Land Rover Defender Review
The new Land Rover Defender is a cool-looking, well-equipped and extremely capable off-roader, but top-spec models are quite expensive.
- 1. Tell us what you want from a car
- 2. We’ll tell you if it matches
- 3. Only takes 1 minute
What's not so good
Land Rover Defender: what would you like to read next?
The all-new Land Rover Defender has all the off-road capabilities that you would ever need – and probably some you’ll never need, too. But it’s not just some mud-plugging workhorse either.
It has a modern cool design, comes with some neat tech and is spacious too. So if you are after one of those posh lifestyle SUVs that are great for the school run – looking at you Mercedes GLE or Volvo XC90 – but want the reassurance of awesome off-road and towing ability, the Defender could be car for you.
You know how you see those 200mph supercars cruising around the swanky areas of town? They never go above 30mph but their owners know at least they could. If they wanted to. The Land Rover Defender is an off-road equivalent. It’s a comfortable, practical and stylish SUV that you can drive across a desert, should you wish. Though you probably won’t.
You can clearly see the original Land Rover in the design of the new Defender. This is especially the case at the rear, with its flat back end, complete with spare wheel and side-hinged rear door that opens outwards, and the Alpine lights in the roof.
The front’s looks aren’t quite so classic. The roundish headlights look a bit like those on the original Defender, but the bluff front grille gives the Defender a much more modern look.
As with the original, the new Land Rover Defender comes in the short-wheelbase 90 model and the 110 long-wheelbase version. You can customise your own car’s look with a range of optional accessories – there are 170 of them – from protective body panels to a raised air intake for when you’re wading through deep water.
Entry-level cars come with a body-coloured roof, white-painted, 18-inch steel wheels and LED headlights, while top-spec cars get big alloy wheels and contrasting paintwork. But even the steel wheels in the basic models look cool and don’t make the Defender seem cheap.
Cheap isn’t how you’d describe the interior either. It’s another mixture of traditional and modern, like a fashionable city-centre flat with top-spec tech and exposed brickwork. Soft materials sit alongside deliberately exposed screws and rubber floor mats (though you can get carpet if you like).
If you’re looking for a seriously capable off-roader that handles the school run just as easily, the Land Rover Defender should be near the top of your list.
Every Defender comes with a 10-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The system is powered by new software called Pivi Pro which allows you to connect two smartphones at once and allows for ‘over-the-air’ updates, which means you don’t have to go into the dealership to get any software upgrades.
Choose mid-spec SE cars or above to get the ClearSight rear view mirror, which shows in the mirror a camera feed of the road behind you. Handy if you’re carrying stuff in the rear that restricts your view over the shoulder.
Speaking of which, there is a decent amount of room in the back of the three-door 90 model, but if you regularly use your Defender for family transport you’ll want the bigger five-door 110 car.
You can choose between five, six and seven-seat options. Yes, you can seat six – by speccing a third seat in the front, called a jump seat. If you regularly need to use all seven seats, a Land Rover Discovery is probably a better bet. The boot is pretty decent too, bigger than you’ll find in comparable Toyota Land Cruiser and Jeep Wrangler models.
The Defender comes with a choice of two diesel engines and two petrol engines (one of which comes with a fuel-saving mild-hybrid system), an eight-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive as standard. The D240 diesel is probably the sweet spot in terms of price, performance, pulling power and fuel economy.
All this means the Land Rover Defender can tow a 3,500kg trailer and wade through water 90cm deep – that’s more than even the uber-rugged Jeep Wrangler can manage.
You also get plenty of high-tech driver-assistance systems that’ll help a complete novice tackle tricky off-road trails like a seasoned pro and a suite of active safety systems designed to help prevent avoidable collisions on the road.
Despite its off-road capability the Defender is quite good to drive around town. Cars with air suspension are especially comfortable as it smooths out potholes, and the steering is light, making it easy to manoeuvre. Visibility is good out the front but the spare wheel gets in the way of the view out the rear.
So it’s great off-road, good on-road, practical, spacious and comes with good tech. If that matches your checklist for your next new car have a look at the latest Land Rover Defender deals.
