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2020 Land Rover Defender Returns as Jack of All Trades

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By on September 10, 2019

Land Rover’s Defender has returned and, based on the marketing materials furnished by the manufacturer, you’d think every model came with Jesus riding shotgun. The 2020 Defender is all things to all people. Exciting, powerful, comfortable, rugged, efficient, and on the bleeding edge of automotive technology, the new model really gave Land Rover an opportunity to pat itself on the back when it debuted in Frankfurt on Tuesday.

However, we’re not wholly convinced the company deserves to be relentlessly mocked for its enthusiasm — at least not this early in the article. There has been a clear effort made to ensure the off-roader has the broadest appeal possible, which has kind of been the model’s trajectory for as far back as memory allows. Besides, we don’t know for certain that the Defender’s evolution into a Swiss Army Knife is even a problem until we’ve driven one. But there will be a few issues we’ll have to address on principle, especially its move to unibody construction. 

As nice as the new aluminum monocoque is bound to be on road, off-road fanatics are taking to message boards the world over to express their warranted frustration. But perpetual muddin’ isn’t the path Land Rover chose to take and the Defender isn’t exclusively for people who live in large, woodland homes with dirt-track driveways anymore. It’s an urban runabout, chic status symbol, ORV, luxury cruiser, and more.

While still split by size into the four-door 110 and two-door 90 designations (neither of which represent its actual length in inches anymore), Land Rover will also offer four accessory packages for the Defender called Adventure, Country, Explorer and Urban. These packs furnish the model with a diverse array of inclusions that help it establish which part of the world it most wants to conquer.

Adventure adds hard carrying cases to the side of the vehicle and throws an air compressor in the rear. There’s also a water tank that can work in combination with the compressor to spray off any mud that had accumulated during excursions. Mud flaps, scuff plates, and a spare tire cover are also included.

Explorer also gets the brunt of those accessories, minus the air compressor and water tank, whilst adding a roof rack, raised air intake, and larger fender flares.

Country is sort of a bizarro version of the Explorer. It swaps the extra storage (both internal and external) for that air pump and water vessel/sprayer.

Urban focuses on shielding the Defender from potholes and curbs by throwing on some scuff plates in key areas. Mud flaps and cargo features are also absent to ensure a cleaner look. The Urban similarly gussies up the interior slightly but has the least going on overall (making it the cheapest accessory pack). Fortunately, it seems as though you’ll be able to mix-and-match — meaning you can equip the Defender however you’d like.

Now that we’ve gotten the marketing theory behind the new Defender out of the way, let’s look at the platform can actually do. Available engines include a 296 horsepower 2.0-liter turbo with 295 foot-pounds of torque and a 3.0-liter mild hybrid in the inline-six formation. The former will be going into Defenders with the P300 designation while the latter will be slotted into the P400 offering 395 hp and 406 lb-ft. In the Defender 110, those motors are good for a proposed zero-to-60 time of 7.7 and 5.8 seconds respectively. Anticipate examples of the 90, unburdened by accessories, to be about a tenth of a second quicker. Top speed is electronically limited to keep you under 120 mph and, when properly equipped, the automaker said to expect a maximum towing capacity of 8,200 pounds.

Land Rover also said plug-in hybrid and diesel options will be available. Expect more on those powertrains at a later date, probably with us also mentioning the diesels won’t be available in the U.S. All Defenders come with an eight-speed ZF automatic and all-wheel drive. Low range is included, as is a locking center differential and an “Active Rear and Locking Differential” that we’re less certain about. Presumably it’s an automatic locking rear differential with a branded name.

Overhangs are relatively short — yielding approach, breakover and departure angles of 38, 28 and 40 degrees respectively. Ground clearance is 11.45 inches (291 mm) and Land Rover claimed the Defender can ford into waters up to 35.4 inches deep. There’s also been a water-centric Wade program incorporated into its Terrain Response 2 system, which has been upgraded to allow experienced off-roaders to customize their own settings. Fortunately, those less experienced with rocks and mud can choose presets or simply allow the car to figure out the terrain by itself by switching Terrain Response to automatic.

We would be careful not to park it in soft ground, however. Despite using a bunch of lightweight aluminum in the construction, the 2020 Defender is a bit of a pig. Two-door 90s with the 3.0-liter engine aren’t terribly far from 5000 lbs and you’ll easily have surpassed that mark if you option the larger model with a 5+2 seating configuration.

Pricing is pretty steep. The 110 is currently the only model Land Rover feels confident selling in North America and it starts at $49,900 before tacking on the $1,025 destination charge. That comes with the base 2.0-liter motor, white 18-inch steelies (which are actually kind of cool), and a decent amount of tech. Navigation is included and all models’ 10-inch multimedia screens come with a online/data plan by default. Land Rover is also hyping its new Pivi Pro infotainment system’s over-the-air updates, suggesting they would “provide the latest software at all times, anywhere in the world.” We’re not sure why the Defender would need this but… it has it.

We’re imagining most people won’t settle for the base model, though. Unfortunately, optioning the 3.0-liter motor immediately tacks on $12,350 and those purposeful accessory packages can add another few hundred (for the Urban) or a few thousand (for the Explorer). That’s all before you start getting into driver assistance packages, wheel options, off-road packs, paint options, and any accessories you might have missed — like bench seats up front, pet packages, an inflatable awning, and personalized tread plates. Just be careful, it’s not a lot of work to get the Defender’s price dangerously close to $100,000 and a lot of those accessories are pretty tempting.

[Images: Jaguar Land Rover]

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