We get behind the wheel of the all-new 2020 Land Rover Defender at 4XFar.
Music performances, outdoor activities, and the first chance to drive the all-new Land Rover Defender were all features of the inaugural 4XFar festival in Coachella Valley on January 18-19, 2020. With the weekend marked on the calendar and a ticket in hand, it was off to the desert to see what all the hype was about.
I arrived with no real expectations set and left quite impressed overall with the event. Upon arriving to the Empire Grand Oasis—a spectacular venue lined with tall palm trees, plush grass, and even a lake—I immediately knew that, much like many of their vehicles, Land Rover wouldn’t skimp on the luxury components of this event.
Greeted by Land Rovers
I was pleasantly greeted by a row of mixed Land Rover vehicles that adorned the pathway to the main entrance. From the new Defender to various overland-styled vehicles both new and old, there were plenty to admire on display. Upon entering, the venue was split into various areas with a large stage for the concert located at the far end, tents scattered throughout that housed the various activations, a food truck area and an off-road course. I quickly got a lay of the land and planned my schedule for the day while at the 4xFar festival.
Land Rover Defender Driving Course
First on the agenda: wait in line to sign up to drive the all-new Land Rover Defender. The line moved fairly quickly and after providing a driver’s license and signing all of the waivers, I was given a wristband. I then had to choose one of three lines: ride in the Defender on a slightly more technical course, drive one of Land Rover’s various vehicles, or actually get behind the wheel of the Defender myself. The lines were pretty long, as could be expected, so I opted to first get a ridealong with an instructor (that line was the shortest). Inside the cabin, which was quite comfortable, we immediately set off through the various obstacles that were created. As a passenger, the vehicle felt secure and capable. The friendly instructor gave a little bit of insight into the track and vehicle and made me aware that these are still prototypes and the vehicles may still have some bugs to figure out. He mentioned this as he had to restart the vehicle on one of the obstacles. After the ride, I immediately made my way to the line to get behind the wheel. This line was a bit longer of a wait, but I used the time to download the 4XFar festival app with the provided WiFi, courtesy of Chase bank, to help schedule the rest of the day. The app itself was fairly easy to use and provided just enough info, although it was tough to decide which activities to participate in as some overlapped in the schedule.
I waited patiently while big wave surf legend Laird Hamilton and his wife, ex-pro volleyball player, Gabriel Reece drove the Defender. It was finally my turn to see if the long wait for the Defender’s return would be worth it. The cabin is very luxurious, packed with technology and loaded with many bells and whistles, including a rear camera that replaces the rearview mirror. Gone are the days of stiff seats, no A/C, and noise in the cabin.
I was ready to put the 2.0L 4-cylinder 110 Model through the paces. The course I drove on was slightly less technical, but showed off the capabilities of the Defender. Through rough terrain and obstacles, the suspension adapted nicely to provide a rather smooth ride. On the big incline, the vehicle had a firm grip, but I did feel it lacked some power that the 6-cylinder version may easily have provided. In one section of the course, which was probably the most technical, the vehicle was able to make a rather tight turn in a single shot and avoid hitting the flags that were planted to give a visual reference. I noticed some other drivers had to back up to avoid the flags. The 360-degree cameras helped to avoid damage to the vehicle while on the small bridge crossing. On the open trails, I could see this technology coming in handy. The course was rather short and mainly used to showcase the off-road capabilities (the fun stuff) of the all-new Defender, so it would be hard to give a full and fair assessment of the vehicle in daily driving and real-world scenarios. Regardless, this is one of the most anticipated and exciting vehicles to debut this year. I can say it was cool to be one of the first to drive the Defender before it launches.
Eye-catching Land Rovers
I decided to walk the venue to check out the vehicles on display. Land Rover had a nice assortment of vehicles from their entire current collection to a few historic vehicles. A couple of vehicles that stood out was the hero Land Rover new Defender in the upcoming James Bond film, “No Time To Die,” the Cool Vintage Art Chassis Defender with artwork by Vasco Costa and the original Range Rover Velar Prototype.
The 4xFar festival was packed with activities and experiences from axe throwing and fly fishing to outdoor food and various outdoor and overland preparation workshops. As I only had a day to spend at the festival, it was a tough decision on what to participate in. After waiting in line for another wristband that allowed for activity participation, it was off to join the Sony-hosted photo walk with their brand ambassador, Stan Moniz. Sony provided their A7R IV body, a 24-105 lens, and a Hoya filter for the experience. As a fan of Moniz’s work, it was great to see his process and listen to his insight and tips with the camera, one in which I was debating upgrading to. The photo walk provided a chance to see more of the activities, including the mountain biking area, rock climbing wall, and slackline, while also allowing me the chance to capture action photos. This was definitely a highlight of the day.
Music and More
4XFar festival had its share of surprises and entertainment including a couple of drop-ins from the Red Bull Air Force team and a line-up of musical acts. I sat and ate delicious pizza from Dang Brothers Pizza, who serves up pizza directly from a converted fire engine, while listening to Kaytranada. The day was capped off by an amazing performance by Anderson Paak.
The 4xFar festival was a great experience overall. It was a nice entry-level way to introduce the Defender to the consumer while showcasing not only the capabilities of the truck, but also the activities and lifestyle surrounding the outdoors. For those looking for a more hardcore adventure or technical and advanced overlanding experience, they may have left disappointed, but for those that simply wanted to drive the vehicle and enjoy a beautiful day in the desert, this was a great way to do so.