The Land Rover Defender will take everything from bits of chopped down tree to a set of luxury luggage, but it’s not the best seven-seater.
Even hardcore fans of the old Land Rover Defender would have to concede that the seating position probably wasn’t the most car-like. This new version has, thankfully for drivers with dodgy backs, been brought up to modern standards. The boxy shape of the Defender means that you’ll have space up top and around your shoulders, even if you are the burliest of farmworkers.
The only exception to this is if you go for the six-seater version with the ‘jump seat’ in between the two front seats. This is best for smaller passengers and for short journeys only.
In the back, however, the wide and tall dimensions come into their own again, with loads of space across and up top. The flat floor means that three pairs of welly-clad feet will slot alongside each other without rubbing mud all over each other or the back of the seats. The rear seats can slide and recline, too, but only as an option.
You can get a seven-seat version of the Defender but the rear-most seats are not the best available in a big SUV – you’re better off getting Land Rover’s own Discovery if you need your big SUV to carry you and six passengers on a regular basis.
There’s plenty of storage space around the Land Rover Defender’s cabin, with a big box between the two front seats (unless you go for that jump seat of course) that can also be chilled to act as a mini-fridge. The central console also has a pair of cupholders and a bit more storage tucked down low.
The glovebox is only ok but there are loads more open trays and slots where you can throw things. Many of them are covered in wipe-clean materials, too, so you can chuck your phone or a small muddy tool into them without worrying about damaging the interior. The huge door bins will easily take large bottles too.
There are a pair of document holders on the back of the front seats for rear passengers, but they are a bit flimsy compared with the rest of the cabin.
The boot in the Land Rover Defender isn’t quite the ‘van with seats’ that some of the original versions were, but it is still an excellent contender when pitted against the best in the current class. The 857 litres of space in the five-seat 110 model is better than the BMW X5, and you can fold everything down to get a vast loading bay. It’s a nice square shape with some handy hooks here and there too.
Folding those seats totally flat is a bit of a fiddle, requiring you to flip the seat base up, take the headrests off, but you can leave them on and get a large amount of space anyway.
The boot lip is flat, meaning you can drag designer suitcases or bits of tree out of the rear without having to lift them over a lip, but the entrance to the boot is quite high. This isn’t an issue if you have the air suspension as you can lower it down to make getting things in and out easier.
Of course, the 90 model’s boot is much smaller – enough that if you’ve got a family’s kit to haul on holiday, then the 110’s large boot will be much more useful day-to-day.
The Defender is a seriously capable off-roader that is also relaxing and easy to drive on the school run, but a big 4×4 uses a lot of fuel.
The engine range in the Defender is fairly simple to start off with – two petrol engines and two diesels. The diesels will be the ones that make the most sense to those that want to use the Defender as a tool, and both are 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines. One has 200hp and the other 240hp.
Both offer identical claimed fuel economy of around 30mpg. The petrol engines don’t claim to get that much, though, with the official figures saying you should get around 25mpg. This is the case on both the 2.0-litre and 3.0-litre versions.
The engines are not designed for out-and-out pace, as they are more suited to low-speed tackling of tricky terrain than flying around country lanes. It’s a bit slow to accelerate, but it should still get to 60mph in around 9 seconds.
How the Defender drives on-road is yet another way in which this car is totally different from the previous version.
In town, the air suspension smooths everything out and totally takes the sting out of speed bumps and potholes. The light steering means that it’s easy to thread your way through town traffic, too.
The big door mirrors, high-up seating position and big windows mean that it’s generally easy to see out as well. The only exception to this is the rear visibility, as the spare wheel mounted on the back door blocks a large chunk of your view.
The brakes are the only oddity as they are electrically assisted and come on really hard when you press them down in a normal manner. They take a bit of getting used to as a result.
Out of town, it feels like a luxurious SUV. There is a bit of noise if you have off-road tyres, but this should be better on-road tyres. It doesn’t feel that sporty around corners, certainly not as much as a BMW X5, but it copes happily with bends.
The Land Rover Defender manages to look different to most other SUVs on the inside, with some rugged touches and modern tech but some of the surfaces feel a bit cheap.