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.

More on Defender

Show me:
New Land Rover Defender 90 D250 2021 review
Land Rover Defender 90 D250 - front
Land Rover Defender
19 Mar 2021

New Land Rover Defender 90 D250 2021 review

Is the smaller Land Rover Defender 90 the pick of the range? We sample it in D250 guise to find out...
New 518bhp Land Rover Defender V8 joins range
Land Rover Defender 90 V8 - front
Land Rover Defender
25 Feb 2021

New 518bhp Land Rover Defender V8 joins range

Land Rover’s new 5.0-litre V8 engine has made this the fastest Defender yet, with a 0-62mph time of 5.2 seconds
Limited edition Land Rover Defender Works V8 Trophy unveiled
Land Rover Defender Works V8 Trophy - front static
News
10 Feb 2021

Limited edition Land Rover Defender Works V8 Trophy unveiled

Just 25 examples of the 399bhp Land Rover Defender Works V8 Trophy will be made
Bowler reveals classic Defender 110 will live on with V8 power
Land Rover Defender
4 Nov 2020

Bowler reveals classic Defender 110 will live on with V8 power

Derbyshire based Bowler developing road-going four-seat V8 powered Defender Station Wagon for first vehicle under JLR ownership
New Land Rover Defender 90 P400 2020 review
Land Rover Defender
28 Oct 2020

New Land Rover Defender 90 P400 2020 review

The smaller Land Rover Defender 90 P400 joins the range with mild-hybrid power
New Land Rover Defender 90 P300 2020 review
Land Rover Defender
28 Oct 2020

New Land Rover Defender 90 P300 2020 review

The new Land Rover Defender 90 P300 shows its strengths off road
Mid-size Premium SUV of the Year 2020: Land Rover Defender
Land Rover Defender
13 Oct 2020

Mid-size Premium SUV of the Year 2020: Land Rover Defender

The Land Rover Defender is the 2020 Auto Express Premium Mid-size SUV of the Year, with the BMW X3 and Porsche Macan commended
New Land Rover Defender P400e plug-in hybrid joins range
Land Rover Defender
8 Sep 2020

New Land Rover Defender P400e plug-in hybrid joins range

The plug-in Land Rover Defender P400e model becomes the new range-topper, while four-cylinder diesels have been replaced by straight-six options
Twisted launches electric Land Rover Defender conversion kit
Land Rover Defender
22 Jul 2020

Twisted launches electric Land Rover Defender conversion kit

Twisted’s pure-electric conversion package gives the old Defender up to 320bhp and a maximum claimed range of 200 miles
New Land Rover Defender 110 roof tent launched
Land Rover Defender
22 Jun 2020

New Land Rover Defender 110 roof tent launched

The hard-shelled two-berth Land Rover Defender 110 roof tent is priced from around £2,800 and includes a full-size mattress
New Land Rover Defender P400 2020 review
Land Rover Defender
14 May 2020

New Land Rover Defender P400 2020 review

The new Land Rover Defender P400 is the fastest Defender on sale and it’s a lot of fun, but the cheaper diesel models make more sense
Used Land Rover Defender review
Land Rover Defender
26 Mar 2020

Used Land Rover Defender review

A full used buyer’s guide on the Land Rover Defender covering the Defender that was on sale between 1990 and 2016
New Land Rover Defender 2020 review
Land Rover Defender 4x4
26 Mar 2020

New Land Rover Defender 2020 review

The new Land Rover Defender is one of the most anticipated new cars in a generation, and it doesn’t disappoint
Taking the new Land Rover Defender 110 off-road in Namibia
Land Rover Defender
25 Mar 2020

Taking the new Land Rover Defender 110 off-road in Namibia

The reborn Land Rover Defender 110 needs serious off-road ability to live up to its name. How better to test its mettle than a three-day African trek?
New 2020 Land Rover Defender: full details, specs and pics
Land Rover Defender - studio front
Land Rover Defender 4x4
25 Mar 2020

New 2020 Land Rover Defender: full details, specs and pics

The new Land Rover Defender brings advanced tech, proper off-roading ability and starting price of £40k
New 2020 Land Rover Defender 90 on sale from £40,000
Land Rover Defender
27 Feb 2020

New 2020 Land Rover Defender 90 on sale from £40,000

Three-door Land Rover Defender 90 will undercut the larger 110 by nearly £5,000
Land Rover Defender vs Jeep Wrangler: modern classic head-to-head
Land Rover Defender vs Jeep Wrangler - modern classics head-to-head
Land Rover Defender
29 Dec 2019

Land Rover Defender vs Jeep Wrangler: modern classic head-to-head

The iconic Land Rover Defender and Jeep Wrangler are mud-pluggers and have a fascinating family history
New Land Rover Defender appears on the set of new 007 film ‘No Time to Die’
Land Rover - James Bond No Time To Die
Land Rover Defender
9 Dec 2019

New Land Rover Defender appears on the set of new 007 film ‘No Time to Die’

Behind-the-scenes look at the new Land Rover Defender’s role in the forthcoming James Bond film, No Time to Die
New Land Rover Defender 90 delivers Rugby World Cup Trophy
Land Rover Defender 90 - Rugby World Cup
Land Rover Defender
2 Nov 2019

New Land Rover Defender 90 delivers Rugby World Cup Trophy

Short wheelbase Land Rover Defender 90 delivers the Webb Ellis Trophy at the 2019 Rugby World Cup final
'Why shouldn't Land Rover be allowed to cash in on the Defender?'
OPINION Defender
Land Rover Defender
22 Sep 2019

'Why shouldn't Land Rover be allowed to cash in on the Defender?'

Few cars in history have earned the right to be called legendary and the Defender is rightly one of them, says Mike Rutherford
Land Rover Defender configurator creations: our best builds
Land Rover Defender builds
Land Rover Defender
12 Sep 2019

Land Rover Defender configurator creations: our best builds

We’ve been on the online configurator for the new Defender and these are our best efforts. Now show us yours!
'Does JLR really need the new Defender in its line-up?'
OPINION Land Rover Defender
Land Rover Defender
11 Sep 2019

'Does JLR really need the new Defender in its line-up?'

With so many other SUVs in their model line-up, Steve Fowler asks whether JLR really needed to build the new Defender
Land Rover Defender reborn thanks to Land Serwis
Land Serwis front tracking
Land Rover Defender
23 Apr 2019

Land Rover Defender reborn thanks to Land Serwis

The old Land Rover Defender gets a new lease of life from Polish tuner, which builds new and improved models from scratch