- Unrivalled off-road ability
- Practical interior packed with the latest technology and creature comforts
- Good payload and towing limits and decent to drive on road too
- Not cheap for a ‘working’ vehicle
- Quite expensive to run
- Would farmers or builders really want fine leather upholstery featured on higher trim models?
With a number of high profile pick-up models being withdrawn, Land Rover has timed the launch of its Defender Hard Top line-up to perfection.
The company had the unenviable task of reinventing a British icon when the new generation of Defender vehicles were introduced, but the latest model has been met with great acclaim and scooped numerous global awards.
And the addition of the Hard Top versions that offer excellent practicality, along with unrivalled off-road ability, has intensified the appeal even further.
On the downside, the price of the new-gen vehicles is not exactly cheap, especially as they were always viewed as a workhorse, but the Defender Hard Top does offer the complete package with outstanding off-road ability, practical payload and towing limits and it’s even nicely mannered on the road too these days.
On The Road
The all-new five-door Land Rover Defender 110 Hard Top is available in trim levels called Defender, S, SE and HSE and powered by Land Rover’s 3.0-litre V6 D250 or D300 diesel engines featuring mild-hybrid technology. The D250 delivers 249PS and 570Nm of torque, while the D300 provides 300PS and 650Nm of torque.
These powertrains are mated to a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission with paddles for extra driver engagement, along with intelligent all-wheel drive to help take on and conquer the roughest terrain.
The Defender Hard Top can wade at depths of up to 900mm and can tow trailers weighing up to 3.5 tonnes with Advanced Tow Assist technology available to aid when reversing.
We tested the Defender 110 Hard Top in SE trim powered by the D300 engine and it could complete the 0-62mph dash in a very impressive 7.1 seconds, topping out at 119mph.
It can be thrown into bends with total confidence and the aggressive acceleration is something very new to the model. It cruises on motorways, is agile in town and yet still possesses all the off-road ability associated with the name.
With permanent all-wheel drive, it can plough through water obstacles, clamber over rocks, drop-down acutely steep slopes, trudge through mud and lean at death-defying angles. It simply takes it all in its stride.
One area that the latest generation models have improved beyond comparison is the on-road handling. Older models left you shaken, if not a little stirred after lengthy road trips, but the new Defender Hard Top is far more comfortable. It still feels quite weighty and at times you can get caught out by the sudden bursts of power – it simply wasn’t there on older versions – but it is all so much smoother now.
The acceleration through the gears is well-timed and responsive with nicely weighted steering and paddles for added driver fun. You can also flick the gearstick across to drive in a Sport mode which sharpens up the reactions.
By the very nature of the car’s upright design, expect a little body lean if curves are attacked too keenly, but that almost adds to the vehicle’s appealing character too. However, the optional electronic active differential with torque vectoring by braking, costing £1,020, assists with rectifying this issue. It sounds complicated, but it basically balances the distribution of engine torque between the four wheels when cornering for improved handling.
All models feature Land Rover’s intuitive all-wheel-drive system that not only means the Defender 110 Hard Top can go anywhere, but it also works to deliver torque where it’s most needed for added traction. This helps to save fuel and also lowers emissions.
The Defender 110 Hard Top is a good looking vehicle. It may not be as quirky as models of bygone years, but it still possesses lots of original styling cues with its squared-off rear end, circular lights and chunky scuff plates. It can even be supplied with those traditional white wheels too.
There are Matrix LED headlights, black roof rails, 22-inch gloss black wheels, a black contrast roof (£900 extra) and Tasman Blue paint that costs £895.
Move inside and the cabin has really moved upmarket. The Ebony Grained leather seats are 12-way power-operated and can be heated or cooled with memory settings and there is a wealth of techno treats to explore.
Noise levels within the Defender 110 Hard Top do get quite loud when traveling on motorways due to the vehicle’s chunky upright design. So you will hear quite a lot of engine, road surface and wind noise, but still a lot less than in older versions.
As standard, the vehicle comes with independent coil-sprung suspension which does a good enough job of smoothing out the uneven surfaces along the way. But the comfort of electronic air suspension can be introduced as an optional extra too.
There is little doubt that the latest generation of Defender Hard Top models has really raised the bar when it comes to comfort and refinement – in fairness, the bar was set pretty low on the outgoing vehicles!
In The Car
Behind the Wheel
With Ebony Grained leather seats that have 12-way power adjustment along with an electrically adjustable steering wheel, finding the perfect driving position is a simple process and then there are memory settings to store all that information.
The interior of the Defender 110 Hard Top is clutter-free but there is lots of kit to explore with the main focal point being the latest smartphone-inspired Pivi Pro infotainment system with a 10-inch touchscreen, seven-speaker Meridian sound system, connected navigation, smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a DAB radio and lots more besides. The navigation system learns your preferred routes and will suggest alternatives if there is any kind of delay expected. Clever stuff.
