2020 Land Rover Defender: The Defending Champion
Is the new Defender a true Defender?
The legend is back, but this time it's under a new guise. Meet the new Land Rover, maybe one of the most important cars of the year. Gone is the popular original boxy off-roader, the new car is 100% different, and the only thing that remains is the name. Since its beginnings in 1948, the Defender had never fundamentally changed, so Land Rover really took their time to develop an entirely new car. Through the years, the British manufacturer learned to make some of the best off-roaders ever, and the Defender always stayed the benchmark. Hate it or love it, the benchmark has been perfected and modified to fit modern times. But a true question remains; is the new Defender still a Defender? Did Land Rover manage to keep the true essence of what makes the Defender, a Defender?
They have done it! Land Rover has done the unthinkable by replacing the iconic Defender. I can already hear the purists cry. Less utilitarian, and more modern, the new Defender is more Knightsbridge than Paris-Dakar. Good, or bad thing? Sure, we will miss the design, simplicity, and ruggedness of the old truck. But, no surprise here, the new car is just better than the one car in every way.
I've driven the old Defender, and I must admit that it wasn't really my cup of tea. It was uncomfortable, slow, astonishingly tiny inside, and just terrible to drive. On the other hand, I truly enjoyed the roughness and the cool factor. Indeed, there is only one thing that you want to be doing with such a car, and that is exploring. For me, these were the two things I absolutely wanted to see again in the new car.
When Land Rover unveiled the Defender in 2019, I immediately fell in love with the design. It's a shame the old design went away, but just think how complicated it is today for a manufacturer to design a car that responds accordingly to safety and environmental regulations. It's horribly complicated to replace a car that marked history. Sometimes it works (Fiat 500), sometimes it doesn't (New Beetle). Therefore, I think Land Rover did a pretty good job of making a car that pays tribute to an icon.
And I kind of think it looks like a Defender. At least a modern interpretation of it. It's completely modern while keeping some bits that will remind you of the old one, and it works It's still boxy, and it still has a spare tire placed on the tailgate, yet the Defender now has some subtle curvy lines. Revolution! Just like in the old days, the Defender has two variants. You can either go with the 3-door version (90), or the 5-door one (110).
As mentioned above, the new Defender is now a better car than the original car ever was. Yes, the car was adored by many, but nobody bought them. Land Rover wanted to change that and make a car that would be better to drive on and off the road. Now equipped with air suspensions as standard, the Def' is now a joy to drive on the road, and the car will rise or decline depending on the driving setting you're in. It's also paired to a chassis that is so good that it will make you forget that it is a hardcore off-roader. Unlike in the old Defender, turns are no longer a nightmare, and the car is just beautiful to drive. The car we received had the D240 engine. A range-topping 2.0-litre 4-cylinder diesel that makes 240 horsepower. A very potent engine that feels quite quick. Paired with an 8-speed automatic gearbox, the shifts are smooth and make the overall ride in this car even more comfortable. Even though Switzerland is anti-offroad, we did manage to take the Defender a little bit of the beaten track. It wasn't hardcore, but we could still feel that no obstacle seems to be a problem for this car. The car stays comfortable and stable under any circumstances, and you feel confident while doing it.
You jump inside and quickly realize that this is not a luxury SUV. It's all cut to (modern) essentials. You still get a screen on the center console, but it's beautifully integrated and doesn't take too much space. By the way, it's a rather excellent infotainment system, that is actually much better than the ones you find in the rest of the Land Rover range. It's responsive, intuitive, and it just works well. The rest of the cabin feels solid and durable. Instead of regular plastics, Land Rover has placed a lot of rubber. It may not feel very premium, but the point is that it should last longer. The same idea goes with the seats. Yes, there's leather but there is also durable cloth that surrounds them so that they don't get destroyed every time you get in with your work pants. I really like this interior, and it's a nice back to "basics". There are the essentials like climate control, cruise control, etc. However, there isn't too much, and that's quite refreshing.
Let's talk about the difficult stuff now: The price. It starts at around £40K for a base 90, and the price tag can quickly rise if you start ticking boxes in the options list. Our car was a 110 "First Edition", so it was quite packed with features, such as the Explorer Pack which includes an external box and a snorkel. In terms of cost, we are talking about £74 grand, and that's just for a 240 horsepower diesel.
However, apart from that, I must say that I'm a big fan of the new Defender. In fact, it might just be my car of the year, and even maybe my favorite 4x4 ever. I'm just not a huge fan of SUVs in general, but a rugged, nearly stripped-out, yet comfortable off-roader like this one makes sense for me. The new Defender takes all the good stuff from the old one and makes the package more usable and better. The purists will hate it, but it's true that the old car could not just go on. Land Rover did a terrific job of trying to keep it as authentic as possible while bringing some modernity. Good job Land Rover, I could totally see this one on the road for another 72 years.
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Land Rover Defender D240