Land Rover Defender review - Engines, performance and drive

Land Rover has equipped the Defender with a strong range of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid engines.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

Engines, performance and drive Rating

4.3 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’s engineers were tasked with making sure the Defender could cope with everything expected of it off-road, before focusing on its on-road dynamics. So, it’s most definitely a box ticked for even the keenest 4x4 driver.

The Defender features air suspension, twin-speed transmission, locking centre and active rear locking diffs and the manufacturer’s latest Terrain Response tech, which means the Defender will be able to travel across even the most extreme landscape, where other 4x4’s might be left floundering.

You can operate the various off-road modes via the touchscreen if you wish, but Land Rover has cleverly incorporated the function into a single physical button on the dash, which you then toggle through using one of the air-con dials - it helps to maintain a clean, uncluttered feel to the cabin.

What’s a little surprising is the Defender’s ability to engage the driver when on smoother tarmac, providing an unexpected element of fun when piloting the big 4x4.

Its steering delivers quicker responses and feels more direct than sitting at the wheel of a Discovery, while the ride is firmer. When pushing through quicker corners the Defender remains pretty flat, and you’ve got to take it to the absolute limit to create any understeer. It all provides a lively, sporty feeling, which is a world away from the previous model.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

As well as being proficient off-road, the Defender brings decent straight-line performance. The 197bhp D200 diesel version offers the least power, but is still able to crack 0-62mph in 9.8s. Moving up through the diesel range sees progressively quicker sprint times, with the D250 model managing 8.4s and the three-door 90 D300 variant a rapid 6.7s.

The P300 petrol posts a 7.1s time from 0-62mph, but those wanting a Defender that can compete with hot hatches off the lights, should look towards the P400’s 6.0s dash, or the 5.6s delivered by the P400e plug-in hybrid.

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