Land Rover Defender
Image: Elliott Grafton

The road devouring beast that is Land Rover’s iconic Defender has become a symbol for the kind of extreme adventuring you might associate with a Bear Grylls episode. Or an action-packed escape a la James Bond in No Time To Die.

But with all that grunt at its disposal, how does it handle something as simple as a weekend escape away from the city? Like a dream, in fact, with the beacon of British car manufacturing making the assay from off-road trekking to getaway vehicle with an effortless versatility.

They say that a great adventure begins with a single step. Yet that single step can look like a significant leap for those of us who struggle to find the time to get away. From work, from social commitments. Call it the convenience conundrum – so many escapes at our fingertips only to be hobbled by a slew of excuses. If, like myself, you’re forever hesitating to take that said step, consider the Defender the ultimate nudge to get you over the line and out the door. 

The Land Rover Defender. Image: Elliott Grafton.

Our destination? Thredbo. The model? A 2021 Land Rover Defender 110 SE D300 in gloss black – a contemporary incarnation of an iconic classic. First impressions? This is as close to commandeering the Starship Enterprise that I’ll ever get. An interior that feels like a living room, a top tier interactive infotainment deck and a prescient level of customisation options for each passenger – the Defender sets a benchmark for driving comfort. 

The thread linking Thredbo to Land Rover is one that covers both commercial value and a shared commitment to adventure. As of 2020, Land Rover has been an official sponsor to Australia’s most popular skiing destination but it’s Thredbo’s summer program that has also begun to attract as many visitors seeking to broaden their horizons when it comes to outdoor activities. Landscape-wise, few other locations compare to the raw beauty that the Snowy Mountains boast and Thredbo’s location marks it as the jewel in the crown of New South Wales’ ski fields.

The built-in Terrain Response system has a setting for every possible driving experience. Image: Elliott Grafton

Being an overpacker of monumental proportions, ensuring we’ve got space to bring everything is always a pre-departure stress. Not with the Defender. Even for Land Rover, the 110 comes with an impressive amount of room as you step inside – the five-door cabin easily taking luggage for two and a week’s worth of equipment. So after locking in the destination, The Denman Hotel, with a pit-stop in Canberra for lunch, and bringing up our map on the car’s Pivi Pro – a 10-inch widescreen infotainment system that has both Apple and Android functionalities – it’s time to take that leap. 

Navigation is clearer courtesy of the 10inch widescreen infotainment panel.

Even for those used to more compact cars, manoeuvring through Newtown’s tight lanes and dual-carriage parking was no issue courtesy of the 360-degree camera function that allows you to see around your vehicle from all angles at all times. 

Once outside of traffic’s restraints, the first thing you notice when you get behind the wheel of Land Rover’s Defender 110 is a feeling of lightness. Actually, not lightness. It feels more like floating – literally, drifting down the surface of the M31. Exactly how an approximately 2500 kg piece of equipment handles like it weighs nothing at all is testament to Land Rover’s technical precision. Also impressive is the silence – the barest of purrs can be heard from the 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel engine and twin turbochargers sitting beneath the hood. 

One of the biggest roadblocks to regular roadtrips can often be the idea of extended hours in the driving seat – not the most comfortable of furniture. But thanks to personalised climate bubbles courtesy of heated front seating and customisable air-conditioning – three hours flew by quicker than it took for us to realise we’d missed our pit stop for lunch. Onwards and upwards!

Thredbo remains Australia’s most popular skiing destination. Image: Supplied

One of the beautiful things about Thredbo is that – beginner, advanced or no skier at all – once you’re immersed into its world there’s never a moment you can’t find something to flex your muscle to. Even if that muscle’s gastronomical: The Denman remains one of the locale’s most popular dining choices for its modern cuisine and impeccable wine list making bookings essential. If you’re more of a brew fan, Candlelight’s extensive European beer list (and matching menu) is both hearty and heaps of fun. 

As a sport, skiing is both incredibly communal and equally daunting – while I’ve had some experience, my partner was a debutante on the mountain. The best way to initiate someone in this way? While lessons are the obvious answer, we chose Thredbo’s most iconic on-snow experience: Sunrise Sessions at Australia’s Highest Lifted Point in partnership with Land Rover. The meeting time of 5.30am might seem a little scary – especially in zero degrees – but the view once you’re up there, accompanied by G.H. Mumm mimosas and a full on-mountain breakfast is as magical an experience as it comes.

Kareela Hutte. Image: Supplied

For fellow debs – and even those who have done it before – skiing lessons are invaluable and the instructors at Thredbo are among the best in the world. Whether it’s finessing your form as in my case or learning from scratch, in the case of my partner, the investment made dividends and by the end of the second day we were run-for-run down blue trails. 

Few other brands bear the same kinship to going off-grid as Land Rover does, it’s off-piste heritage going back to its Rover Company days, and it’s a passion shared by the Thredbo experience which has expanded beyond winter and into a full summer schedule too for an all-year round adventure opportunity.

Thredbo’s summer schedule means the mountain is now an all-year round adventure destination. Image: Thredbo

Swapping out the ski slopes for hikes and bikes, you can take the familiar chair lifts up the mountain and choose your method of descent. For those of us with a natural adrenaline addiction, Thredbo’s Mountain Bike Park has over 40 km of trails at differing difficulties to choose from. There’s also lesson options, just like ski season, to give a flying start into your next thrill sport.

The region’s also become a hot spot for fans of fly fishing and golf – the former taking place in the crisp waters of the Thredbo River and the latter on Australia’s highest altitude golf course. The summer season, which kicks off from November 19, also comes with the chance to see the full diversity of the region’s botanical offering in full bloom.

The return journey back to daily life is, admittedly, a tough one. Not because of any physical barrier. But after a week spent pushing our limits on Thredbo’s landscape, the idea of pushing the keys on the laptop again is a tough pill to swallow. Then again, it’s not too far of a leap to jump back into the Defender and escape for the weekend.