They are indeed a bit expensive but I was more into buying it because of my use (and I had a Sportage before). Ideally the defender should be a little cheaper (though the prices have ceom down now). As for the gears, yes they are a little far away, but since i'm not exactly small i can reach them pretty well. You can convert the defender to auto using an autobox from a 300TDi discovery (striaght fit) and it is actually something i'm looking into. If you are looking for a defender in the 15 range you can always find a used 90 (mines a 110). A 2nd hand 90 cabrio should be around 15 lacks now.
As for all the parts on my 110 (imported all the stuff from the UK a few months back - except the snorkel and bullbar).
Service at land rover is amazing. I took it in a few days back after breaking a few parts due to severe abuse and they changed all of them under warranty (even though it was my fault) Free of cost!
If nothing else, they have an amazing staff.