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Land Rover Defender (2019 - )

There’s no denying the fact that the Defender 110 is an awesome piece of kit that will take on the threat of a potential global disaster and come out a winner. It just cannot be stopped.

Starting price:
£79,875 (before options)

Why we love it:
  • Gorgeous styling with a very strong road presence
  • Boasts unbelievable off-road ability
  • Surprisingly refined on-road with dynamic handling
Where it could be better:
  • Expensive to buy and quite thirsty
  • Has the Defender lost its traditional ‘workhorse’ status
  • The company has experienced some reliability issues
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Introduction

Land Rover Defender

The Land Rover Defender has always been one of the global leaders when it comes to conquering off-road challenges. The ‘old’ model was renowned for its versatility over the decades and was easy to modify with many vehicles ending up on game reserves, in the fire service (complete with ladders) or being stretched and raised to unbelievable scales – some even became amphibious.

But that was the old Defender and the plug was finally pulled on its hand-built production line in 2016 as the high costs and stricter emissions rules were making it unsustainable to keep the story running.

After a brief interlude, new Defender was launched in 2019 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It lacks some of the quirky detailing, but still keeps true to many of its design roots, especially the front end with trademark circular headlights and the flat back end.

There is the two-door Defender 90, four-door Defender 110 which is available with five, six or seven seats, an eight-seater Defender 130 and also a Defender Hardtop for commercial use. And then there is a choice of trims and powertrains to consider with diesel and petrol versions along with a plug-in hybrid called the P400e.

We opted for the Defender 110 which is available in grades called X-Dynamic S, X-Dynamic SE, X-Dynamic HSE, XS Edition and X. We chose  the X-Dynamic HSE P400e PHEV version with five seats for our test drive.

Land Rover Defender

Few cars I have tested in recent years have attracted so much attention from neighbours as the four-door Defender 110. It looks so imposing stretching more than five metres with a full-sized spare wheel on the back door and the Tasman Blue paint looks simply sublime.

Design cues include a very distinctive front end that manages to stay true to original Defender roots with its round light clusters. But the 2023/24 model also features Matrix headlights, privacy glass, a side-hinged tailgate, a black contrast roof, sliding panoramic roof, a centre-mounted stop light, black roof rails, LED tail lights, privacy glass, X-Dynamic and P400 badging, plus striking 20-inch Satin Dark Grey alloy wheels.

Climb inside, with the use of grab handles if needed, and you are greeted by a thoroughly modern cabin that is beautifully laid out and features a wealth of on-board technology to explore. There are 14-way heated and cooled electric memory front seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel that can also be heated, plus a 11.4-inch touchscreen which is the car’s nerve centre. 

This is where features such as the premium Meridian surround sound system is accessed, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, DAB radio, navigation and plenty more besides.

There are separate dials for the climate control adjustments, along with a clear driver display screen showing all the vital data such as speed, navigation instructions and EV range etc. 

A ClearSight interior rearview mirror offers a live camera-view of what’s going on behind the vehicle, although I’m not a big fan of these as they can be quite distracting, so it’s reassuring to know it can easily be flicked back to a more traditional view.

All the controls are perfectly positioned for ease of use on the move and it’s good to see some robust, easy-clean surfaces within the cabin too. After all, there may be some owners out there who will use the vehicle in a working environment where spills are par for the course.

On The Road

Land Rover Defender

Handling & Performance

With its 300PS four-cylinder, 2.0-litre ingenium petrol engine along with a 104kW electric motor powered by a 19.2kWh battery, the Defender 110 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) can deliver a pure electric-only driving range of 27 miles with a full petrol/electric range of 472 miles – that’s the exact distance from London to Dundee.

The total combined output is 404hp with 640Nm of torque and it can complete the 0-62mph dash in a blisteringly fast 5.6 seconds and onto a top speed of 119mph. Not bad for a vehicle weighing in at more than 2.5 tonnes that can wade through water up to 900mm deep.

Out on the open road, the Defender 110 is beautifully composed and refined – in fact it is everything the pre-2016 models weren’t. It’s comfortable and really quiet even when driven at 70mph on motorways, where barely a sound filters through into the cabin.

And, despite its high-sided design, its actually well-balanced when faced with more testing country lanes, and that elevated seating position offers excellent visibility across the hedgerows.

