You Can Now Drive a Defender at U.S. Land Rover Experience Centers

By - Land Rover Defender

Instructors will teach you how to drive the Defender at the three Land Rover Experience Centers across the country.

If you plan on going to a Land Rover Experience Center in the U.S. any time soon, we have good news for you. Starting in September, Land Rover will start offering the legendary Defender as an instructional vehicle at its three facilities: Quail Lodge in Carmel, California, Equinox Resort in Manchester, Vermont, and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.

Land Rover made the Defender in a variety of forms and names for decades. It finally stopped producing the boxy brute in 2016. There are plenty of them out there. The catch is that it only sold the Defender in the U.S. and Canada [aka the North American Specification (NAS) model] from 1993 until 1997. So, if you’re an American or Canadian who missed the chance to buy one and you haven’t been outside of North America, you’ve probably never gone off-road in a Defender. You can always import one from the UK that’s at least 25 years old, but that takes time, research, and money – especially given how popular Defenders are these days.

The Defender will be available to learn in alongside the Discovery and Range Rover lines of vehicles. Experience participants will be able to take the Defender across grass, mud, ruts, water, and other surfaces while being coached by expert instructors.

Kim McCullough, Vice President of Marketing for Jaguar Land Rover North America, said, “Recognized as one of our most iconic vehicles, the Defender has conquered some of the world’s most demanding terrain and we are thrilled to be bringing that experience to consumers through the Land Rover Experience Center Heritage Program. Brand loyalists and new fans alike now have the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a piece of history and continue to celebrate this historic Land Rover icon.”

Half- and full-day programs are available at all three U.S. Land Rover Experience Centers for $1,200 and $1,500, respectively.

Derek Shiekhi's father raised him on cars. As a boy, Derek accompanied his dad as he bought classics such as post-WWII GM trucks and early Ford Mustang convertibles.

After loving cars for years and getting a bachelor's degree in Business Management from Texas State University, Derek decided to get an associate degree in journalism from Austin Community College as well. His networking put him in contact with the editor of the Austin-American Statesman newspaper, who hired him to write freelance about automotive culture and events in Austin, Texas in 2013. One particular story led to him getting a certificate for learning the foundations of road racing.

While watching TV with his parents one fateful evening, he saw a commercial that changed his life. In it, Jeep touted the Wrangler as the Texas Auto Writers Association's "SUV of Texas." Derek knew he had to join the organization if he was going to advance as an automotive writer. He joined the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) in 2014 and was fortunate to meet several nice people who connected him to the representatives of several automakers and the people who could give him access to press vehicles (the first one he ever got the keys to was a Lexus LX 570). He's now a regular at TAWA's two main events: the Texas Auto Roundup in the spring and the Texas Truck Rodeo in the fall.

Over the past several years, Derek has learned how to drive off-road in various four-wheel-drive SUVs (he even camped out for two nights in a Land Rover), and driven around various tracks in hot hatches, muscle cars, and exotics. Several of his pieces, including his article about the 2015 Ford F-150 being crowned TAWA's 2014 "Truck of Texas" and his review of the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, have won awards in TAWA's annual Excellence in Craft Competition. Last year, his profile of Wagonmaster, a business that restores Jeep Wagoneers, won prizes in TAWA’s signature writing contest and its pickup- and SUV-focused Texas Truck Invitational.

In addition to writing for a variety of Internet Brands sites, including and, Derek also contributes to other outlets. He started There Will Be Cars on Instagram and Facebook to get even more automotive content out to fellow enthusiasts.

Derek can be contacted at [email protected]

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