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 and there are better seven-seaters.
What's not so good
Find out more about the Land Rover Defender
The Land Rover Defender is a large SUV that is so full of off-road tech it can cope with just about every adverse situation imaginable.
It’ll deal with the school run extremely well, then – where it’ll make alternatives such as the Mercedes GLE or Volvo XC90 look decidedly soft next to its roughty-toughty exterior.
It can still do everything those posh lifestyle SUVs can do, though, which is a bit like discovering that David Beckham is actually really good at farming as well as football. It’s so good at day-to-day driving, in fact, it won the Best Large SUV in the 2021 carwow Car of the Year Awards.
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.
As with the original, the new Land Rover Defender can be had as a three-door (and short-wheelbase) 90 model; or as a five-door 110 model. You can customise your own car’s look with a range of optional accessories that includes everything from protective body panels, to a raised air intake for when you’re wading through deep water.
The interior is a 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). Every Defender also comes with a 10-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
There is enough room in the back of the three-door 90 model for adults to sit comfortably, but with the seats in place there’s hardly any boot space. If you regularly use your Defender for family transport you’ll want the bigger five-door 110 car. This can be had with five, six or seven seats.
We think the best Defender is the D250 diesel engine paired with HSE trim. Head to our deals page to make sure you get the best price on one!
That said, if you regularly need to use all seven seats, a Land Rover Discovery is probably a better bet. The boot of the 110 model is pretty decent too, bigger than you’ll find in comparable Toyota Land Cruiser and Jeep Wrangler models.
However, the 90 version isn’t so good; the 397-litre capacity sounds okay but the shape of the space is awkward, and there’s a large ridge in the floor when you fold down the rear seats.
The Defender comes with a choice of three diesel engines and three petrol engines. All get an eight-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive as standard. The D250 diesel is the sweet spot in terms of price, performance, fuel economy and pulling power.
Watch our Defender 90 vs EV Defender off-road challenge:
Speaking of, 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, or any pick-up truck.
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, 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 loaded with clever tech. If that matches your checklist for your next new car have a look at the latest Land Rover Defender deals.
Watch our in-depth Land Rover Defender 90 review:
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.
The smaller, three-door 90 model is a fair bit less practical. Its rear seats are spacious enough for three adults, but if you regularly carry people back there you’d be better off with the 110 version. Not only is it easier to get in and out of the 110’s second row thanks to the fact it has proper back doors, the 90’s boot is tiny when you have the rearmost seats in place.
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 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 decent enough, 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.
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 because 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 shape of the boot space is awkward due to the sloping rear seatbacks getting in the way.
Also, when you fold down the rear seats in the 90, they leave a pronounced ridge in the middle of the floor that prevents you from easily sliding luggage forward.
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: there are three petrol engines and three diesels, plus one petrol-powered plug-in hybrid.
The diesels will be the ones that make the most sense to those that want to use the Defender as a tool, and all are 3.0-litre, straight-six engines. One has 200hp, one has 249hp and one has 300hp. All offer identical claimed fuel economy of around 32mpg.
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 four-cylinder and 3.0-litre six-cylinder versions.
The 5.0-litre V8 petrol produces 525hp and will do an average of around 19mpg. On a good day. With a tail wind. While you’re travelling down hill.
The 2.0-litre PHEV model is certainly rapid, with 0-60mph in 5.4 seconds, and has a claimed economy figure of around 80mpg. However, you’ll need to plug it in whenever it’s stopped, and make full use of the 25-mile electric range if you’re to get anywhere near that.
The conventional engines certainly gives the Defender a decent turn of pace, because most will cover the 0-62mph dash in six or seven 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, because the spare wheel mounted on the back door blocks a large chunk of your view.
The brakes are the only oddity because they are electrically assisted and come on extremely forcefully 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 from most other SUVs on the inside, with some rugged touches and modern tech but some of the surfaces feel a bit cheap.
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*Please contact the dealer for a personalised quote, including terms and conditions. Quote is subject to dealer requirements, including status and availability. Illustrations are based on personal contract hire, 9 month upfront fee, 48 month term and 8000 miles annually, VAT included.