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.

9/10
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after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • Simple design looks cool
  • Awesome off-road capabilities
  • Lots of personalisation options

What's not so good

  • Discovery is better if you regularly need seven seats
  • Top spec models start at nearly £80k
  • Land Rover hasn’t the best reliability record
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Land Rover Defender: what would you like to read next?

Overall verdict

The all-new Land Rover Defender is a stylish, go-anywhere SUV that’s a modern-day take on the original and iconic Land Rover.

That makes it an alternative to hardcore off-roaders like the Jeep Wrangler or Toyota Land Cruiser. But while Toyota and Jeep are the Buzz Aldrin and Pete Conrad of rugged 4x4s, the Defender is the Neil Armstrong. The original Land Rover was the first, while the rest followed.

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. (Those numbers referring to the distance in inches between the front and rear wheels.) 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.

Mat Watson
carwow expert

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 Land Cruiser and 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 if you fancy taking an Armstrong-like giant leap and buying a Defender, take a small step and have a look at the latest Land Rover Defender deals.

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