The New Land Rover Defender Can Climb Every Mountain and Ford Every Stream

Musical quotes aside, the new Land Rover Defender, is phenomenally good.

21w ago

It doesn’t matter which way you look at it, the sequel to the original will always be a hard act to follow. Take cinema for example. Sometimes the sequel is just as good as the original, like The Godfather Part II, which was a well-executed second act following The Godfather Part 1.

Sometimes the sequel is even better than the original, look at Terminator 2, following Arnie’s big screen debut in The Terminator. However, sometimes the sequel is just plain awful, like Dumb and Dumber To, following the iconic Dumb and Dumber.

Anyway, movie references aside, the sequel to the original Land Rover Defender has been a long time coming, and with the original treasured by Landie fanatics and the off road faithful, the pressure was on JLR to perform. So, after years of anticipation, we have a new Land Rover Defender, and its good, really good.

The new Land Rover Defender 110 is the sole model offered right now. According to Jaguar Land Rover NZ, the smaller, and equally anticipated two-door Defender 90 should arrive in New Zealand from the first quarter of 2021. So, for now, its 110 or nothing.

The base 110 D200 starts the Defender range off at $89,990. Under the bonnet sits a 2.0L four-cylinder twin turbo diesel engine with 147kW and 430Nm of torque. The next one up is the 110 S D240, which gets the same engine but with added grunt at 177kW. Torque however is the same at 430Nm and the price sits $107,900.

Then you get the 110 SE, which you can have with a choice of three power-units. The D240 engine from the S reappears, which means a fuel consumption figure of 7.6L/100km. The SE is also the first rung on the family ladder to get petrol power. The P300 2.0L four-cylinder turbo petrol engine produces 221kW/400Nm and costs the same as the D240, $114,900.

The most powerful Defender donk is easily the P400. This puts out a fairly substantial 294kW and a hefty 550Nm of torque thanks to a 3.0L turbocharged six-cylinder MHEV petrol engine. This also means a top whack of 208km/h and a zero to 100km/h in six seconds.

The top dog in the Defender kennel is the 110 X and is only available with that aforementioned turbo six, and with added toys, it will set you back the most, at $164,900. All models get an eight-speed automatic gearbox sending the power to all four wheels, of course.

Anyway, that basically sums up the family, lets get stuck in, no pun intended into my test car, the 110 SE D240. When you see the new Defender for the first time, you notice it appears somewhat a larger than it does in photos. At 5,018mm long, and 2,009mm wide, the new Defender is certainly not the scaled down rough roader it appears in pictures.

The styling of the new Defender has been somewhat divisive in the eyes of fans and casual observers. Personally, I think its stunning, offering subtle stylistic throwbacks to Defender and Land Rover heritage, while still looking forward and modern. My favourite aspects of the design would have to be angular 90-degree rear and taillight cluster, it just looks the business.

Up front the 110 SE gets premium LED headlights with signature DRL, in fact you can still see hints of old Defender around its chops, such as the headlights themselves and the imitation metal details on the bonnet. Clean cut 20-inch five-spoke are adorned by a set of Ranger rubber and the full-size spare wheel is icing on the four-wheel drive cake.

Inside, everything feels very much upmarket, but with an incessant feeling of durability mixed in. Much like the old car, the new Defender’s insides contain plenty of materials and trim pieces which could handle muddy foot prints and the odd knock. It feels great. Plus, with plenty of storage areas, oodles of head and legroom, a plethora of charging points, and things to grab onto, you will be handling the rough stuff in spacious comfort.

One feature found within my test SE was the ClearSight interior rear-view mirror. Basically, if your defender has been packed to the rafters with whatever in the back seats, naturally your rear view will be somewhat obscured. However, flicking the adjust lever behind said mirror activates a rear mounted camera, giving you a crystal-clear view on what you would normally see when unladen. Very clever indeed.

The Defender comes standard with a very slick infotainment screen, which happens to be very user friendly and easy to operate. It seems to dominate the centre console above the air con controls and trademark JLR bionic arm style gear lever. Standard tech includes 360 degree parking camera with 3D surround, lane keep assist, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Air suspension which I will touch more on in a moment or two, and digital analogue dials.

My SE got extra goodies like the Driver Assistance pack. This contained Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Assist, Clear Exit Monitor, Rear Traffic Monitor and Rear Pre-Collision Assist. The optional Meridian 400W sound system with 10 speaker and sub also provided the closest audible experience one could have to seeing Led Zeppelin live. These options are great but I kind of wish more stuff came as standard.

