In-depth reviews

Land Rover Defender review

Land Rover has aced the latest Defender, which combines rugged go-anywhere ability with new levels of civility.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

  • Off-road ability
  • Still supremely practical
  • Plug-in hybrid version
  • Expensive to buy
  • Some wind noise at higher speeds
  • Running costs

Land Rover has silenced the doubters and produced a Defender worthy of the famous name. It’s clearly a more modern and luxurious car than before, but the Defender has lost none of its ability to tackle whatever conditions are thrown its way. 

Customers can be reassured that, alongside the Defender’s core attributes, there’s a level of refinement that will make tackling the urban jungle just as effortless as the steepest of slopes or the muddiest of fields. 

You’ll have to pay handsomely for the privilege and there are all kinds of other rivals to consider - none though possess that unique sense of cool and personality that comes with a Defender. It’s a car we wholeheartedly recommend.

About the Land Rover Defender

It took Land Rover donkeys’ years to replace the iconic Defender 4x4, but when it did there was no messing about. Sure, the die-hard Landie fans have cribbed about the inevitable upgrades in technology, luxury and cost, but there’s no doubt the latest model can wear its Defender badges with pride.

Aside from the obvious shared styling elements, the latest Landie is worlds apart from its more agricultural ancestor. The entire concept of a rufty-tufty off-roader has been brought up to date for a generation of wealthy buyers who love the image of the old soldier, but really couldn’t be expected to put up with its crashing suspension, appalling comfort, low tech and general lack of civility.

It wasn’t only consumers demanding change either, as the boxy old Defender was increasingly hard to keep on the right side of global vehicle standards.

Still, Land Rover must be congratulated for retaining the Defender’s work ethic, in spite of its new appeal to the leisured classes. The boxy shape, rugged construction and go-anywhere capability of the latest Defender ensures it has plenty of appeal for commercial applications as well as drivers looking for the latest and most fashionable SUV.

This wide range of abilities means that the competition for the new Defender is interesting and diverse, with various models offering a mixture of practical capability and their own brand of high-riding, SUV style. Off-road rivals such as the Jeep Wrangler and Mercedes G-Class have been around for quite a while, but come from opposite ends of the price spectrum. 

There are also more rustic challengers in the form of the Toyota Land Cruiser, Subaru Forester and Ssangyong Rexton, while some customers could be attracted to the luxury-bias of the BMW X5, Volvo XC90 and the Volkswagen Touareg

The choices don’t stop there, as there’s also the various double-cab pick-ups currently on sale, such as the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok, which deliver 4x4 ability and a more car-like driving experience than you’d expect. Land Rover will also be all too aware of the Discovery model potentially stealing sales from its newer sibling.

Defender customers have a choice of either the three-door Defender 90, or five-door Defender 110 models, with prices starting from around £44,000. Commercial Hard Top versions are also available, while a bigger 130 model with extra load capacity will be introduced later.

There are three diesel engines on offer for the Defender 90: the D200, D240 and D300 with 197bhp, 247bhp and 296bhp, respectively - all versions of a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder in-line unit with mild-hybrid tech.

Petrol cars include the 296bhp P300 and 394bhp P400, while a petrol plug-in hybrid unit for the 110 model, the 398bhp P400e, delivers improved economy and lower CO2 emissions.

There’s also now a high performance V8 petrol option featuring JLR’s supercharged 5.0 engine making 518bhp. An eight-speed auto transmission is standard across the range.

Trim levels move from entry-level Defender though to S, SE and HSE. There’s also an opportunity to upgrade to the X-Dynamic equipment line, which is followed by top-spec X versions and First Edition cars. The V8 model is the ultimate range flagship, with the Carpathian Edition offering a bespoke grey paint-job and special finishes.

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