It's back: new 2020 Land Rover Defender reinvents the icon
Reinventing the Land Rover Defender, a car that accounts for Land Rover’s name and heritage, has been a tortuous exercise – one so long that it outlasted the original version of the vehicle, which ceased production in 2016. But Land Rover is hoping that a mix of improved off-road ability and considerable gains in everyday usability, refinement and packaging will help to widen the Defender’s appeal.
The new model – which forms the third ‘family’ in the Land Rover line-up, alongside Range Rover and Discovery – is based on a fresh aluminium-intensive platform called D7x. The chassis is described by Land Rover as 95 per cent new, and the firm claims its monocoque construction is the stiffest body structure it has ever produced – up to three times stiffer than body-on-frame designs.
Described by Land Rover’s Chief Design Officer Gerry McGovern as a car that “is respectful of its past, but not harnessed by it”, the new model retains the iconic Defender side profile, as well as familiar cues like the ‘Alpine’ windows in the roof and a spare wheel mounted on the side-hinged tailgate.
The new Defender is initially available as a long-wheelbase 110, with five doors and the choice of five, six or seven seats. A short-wheelbase, three-door 90 will follow by the end of this year, and these vehicles will be joined by a pair of commercial editions in 2020. Leaked documents also suggest that Land Rover is working on an even bigger ‘130’ edition that could have a larger rear overhang and seat up to eight.
The new Defender is longer than the last car with better ground clearance. The design allows a longer wheelbase that addresses one of the old car’s biggest flaws: interior packaging.
Every Defender will be four-wheel drive, and all 110 variants will come with air suspension as standard. The 90 will get a simpler coil set-up, although air will be optional across the 90 range and included on the top trim level.
Every version of the Defender will have an eight-speed automatic gearbox equipped with a twin-speed transfer box that offers low-range ratios for towing and extreme off-roading. The shifter is mounted on the dashboard, which allows an optional central third front seat. This feature, which means the car can carry six people in just two rows, is unique in the class – and when the middle front seat isn’t in use, it folds over to become an armrest and storage area.
New Land Rover Defender: interior design
While the exterior has retained enough of the iconic Defender profile, the cabin mixes some of the durability of the old car with modern infotainment and packaging that should make it far more appealing to a wider audience.
The dashboard is dominated by an exposed magnesium cross beam, a functional component that helps the rigidity of the body structure. It incorporates grab handles to help those climbing aboard, and gives them something to hold on to during more extreme off-roading.
The frame incorporates Land Rover’s latest infotainment system, Pivi Pro, which comes with a 10-inch screen, smartphone app integration and a more responsive touchscreen. A 12.3-inch digital instrument panel is standard across the range and all Defenders will feature over-the-air upgrades.
The car is also available with the second generation of Land Rover’s ‘activity key’, the wrist device that allows owners to leave the main key in the vehicle when they’re engaging in pursuits where it could get damaged. The latest version is water-resistant and now incorporates an LCD watch.
Five- and six-seat 110s offer 1,075 litres of luggage space with the second row in place, and more than 2,300 litres with it folded down. The seven-seat edition has 231 litres when the third pair of seats are being used; this expands to 900 litres if they’re folded away and 2,223 litres with only the front seats in use.
New Land Rover Defender: engine range
Switching to the new architecture has allowed Land Rover to fit many of its existing engines to the Defender. The initial line-up will have a pair of petrols, one featuring mild-hybrid tech, and a couple of diesels. There’s a P300 four-cylinder turbo petrol with 296bhp – which is enough to take the Defender from 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds, while emitting 227g/km of CO2.
The two diesels are both four-cylinder units. The D200 has 197bhp for a 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds, while the D240 produces 237bhp and takes 0.8 seconds off that time. Both diesels have the same efficiency figure, though, with NEDC-equivalent CO2 emissions of 199g/km and official fuel economy of 37.2mpg. These figures will change depending on spec and wheel size, however.
There’s also the P400, which mixes a straight-six turbocharged and supercharged petrol motor producing 395bhp with a
belt-integrated starter motor and a 48-volt lithium-ion battery. This is the fastest model in the range, with a 0-62mph time of 6.4 seconds. It returns as much as 29.4mpg and emits as little as 220g/km of CO2.
Land Rover claims that the new Defender is even more capable off road than its predecessors. There’s a new configurable Terrain Response 2 system, allowing drivers to fine-tune the vehicle set-up for specific road and weather conditions. A fresh wade programme increases the car’s ride height via the air suspension, closes the air vents for recirculation to minimise moisture entering the cabin, and keeps the brakes lightly engaged after wading to keep the discs and pads in better condition.
The 110 has approach, breakover and departure angles of 38, 28 and 40 degrees respectively, and its maximum wading depth is 900mm; that’s a full 400mm up on the previous generation.
New Land Rover Defender: trim levels
The entry point of the range, simply badged Defender, has 18-inch steel wheels, a heated windscreen, LED lights, puddle lights, eight-way adjustable heated front seats, and the 10in Pivi Pro infotainment system. This display also incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus Land Rover’s ClearSight Ground View, which uses cameras to show what’s immediately ahead of the vehicle during extreme off-roading.
Defender S editions feature 19-inch alloy wheels, leather on the steering wheel and a centre console with an armrest. SE increases the wheel size to 20 inches and brings premium LED headlights with automatic levelling, blind-spot assist and on the 110, Isofix on the front passenger seat.
HSE is the ‘standard’ range-topper and offers a sliding panoramic glass roof, matrix LED headlights, further adjustment and cooling on the front seats, adaptive cruise control and a rear collision monitor.
There’s also ‘X’, which gets exterior design tweaks, heated rear seats, a black contrast roof, illuminated metal tread plates, Terrain Response 2 and a head-up display. It’s only available with the P400 straight-six mild hybrid powertrain, however.
In addition to these models, there are four themed accessory packs that will be offered. ‘Adventure’ includes a side-mounted gear carrier, an integrated air compressor, mud flaps, a portable rinse system with a pressurised water reservoir, and a backpack built into a rear seat.
‘Country’ adds wheelarch protection and a full-height loadspace partition – but omits the spare wheel cover and the backpack.
The ‘Explorer’ pack brings a raised air intake, a 26kg roof rack, the same gear carrier as ‘Adventure’, wheelarch protection and a spare wheel cover – plus a matte black bonnet decal.
‘Urban’ includes bright-metal pedals, a spare wheel cover, a front undershield and a bright rear scuff plate. It also opens up a range of alloy wheel upgrades, including a 22-inch five-spoke design.
In total, around 170 accessories will be available – and cars can be specced in a choice of seven colours, with some of them available with a satin wrap finish that will protect the paint. There are 12 wheel designs, ranging from 18-inch pressed steel items up to 22-inch alloys.
Prices for the new Defender range will start at £45,240 for a 110 with the D200 diesel – rising to a hefty £78,800 for a P400 X 110. Land Rover has yet to confirm full pricing for the smaller 90, although we do know that its line-up should start at around £40,000. In addition, the Commercial editions of the vehicle, due in 2020, will cost from around £35,000 plus VAT.
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