The Defender can seat five adults plus two in comfort, while that plus two arrangement can be deleted to reveal a most capacious boot of 857L. Fold down the rear seats and this increases to a whopping 1946L. While the skies the limit when it comes to spec’ing your Defender up with options, the thing I was keen to find out more about was this. Can the Defender carry on the legacy of its predecessor by being an off the beaten track hero? Let’s find out.

Setting off on my Defender off road odyssey, you notice how maneuverable the new fella is at speed. It honestly doesn’t feel as big once you get going. Electric power steering, though lacking in feel, is light and can still reign in this shire horse with ease. Land Rover claim a turning circle of 12.84M kerb to kerb and 2.7 turns lock to lock. Plus, thanks to that air suspension, ride comfort deserves to be commended too.

Give it some welly and that 2.0L twin turbo diesel four pot brings the horizon closer with a gradual surge. It won’t be partaking in any face bending acceleration, but a linear torque curve and low-down power means you can make brisk progress if need be.

Right, tarmac out of the way, time for some off roading around the Waimakiriri and Ashley Riverbed. Press down on the left aircon toggle switch and you can access the Defender’s Terrain Response modes. Cycle left or right to choose between gravel, mud, sand, rock and wading. It was the wading aspect I was keen to try out first.

Activate wade sense and a picture appears depicting where the water level is at any given time to the car. Venturing into the flowing streams of the Ashley River, I couldn’t quite manage the 900mm maximum wade depth, but with the ease the Defender could manage it, before emerging on the opposite bank was staggering.

While the Defender’ standard ride height is 218mm, once you play with Terrain Response modes, this is increased to 291mm, which helps things considerably. It does feel odd though cycling through low range, down hill descent and off-road modes via the computer, whereas the old car, it was far more analogue.

With front and rear diffs locked in place and low range applied, the Defender made mincemeat over every riverbank and rocky incline. Even the steepest 45-degree angles don’t seem to flummox it. It just hangs there like Spiderman.

After a few days of frolicking around in all manners of terrain, on and off the beaten track, the new Defender did nothing but impress. Honestly, I was a bit half and half on it when JLR pulled the covers off, but all apprehension was quickly dashed by just how capable this new Defender is.

The outgoing car will always be remembered fondly, but despite being a tad pricey, the new Land Rover Defender is very possibly one of the most staggering off-road vehicles I have driven in a long time. We could very well have a new benchmark here

The sequel is just as good as the original, and it may just be even better

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Comments (14)

  • If it doesn’t break down first. I love Land Rovers but they are totally unreliable. I have had two but would never run one without a warranty.

      5 months ago
  • Here's the thing I don't like about the Defender...It's trying to be a luxury SUV and capable off-roader at the same time. I thought they already have the Discovery for that kind of thing, and the Range Rover offers even more luxury and is also very capable. I don't get the point for stuffing that much "luxury" into a Defender just for the sake of the Land Rover badge and in the process get the price so high that people wouldn't take it off-road, or at least I think 90% of the people won't bring it to anywhere more than the places shown in the pictures above. But let's be real here, you don't even need a SUV to do that kind of "off-roading", a A4 Allroad can handle that plenty well.

      5 months ago
    • I agree, wonder how much one costly if you stripped it back to the basics.

        5 months ago
    • I like it but it’s true what you say about the discovery. But by far the majority of customers demand a high level of luxury. Stripping it down would just give you the base model. Many reviewers have mentioned that it will harm Discovery sales:...

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        5 months ago
  • Am I the only one who thinks it looks more like a Discovery than a Defender?

      5 months ago
  • I’m looking forward to seeing the 90. I think its proportions will be better, and it will fill its brief better at a better price point. I like the way they look.

      5 months ago
    • I'm the same Adam. The 90 should be a good un

        5 months ago
    • Yes. I’m pretty sure it will be way more popular here in the U.K. it’s easily big enough for most people.

        5 months ago
  • Im not sure yet about the defender, but I think we should start reviewing cars like these for what they are: City cars and Highway cruisers, not Off-Roaders, they just are to expensive for that. Lets face it, these cars are never gonna see mud, and are not very good when they see it either. I get it, it is great marketing, but Off-roading is not what they were designed for. They can pretend they were by sending them through prepared courses, that you would be able to finish in any beater car, except for maybe wading, which nobody in the history of the world ever needed. As JLR wants to sell you a highway cruiser thing it should be handled a such. Even if we just compare it to similarly priced SUVs I think there are options that are better than the defender, except boot space, in almost every aspect, the VW Touareg for example.

    I know that people want to buy in on the life style, but it really doesnt make sense

      5 months ago