along with paying homage to the Defender heritage and colourway is a genuine testament to how much actually went into creating a set like this that Land Rover fans can actually geek out over.”

“It took my father a couple of days to compete, and now it sits in his office next to a similarly sized silver remote control Defender 90.”

The smaller, yellower Land Rover

Between the public release of set 10317: Land Rover Classic Defender 90 back in March and us getting our hands on it now, another option has been released by LEGO for those who want something smaller.

LEGO set 40650: Iconic Land Rover Classic Defender has a very similar name but is a very different product. It has only 150 pieces and for that, in South Africa, you will pay R289.

It has already launched locally but you won’t be able to buy it right now. Due to its popularity the set has been sold out so anyone who wants one will need to wait until more stock comes in.

The set is also exclusive to the official LEGO store. You can find the store page here and leave your email address to receive a message when more stock comes in.

This smaller option will be a permanent exclusive for the LEGO store. The larger Land Rover, on the other hand, will be a timed exclusive to the LEGO store with the store page here. After 1st August it will be available in more places in physical stores and online and for a guide on buying LEGO in South Africa, click here.

As you can see in the image above this Land Rover is not the same green as the bigger variant, instead being built in what LEGO fans call “Keet orange”. It’s a pleasing colour if not a bit weird as we’re sure many would have simply preferred green again.

Another oddity is the size. LEGO’s much beloved Speed Champions line of toys is all made to a certain scale of eight stud wide vehicles, while this is instead smaller at six studs wide. This isn’t a Speed Champions set but it would have been nice for it to stick to this format, even just to fit in more details.

As is we really do like this smaller variant and we’re glad that it exists as an option. It’s also great for LEGO fans who don’t like the larger display models and prefer toys that are more in scale with minifigures, one of which is included in the set.


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