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Land Rover Defender 90 D300 75th Limited Edition 2023 review

The Land Rover Defender marks the 75th birthday of its iconic ancestor with a special edition

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

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Verdict

For die-hard Land Rover Defender fans, the 75th Limited Edition car might make sense as a celebration of the model line, but the style won’t be to all tastes. For everyone else, there’s better value elsewhere in the line-up, with the same powertrains and bodystyles available at a more affordable price. There’s no denying the Defender is packed full of character though, even if this version has a few flaws.

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Back in 1948, at the Amsterdam Motor Show of all places, Land Rover revealed its iconic Series 1. Those Series cars would later morph into the Defender, staying true to the original model’s ethos. Wind the clock forward 75 years and the Defender is still with us today – albeit as a slightly different proposition – but to mark the special occasion the brand has added this Defender 75th Limited Edition to the line-up.

It’s certainly distinctive, given that Land Rover’s traditional Grasmere Green paintwork is the only colour on offer – the same hue as the 2015 Defender limited-edition model – with the new car also available with 20-inch wheels finished in the same colour. It’s a lot of green.

There are some small ‘75 Years’ badges on the side-hinged tailgate and the ends of the dashboard, underpinned by the Land Rover’s trademark cross-car beam, which gives the Defender its strength and rigidity. It’s great for off-roading, which this shorter-wheelbase 90 model will devour easily.

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There’s a choice of powertrains if you opt for the longer 110 model, which can be had with five, six or seven seats. Land Rover’s D300 and P400e plug-in hybrid are both on offer, but in this 90 version of the Defender, only the former is available.

That’s no shame, because the 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged six-cylinder mild-hybrid unit is a great engine. Serving up 296bhp and with a maximum of 650Nm of torque available from just 1,500rpm, there’s effortless performance on tap, despite the Defender’s hefty kerbweight and bluff front.

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The gutsy engine pulls hard from low revs and the eight-speed automatic gearbox manages changes well, with shifts that are nice and smooth, if not super-rapid. The turbodiesel makes a pleasing noise too, with a guttural but muted rumble.

While the straight-line shove is good, the Defender’s dynamic ability is a little more limited when it comes to cornering. The lofty ride height and short wheelbase mean there’s noticeable roll if you’re a bit too fast into a corner. Over bumps, the car pitches too, which means occasionally the ride is a little less than composed. But with air suspension, the relatively soft set-up means that on the motorway the Defender does feel relatively refined. Our car’s roll-back canvas roof meant there was some wind noise at higher speed, but it’s certainly a nice feature that adds to the experience when the weather is good.

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There are more issues with the 90 bodystyle though, because packaging isn’t great. Despite this Defender measuring more than 4.3 metres long, there’s very little space in the rear and access to the back seats isn’t the easiest. Although the front seats do fold and slide forwards, the gap that’s left isn’t the largest – plus you have to climb up quite high to pull yourself in.

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The other drawback is that the shorter wheelbase means the 90’s boot is small. Very small, in fact; there are just 297 litres on offer with the rear seats in place.

Fold each one down (the Defender is only really a four-seater due to the space in the rear, despite offering three seats in the back) and this rises to 1,263 litres. The shape of the boot with the rear seats up means it’s not that practical either – it’s wide but not too deep, which limits what you can fit in the load bay to not much more than a few squashy bags. Thanks to the tailgate being side-hinged, you need a lot of space behind the car to open it fully too, but at least it’s hinged on the correct side for the UK.

Yet despite this relatively compact cabin, the Defender 90 feels big when you’re manoeuvring it around.

Up front, the interior is still a lovely mix of modern tech and a new interpretation of luxury, with varying textures and materials delivering a high-quality feel alongside a few utilitarian touches and the odd reference to the Defender’s roots, such as the exposed bolts in the door panels.

There’s loads of storage too, with the rubberised ledge that runs across the dashboard for storing phones, keys and wallets a great idea. Add to this cup-holders and multiple trays and lidded bins, and the Defender proves it can deliver on practicality in some form.

Model:Land Rover Defender D300 75th Limited Edition
Price:£85,995
Engine:3.0-litre 6cyl turbodiesel
Power/torque:296bhp/650Nm
Transmission:Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive 
0-62mph:6.7 seconds
Top speed:119mph
Economy/CO2:31.3mpg/237g/km
On sale:Now
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Sean’s been writing about cars since 2010, having worked for outlets as diverse as PistonHeads, MSN Cars, Which? Cars, Race Tech – a specialist motorsport publication – and most recently Auto Express and sister titles Carbuyer and DrivingElectric

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