Defender build cars that can go anywhere. That’s a statement that would make any legal department squirm. But as someone who’s spent countless days behind the wheel of the (now not so new) Defender, it’s a declaration I’d bet a mortgage equivalent of cash on in a heartbeat.
From the jungles of Africa and conflict-stricken countries around the world, all the way to the garage of your local Paddington terrace, Defender is one of the most capable and versatile 4X4s on the market. Fact.
This versatility, paired with a sleek new silhouette and previously unforeseen levels of comfort, means Defender is more approachable than ever before. With a bigger pool of customers and countless ways to spec one, it’s more important than ever for the brand to encourage all types of buyers to embrace the Defender lifestyle.
In 2024, Defender Experiences will show both customers and prospective owners alike how that lifestyle is done. This month marked Australia’s inaugural Defender Experience event in the Byron Hinterland; a springboard for more adventure and lifestyle activities to come in the new year at various locations around the country.
For Byron, we’re talking about a three-day, two-night luxury sojourn within the grounds of the lush (and equally elite) SOMA wellness retreat. Made famous by a certain TV show and host to 10 tonal suites, the grounds of SOMA play host to a sparkling infinity pool, communal fire pit, and meditation dome hidden inside a bamboo forest – not to mention a slew of saunas and ice baths. Essentially, SOMA is about as Byron Bay as it gets.
As guests of Defender, we were among a selection of media to sample what the general public can openly book for themselves. No Defender in the garage is necessary for qualification. If you’re passionate about the brand or the opportunity, the experience is available for you to try yourself.
Guests were chauffeured from the airport in the iconic Defender, arriving to a fleet of immaculate cars lining the driveway all the way to SOMA’s front door. The unrushed welcome refreshments at check-in set the tone; you could almost feel time gradually slow to a glacial pace with each passing sip. The message was loud and clear – entering SOMA’s doors meant you’d signed up to unwind, slow down, and relax.
The welcome packs waiting in the rooms were stacked with a host of wellness goodies including a pair of Local Supply sunglasses, Fluidform pilates gear, a robust Defender branded drink bottle, and a beach towel by Sydney brand SIR.
If, like me, the thought of an acoustic sound meditation in the ‘Geodome’ triggered somewhat of an eye roll, all we’ll say is this – don’t knock it till you try it. Hairs stood up on the back of my neck when the rhythmic harmony of strings, keyboard and sound bowls united for a state of sonic trance that had me deeply relaxed but my mind still acutely aware of its surroundings. I’ll be honest, it caught me off-guard in a refreshing way.
These specialised audio signals are learned from the ancient teachings of spiritual figures in India and reverberate around the huge dome in a way that feels like it’s vibrating many layers deeper than you’ve ever heard before. Our session had me dipping in and out of this meditative state so much that upon conclusion, I didn’t know if the time elapsed had been 5 minutes or 5 hours (I was told it was about 35 minutes overall). An unexpectedly rejuvenating way to reset and kick off our Defender Experience with a fresh headspace.
I don’t think many would argue that sunsets in the Byron hinterland just hit different. Paired with some local and international wines of a serious quality, the scene of day morphing into night was a glorious one to watch while the team from Paperbark put the final touches on our meal for the evening. Everything from lamb leg and swordfish to local vegetables and stone fruit – all slow-cooked over charcoals in the fire pit for nine hours.
In keeping with the theme, you’ll be pleased to know that you’ll find balance at the core of Defender Experiences. There’s not a single moment in the day’s run sheet where you won’t be entertained in some capacity if you desire it. With this in mind, the “Yin or Yang” sunrise experience gives guests a choice of how to start their mornings.
Enjoy an energising coastal drive and a sunrise walk to the Cape Byron lighthouse, a group pilates session in nature, or an ice bath and sauna to kick your body into gear. That being said, if you’d prefer to sleep in and wake up slowly to the sounds of the rainforest, that’s fine too. This alternative also includes a wholesome in-room massage after the communal breakfast by Rustic Rishi.
One non-negotiable, as to be expected with Defender, is the mandatory embracing of adventure. After a rainforest lunch at Verendah by Crystalbrook, the day takes a detour from the tarmac to the tough stuff deep within the rugged bushland of Northern NSW.
It’s quite the sight – a fleet of Defenders rolling heavy through the rough terrain in convoy formation. All you can see is a string of iconic crimson taillights piercing through the plumes of dust ahead of you. As I’ve come to expect with Defender, there’s remarkably little drama when charging creeks and mud ruts in these cars. They’re just too sound off-road for their own good. This isn’t a bad result by any means, but Defender’s supreme capability quickly subdued my boyish urge to bounce and bash these cars all over the bush.
As you descend deeper and deeper into the valley, it’s a comforting thought to know that if there’s one car that’ll always come out the other side, it’s a Defender.
Our heart rates came back down to reality as we rolled into SOMA for an afternoon dip by the pool to decompress. With the culinary bar set so high the first evening, Defender had to call in the local big guns to double down for our final night under the stars. Famed Byron institution Three Blue Ducks, whose celebrated farm-to-plate HQ is just a stone’s throw from SOMA, delivered the indulgent feast they do best, preceded by a glass of Champagne Lacourte Godbillon and a delightfully unexpected dabble of caviar.
I’ve come to expect the unexpected while watching the renaissance of the Defender brand. A three-day luxury wellness retreat in Byron Bay, perhaps not even too long ago, would have been one of them.
But with the customer base for Defender widening by the day, and its capabilities straddling so many use cases, it’s clear this 4X4 is no longer a one-trick pony. Defender is a chameleon that has carved itself a unique position in the market. One where it’s just as glorious parked in the driveway of a Byron Bay wellness retreat as it is roughed up in the Flinders Ranges or the Simpson Desert.
Will either of those be the location of Australia’s next Defender Experience? Perhaps.
Regardless, Defender will continue to break new ground in 2024 both literally and metaphorically. I predict it’ll only be a matter of time before the Defender lifestyle piques your interest one way or another, if it hasn’t already.
Register yours and discover more from Defender at the link below.
This article is presented in partnership with Defender. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Boss Hunting.