You'll be forgiven if you thought Land Rover has always made the brunt of its money by building Range Rovers, but this wasn't always the case. The Land Rover reputation was made into what it is today through rugged, go-anywhere Land Rover trucks that could endure even the most brutal of conditions.
The original Defender was exactly this sort of machine. This favorite of African safaris and South American jungles hasn't been offered stateside since the mid-90s. Now, however, the Brits have introduced an all-new Defender, and are once again offering it to American consumers.
As with its predecessors, the new 2020 Land Rover Defender has been designed with the most extreme conditions in mind. It boasts a roof designed to hold a 661-pound static load, a two-speed transfer case, an adjustable air suspension with up to 5.8 inches of upward adjustment, a side-hinged tailgate with an externally mounted spare, and a 35-inch maximum wading depth.
With its butch looks and impressive resume of features, the new Defender looks to be making up for its quarter-century absence from U.S. showrooms.
Choosing Your Land Rover Defender
The Land Rover Defender is available in six trims: Defender, S, SE, HSE, First Edition, and X. Pricing starts at $50,925 including destination for the base Defender and runs up to $81,925 for the Defender X.
The first Defenders arrive in a four-door configuration, denoted by Land Rover as Defender 110. A two-door model deemed Defender 90 will arrive late in the model year.
Base models and the S are motivated by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine dubbed P300 by Land Rover. The rest of the lineup uses a hybrid powertrain called P400 that couples a 3.0-liter straight-six to a starter-generator electric motor and 48-volt electrical system.
|Engine Type||Horsepower||Torque||Towing Capacity||Fuel Economy (Combined)|
|P300 2.0L Turbo 4-Cylinder||296 hp||295 lb-ft||7,716 pounds||Not Yet Rated|
|P400 3.0L 6-Cylinder Hybrid||395 hp||406 lb-ft||8,201 pounds||Not Yet Rated|
Fuel economy has yet to be measured by the EPA. While the hybrid six-cylinder will be the more efficient of the two, don't expect it to transform the Defender into a river-fording Prius. The real benefit of the hybrid system is the extra power and improved towing capacity.
All Defenders, of course, are four-wheel drive. The high ride height, short overhangs, and the aforementioned two-speed transfer case allow it to get from the heart of the urban jungle to the heart of the real jungle.
Optional equipment improves capability and makes exploiting it easier. Terrain Response 2 and Configurable Terrain Response are two such available systems. Both offer multiple drive modes and customizable settings for fine-tuning the vehicle for the terrain at hand. Configurable Terrain Response is the more advanced of the two terrain management systems and is standard on Defender X.
Passenger and Cargo Capacity
Land Rover has made the Defender just about as configurable as a minivan. In two-door 90 guise, a front bench seat is standard, which brings total seating capacity to six. Four-door 110 models offer the front bench as an option and can also be equipped with a plus-two third row as well. Ordering both to make an eight-seater Defender is off the table, but the flexibility is there to configure your 110 as either a five-, six-, or seven-seater.
Cargo space is plentiful in both models. Defender 90s have 15.6 cubic feet of space behind the second row and 58 cubes when the rear seats are folded down. The 110 improves on that significantly: five-seat models can hold 34 cubic feet worth of stuff behind their second row, and there's 80 cubic feet to work with when that row is folded. Defender 110 models equipped with the third row have slightly less cargo room in both instances.
Numerous driver-assistance features are standard. The list includes blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, a surround-view camera system, and traffic sign recognition. Wade Sensing, which automatically senses when the driver is entering water and prepares the car accordingly, is also standard.
The optional Driver Assist Pack costs $1,275 and includes rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and, on 110 models, an exit monitor that audibly alerts passengers exiting the rear doors of any approaching hazards.
All Defenders use Land Rover's new Pivi Pro infotainment software. Housed in a 10-inch touchscreen, the system claims to reduce the number of steps required for common operations by 50% when compared to older Land Rover infotainment software. It also comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and two smartphones can connect to the system simultaneously through Bluetooth.
Connectivity with the system continues even when you're away from the SUV with the Remote app. As its name suggests, you can remotely control door locks, climate control, the alarm, and hazard lights. It also offers vehicle health reports and can connect to Land Rover customer service.
Other notable standard technology includes wireless charging, navigation, and a 12.3-inch fully digital gauge cluster with a fully customizable display. A rearview mirror with camera functionality is also optional.
An enticing bit of available off-roading tech is a front camera that shows drivers exactly what's ahead of the front wheels, a viewpoint otherwise hidden from sight by the hood and bumper.
The base Defender might look spartan with its painted steel wheels, but it comes with plenty of features. There's fabric eight-way power seats, air suspension, multi-mode Terrain Response, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Trim is body color, lighting is LED, and exterior mirrors are heated with power-folding and auto-dimming capabilities.
The Cold Climate Pack ($700) bundles a heated steering wheel, heated windshield, and heated washer jets. The Comfort and Convenience Pack ($895) includes an upgraded Meridian sound system, a refrigerator compartment in the front console, and premium cabin lighting.
Off-roaders will want both the $1,345 Off-Road Pack and $735 Advanced Off-Road Capability Pack. The former includes an active differential and off-road tires, while the latter comes with improved terrain management software and a crawl-speed cruise control.
For the upcharge over a base model, the S adds automatic high beams, 19-inch wheels, 12-way power front seats, leather upholstery, and tablet holders.
The SE's most notable feature is its standard 395-horsepower hybrid powertrain. Other standard standard amenities include daytime running lights, fog lights, 20-inch wheels, the rearview camera/mirror unit, and an electrically-adjustable steering column.
There's also memory functions for the front seats and a 400-watt Meridian audio system, as well as the rear exit monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.
On top of what comes with the SE, the HSE adds 20-inch dark gray wheels, a panoramic roof, 14-way power front seats, heated and cooled front seats with Windsor leather, and adaptive cruise control.
Limited to the new Defender's inaugural year of production, the First Edition is about as well equipped as the HSE but adds a host of unique design touches. These include the paint and wheel combinations (different for the 90 and 110 models), badging, and trim.
The seats are grained leather instead of Windsor, but the steering wheel is heated and both Terrain Response off-road management systems come standard. A folding fabric roof and off-road tires come on the 90 model, while the 110 gets the panoramic roof and all-season rubber.
The X is the ultimate Defender. It comes loaded up with all the HSE's features along with an electronic active differential, both Terrain Response management systems, a head-up display, and a 700-watt audio system by Meridian. A black contrast roof, satin chrome trim, and orange brake calipers give the X its own style.
The base 2020 Land Rover Defender model comes surprisingly well equipped and is worth considering regardless of your budget. That said, if you've got the wherewithal to do it, get an SE. Compared to the four-cylinder models, its upgraded powertrain goes faster, pulls more, and likely quaffs down less gas to boot. Factor in the SE's extra luxury features, and it's easily our choice of the litter.