Acceleration through the automatic transmission is smooth and responsive and, although there are no paddles to change gears manually, the high-mounted gear lever can be switched across to a Sport mode and used for this purpose.

By default, the vehicle starts up in Hybrid mode which offers a combination of petrol and electric power for optimum efficiency, while there is a Save mode to hold a charge or an EV-only option.

In addition, drive modes alter the dynamics of the car and the Terrain Response function also has a number of settings to cope with the likes of sand, rocks, mud, gravel and other more challenging situations. Although we stuck firmly to the Tarmac on this venture, we have previously experienced the off-roading qualities of the Defender where no terrain seemed to faze it in the slightest.

Although it feels quite bulky in busier town centre settings, the Defender 110 is deceptively agile and has all manner of sensors and cameras to make city driving easier.

Land Rover Defender

Space & Practicality

The Defender 110 is simply massive stretching 5,018mm in length (including full sized spare wheel on the back door), 2,105mm wide including mirrors and 1,967mm tall with a wheelbase of 3,022mm.

The interior is exceptionally spacious with ample room for five adults to sit comfortably even if the front seats are pushed well back.

Access to the boot or storage area is via a side-hinged rear door and there is space for 1,075 litres of kit, increasing to 2,380 if you drop the split-folding rear seats.

Elsewhere, a non-slip shelf stretches almost two-thirds of the dashboard and there’s a whole host of compartments to tuck away bits and pieces. These include a very deep central cubby bin, trays, a lockable glovebox, front and rear cup holders, door pockets and seat back nets. There is also a large non-slip area beneath the central console for bigger items.

Our test model featured cream-coloured upholstery which certainly looked upmarket, but could quickly get grubby and would not really be suitable if the vehicle is to be used for anything other than a means of transport. But obviously more practical shades are available.

The Defender 110 can pull a trailer or caravan weighing up to three tonnes, has an off-road ride height clearance of 290mm reduced to 218mm on road, with an approach angle of 37.5 degrees and departure angle of 40 degrees.

Charging the Defender 110’s 19.2kWh battery to 80 per cent takes about two hours via a standard 7kW wallbox or 30 minutes if using a rapid DC charger. 

Ownership

Land Rover Defender

Running Costs

The Defender 110 line-up costs from £72,205 for the X-Dynamic S model and increases to £92,455 for the X grade. Our Defender 110 P400e X-Dynamic HSE was priced at £79,875 although a number of optional extras saw the final price-tag climb to £84,150. 

These included stunning Tasman Blue paintwork costing £895, Matrix LED headlights with signature daytime running lights at £760, an advanced Off-Road Pack that introduced All Terrain Progress Control, Terrain Response 2 and a Configurable Terrain Response (£1,070), along with an enhanced torque vectoring system and a wi-fi plan.

According to official figures, under WLTP testing, the Defender 110 we drove can deliver up to 85.3mpg, although this would only ever be achievable if the battery was kept fully charged and the vehicles was driven in EV-only mode for much of the time. Realistically, expect to see about 30mpg on a varied driving route.

The official carbon emissions figure is between 74g/km and 88g/km and this would result in a first year road tax bill of £130 increasing to the standard fee for hybrid cars of £170 after 12 months. However, there are further costs to consider. Because the Defender 110 P400e costs in excess of £40,000 there is a government premium car levy to pay too, which equates to an extra £390 for five years from years two to six.

The vehicle, as tested, has a Benefit in Kind tax rating of 20/21 per cent for any business owners and it sits in insurance group 43.

Verdict

Land Rover Defender

There’s no denying the fact that the Defender 110 is an awesome piece of kit that will take on the threat of a potential global disaster and come out a winner. It just cannot be stopped. But, in all honesty, who is ever going to truly explore this vehicle’s true potential?

Yes, there are a few incredibly wealthy people out there who will enjoy getting this Defender 110 off-road, scratched and battered and coated in muck, but not that many will dare venture from the Tarmac and risk scarring their £80k vehicle. And that’s a shame because they will only see a very small fraction of its full capability.

Instead, most vehicles will be regulars on the school run and the furthest they will go off grid is a remote campsite with no wi-fi.

But that said; whatever its use in a day-to-day family lifestyle, the Defender 110 will certainly be a great asset.

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By Maxine Ashford
Sep 19, 2023

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