It’s been a long time coming. The last Defender was built in January 2016, and of course we all loved it. But it was cramped, noisy and, frankly, a pain in the butt to drive every day. Sure, this hurts to admit, but it’s true. It was also uneconomical to produce, not great for the environment, unimpressive in crash tests and out-performed by other Land Rover products off-road.
Still, the Defender was an icon, and we loved it for all its flaws. So, how to replace it? This has been the question on everyone’s lips for years. Here’s Land Rover’s answer: a Tonka Toy modern-day Defender that we’ve seen in the metal and mentally-specced already. The company’s engineers promise it will be better off road than any other production 4×4, whether or not from Land Rover. It can be bought in a sophisticated specification or in basic spec—though we have to break it to you that modern vehicles that comply to emissions standards can not be ‘fixed-in-the-field-with-a-hammer’ levels of simple. But then they should be more reliable than Defenders of old.
So here it is. Check it out in three-door 90 spec first, note the differences between the steel wheels and the alloys, check out the optional side pods and roof racks, and breath deeply while reminding yourself that an original Defender lookalike was never going to be on the cards.
And now meet the five-door 110. Across the 90 and 110 range there’s no clamshell bonnet (a staple of Land Rover product designs), the front and rear overhands are minimal for best possible approach and departure angles, the iconic Alpine windows used in the roofs of Series and Defender station wagons have made a reappearance (though they’re much smaller than they appear when viewed from inside) and there’s a curious side panel that is part-trademark style, part a slightly awkward design cheat. The rear door is side-hinged with the spare hanging off it, just like the original.
So far, mostly so good, but what’s underneath it all? First of all, it’s a full alloy monocoque, even though die-hard off-roaders will swear that any self-respecting 4×4 should be built on a hefty steel ladder frame. Land Rover engineers are adamant on this: the Defender is the stiffest Land Rover ever made, three times stiffer than the best body-on-frame design available.
For the best off-roading performance the Defender is available with air suspension, but for in-field fixability there’s also an independently-sprung coil spring version available, which will be the likely set-up for Defenders heading out to a life in remote territories. As for engines, there’s currently a choice of a four-cylinder P300 and a six-cylinder P400 featuring efficient Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle technology or a choice of two four-cylinder diesels – the D200 and powerful D240. A Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) powertrain will join the range next year.
The interior is also rather more sophisticated than the original. Even an aftermarket special isn’t going to match the new Defender, and you can decide for yourself whether that’s a good or a bad thing. But with plenty of deliberately exposed fittings (including the powder-coated magnesium cross car beam), rubber flooring that can be wiped or swept out, and a dash-mounted gearshift that allows for either a huge centre console storage area or a central ‘jump’ seat, it still feels purposeful.
A single touch-sensitive screen gives all the usual information plus off-roading information, including wading depth and traction, as well as (for the first time) allowing Land Rover’s superb Terrain Response system to be customized to personal preferences in addition to the factory presets. There’s also the ClearSight Ground View, which uses shows the screen to show the area otherwise hidden from view by the bonnet. Seeing as we’ve mentioned it, the Defender’s wading depth is 35 inches (900mm)—and approach and departure angles are 45 degrees, with a towing capacity of 7700lbs (3500kg).
There are four Accessory Packs available: Explorer, Adventure, Country and Urban. Explorer gives a Raised Air Intake, roof rack and an exterior side-mounted gear carrier, plus the options of side steps and a deployable roof ladder. The Adventure Pack includes a portable rinse system with a 6.5-litre pressurised water reservoir, boot-mounted air compressor and exterior side-mounted gear carrier.
The Country Pack features rugged wheelarch protection, rear scuff plate and mudflaps, along with the portable rinse system and loadspace partition. All that’s missing is the black Labrador—but Land Rover is probably assuming buyers of the Country will already have one. Then there’s the Urban Pack, which added bling and the option of larger wheels and, of course, side tubes for maximum impact in the city.
So, there’s a lot going on. This isn’t a facelifted original Defender. It’s mostly avoided the ‘all Land Rovers look the same’ problem of some of the current models, and it’s much (much) better looking than the current Discovery. Looking round it in the Land Rover design studio, it felt right, and though we’re not convinced by those panels on the side windows or the slightly crude finishing on the trailing edges of the front door windows, it was exciting enough to prompt the thought of which spec we’d order it in.
And what’s that? Well it has to be a 90 in Pangea Green with the self-healing, removable satin wrap, the white steel wheels and white roof, and a basic interior spec with the central jump seat. There’s a Commercial model too, with filled-in side windows and no rear seats. it’s kind of cool, and the closest you’ll get to old school Defender cool.
The Defender 110 can be ordered immediately, from £45,240 in the UK. Defender 90 is available from mid-2020, expected to be priced from £40,290. Defender Commercial pricing and deliveries are yet to be confirmed, though it’s likely to start from £35,000. Have a plan with the configuration tool on the link below.