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Land Rover Defender Pros and Cons Review: Surprise, Surprise

Land Rover Defender Pros and Cons Review: Surprise, Surprise

Pros

  • Incredible ride
  • Fabulous design
  • Great inline-six engine

Cons

  • Some interior cheapness
  • Tiny third row
  • Build quality concerns

Perhaps as a result of being deprived of the Land Rover Defender in America since 1998, we were unsure what to expect with this new one. A few of our staff members have some experience with the old one and features editor Christian Seabaugh got to drive the new version 500-miles across Namibia (insert jealously induced expletive here), but by and large the big silver truck with the fanny pack hanging off the side was a stranger. It was much better than we expected.

“Shock of all shocks,” says senior editor Scott Evans said. “The off-road truck with the giant knobby tires rides really well over all the rough pavement. All the travel in the suspension and all the squish in the sidewalls makes this thing ride really well.”

Perhaps Scott is being tongue in cheek, but if you’ve spent any time in an old Defender, you know it does not ride well. Even if you put the thing on giant knobby tires. Every judge registered their surprise at the excellence of the new Defender’s ride quality, with that lucky jerk Seabaugh putting a finer point on things by telling us how refreshed he felt even after a long day of off-roading across Africa.

We didn’t see this coming. “Ooh baby, that air suspension,” said head of editorial Ed Loh said. The comfy ride didn’t mean the big Land Rover was bad to drive, either, as plush suspensions can also result in unchecked body motions that affect handling. As Evans noted, “The Defender really does handle surprisingly well for such a massive and tall truck.”

Nor did we expect to fall head over heels for the 3.0-liter Ingenium inline-six. “What an awesome engine,” Buyer’s Guide director Zach Gale crowed. With 395 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, the six-cylinder has more than enough power to motivate the Defender’s 5,719 pounds of mass. “It feels quick,” said Seabaugh. “The engine is responsive, and thanks to that electric supercharger, it’s very nearly lag-free, making power all the way to fuel cut-off. I’m more impressed with the transmission though; not only is the gearing great, but the programming is responsive and smart.”

We loved the design, both outside and especially inside. Starting with the outside, senior editor Miguel Cortina said, “Every angle reveals a cool-looking SUV.” Even when trying to diss the looks, we just couldn’t do it. From Evans, “I’m not sure how I feel about the styling, because it does look cartoony to me, but it’s also so fun and looks ready to play. It’s certainly a standout, and in some ways I see a lot of advancement in design.”

The inside of the Defender impressed us even more. “Inside, everything is chunky and blocky, all big buttons and squared off fonts,” editor-in-chief Mark Rechtin noted. “And yet it’s elegant. Just check out the exposed bolts on the door cards—they’re there for a precise purpose, a function, but their form is beautiful.” Plus, the front and middle rows were surprisingly spacious. The same cannot be said for the 10-and-under third row, however.

Perhaps most shocking of all to us was the base price: $47,450 for the new-for-2021 2-door Defender 90, and $51,850 for the 4-door 110. However, at those 2021-model-year prices you get a 296-hp turbo inline-4 instead of the mighty straight-6, and coil springs in place of the lovely air suspension. None of which we were able to test for this competition. Even still, the money buys you a lot of off-roadable SUV.

Some corners were cut however; most notably some of the interior plastics felt a bit downmarket, specifically the stuff lining the rear compartment. Also, we’re leery of Land Rover’s notoriously spotty build quality, and our truck had a rattle in the middle seat, an insistently buzzing roof rack, and a frozen satellite radio. Land Rover assures us that these were the result of this Defender being an early build and because of supply-chain disruption from the global health crisis. We sure hope that’s the case.

2020 Land Rover Defender 110 SE
DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT Front-engine, 4WD
ENGINE TYPE Turbocharged/e-supercharged I-6, alum block/head, plus electric motor
VALVETRAIN DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
DISPLACEMENT 182.8 cu in/2,996 cc
COMPRESSION RATIO 10.5:1
POWER (SAE NET) 395 hp @ 5,500 rpm (gas) + 10 hp (est elec); 395 hp (comb)
TORQUE (SAE NET) 406 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm (gas) + 55 lb-ft (elec); 406 lb-ft (comb)
REDLINE 6,800 rpm
WEIGHT TO POWER 14.5 lb/hp
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE/LOW RATIO 3.55:1/2.27:1/2.93:1
SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR Control arms, air springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, air springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar
STEERING RATIO 12.6-17.6:1
TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK 2.8
BRAKES, F; R 14.3-in vented disc; 13.8-in vented disc, ABS
WHEELS 8.5 x 20-in cast aluminum
TIRES 255/60R20 113H M+S Goodyear Wrangler LR
DIMENSIONS
WHEELBASE 119.0 in
TRACK, F/R 67.1/66.9 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 187.3 x 78.6 x 77.4-80.3 in
GROUND CLEARANCE 8.6-11.5 in
APPRCH/DEPART ANGLE 30.1-37.5/37.7-40.0  deg
TURNING CIRCLE 42.1 ft
CURB WEIGHT 5,719 lb
WEIGHT DIST, F/R 49/51%
TOWING CAPACITY 8,200 lb
SEATING CAPACITY 7
HEADROOM, F/M/R 40.6/40.4/40.7 in
LEGROOM, F/M/R 39.1/38.4/20.5 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/M/R 60.8/59.2/48.3 in
CARGO VOLUME BEH F/M/R 69.0/34.6/11.4 cu ft
TEST DATA
ACCELERATION TO MPH
0-30 2.1 sec
0-40 3.3
0-50 4.7
0-60 6.5
0-70 8.4
0-80 10.9
0-90 13.8
0-100 17.4
PASSING, 45-65 MPH 3.6
QUARTER MILE 14.9 sec @ 93.2 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 129 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.67 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 30.1 sec @ 0.54 g (avg)
TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH 1,500 rpm
CONSUMER INFO
BASE PRICE $63,600
PRICE AS TESTED $82,575
STABILITY/TRACTION CONTROL Yes/Yes
AIRBAGS 6: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain
BASIC WARRANTY 4 yrs/50,000 miles
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY 4 yrs/50,000 miles
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE 4 yrs/50,000 miles
FUEL CAPACITY 23.8 gal
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON 17/22/19 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 198/153 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.02 lb/mile
RECOMMENDED FUEL Unleaded premium

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