Visibility through the front windscreen and side windows is excellent, but the over-the-shoulder view is completely blocked by the solid door panels. The rearview is okay apart from the criss-cross pattern of the partition separating occupants from the loading bay. However, the rather smart ClearSight interior rearview mirror system has the answer to that issue by delivering a camera view of what’s going on behind the car when needed on the rearview mirror.
All the controls, dials and switches are perfectly positioned for ease of use on the move, and there is still a certain ruggedness within the cabin that matches the vehicle’s awesome off-road ability with settings for different surfaces easily accessed via the Terrain Response system.
Space & Practicality
The Defender 110 Hard Top has been designed to cope with the day-to-day rigours of working life while still maintaining a certain amount of comfort and refinement along the way.
Our five-door Defender Hard Top model had a load floor measuring 1,472mm in length, 1,423mm in width and 937mm in height. This is large enough to carry a standard Euro pallet. The load capacity is 2,059 litres and this includes some clever underfloor storage that can be securely locked, which is really practical if you have to keep expensive tools in the vehicle. There are also lashing points to keep goods secure and in place.
Businesses can have their company names on the side of the vehicle and there are a number of optional packs, racks and accessories to provide added scope for load carrying.
Up front, there is ample room for two adults and there is the option of a jump seat, costing £815 extra, that replaces the traditional central armrest and can be used to seat a third person.
The side-hinged rear door, complete with full-sized spare wheel on the back, opens nice and wide to offer easy access to the loading bay. Having the two rear doors on the 110 is also useful to gain access to anything behind the seats.
There are a number of storage compartments scattered throughout the vehicle, including a practical glovebox, cup holders, deep door bins, a sunglasses holder and some trays.
Our test car featured an optional electrically deployable tow bar, costing £1,130 and the vehicle can pull a trailer or horsebox weighing up to 3.5 tonnes.
When production of the Defender models as we knew them came to a halt, builders, farmers and other workers who had become so dependent on the vehicles were left hanging. So, the arrival of the latest hard top versions of both the 90 and 110 will come as welcome news.
What will not be so welcome is the asking price. Admittedly, everything about the new Defender Hard Top line-up is better and more accomplished, but the price-tag for what was once deemed a working vehicle has climbed quite steeply these days.
The 110 Hard Top range starts from £43,012 (excluding VAT), but our model, in mid-trim SE guise, was priced at £63,315 – a cost that increased to £72,460 with a number of optional extras factored in.
According to official figures, under stricter WLTP testing, our vehicle could deliver a combined 29.5mpg with carbon emissions of 251g/km.
As the Defender 110 Hard Top qualifies as a commercial vehicle it has the standard set Vehicle Excise Duty fee of £275 for the first year. In addition, the Benefit in Kind rate for business users is based on a standard flat rate of £3,500.
The vehicle is classed as insurance group 45E.
Quality & Reliability
Land Rover proudly displays its Above and Beyond logo at every opportunity and that’s because its vehicles are designed and engineered to tackle the most demanding terrain. Once again, there is no doubt whatsoever that the Defender 110 Hard Top is as tough as they come when off-road challenges are thrown in its path – just like the many Defender and Series models that went before.
In fact, the Hard Top name has been associated with go-anywhere capabilities ever since those first Land Rover Hard Tops were introduced 70 years ago, complete with a removable roof. But that was then and this is now.
With a view to wipe-clean practicality, there are high-sided rubber mats for the footwells and the loadspace area, all of which can easily be wiped clean or hosed down if they are particularly grubby.
Occupants are separated from the cargo bay thanks to a fixed full-height partition which also protects the backs of the seats from being damaged.
Like Defenders of old, the 110 Hard Top has grab handles for easy access or just for the passenger to cling onto while venturing off road, and the hard surfaces throughout the vehicle have been designed with longevity and durability in mind.
For peace of mind, the Defender 110 Hard Top features Land Rover’s three-year, unlimited mileage warranty.
Safety & Security
Just like its smaller Defender 90 Hard Top sibling, the Defender 110 Hard Top boasts a comprehensive list of safety equipment and driver assistance aids to help protect occupants, pedestrians and other road users as well as helping to prevent or reduce the severity of an accident.
As standard, the vehicle has emergency braking, lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition and adaptive speed limiter, wade sensing, cruise control with speed limiter, a 3D surround camera, a 360-degree parking aid, plus a driver condition monitor.
The high-end SE model also gains Land Rover’s clever ClearSight Rear View camera, front fog lights, front passenger Isofix fixtures, a blind spot assist pack and Matrix LED headlights.
Options included electronic active differential with torque vectoring by braking costing £1,020, and a secure tracker Pro system that added £745 to the final price-tag.