Media Land Rover

The Land Rover Defender returns with modern styling and tech

The Land Rover Defender has been resurrected as a very different SUV.

The all-new off-roader debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show on Tuesday with a modern look that shares little more than its boxy silhouette with the previous edition, which ended production in 2016 after a 33-year run and was last sold in the U.S. in 1997.

Unlike the original body-on-frame truck, the 2020 Defender is built on an aluminum unibody chassis and rides on a fully independent suspension, similar to the brand’s other utility vehicles, in an effort to blend on-road refinement with off-road capability.

The Defender is launching with the four-door 110 model at a base price of $50,925, while a two-door 90 will follow at a lower point of entry. Five passenger seating is standard and an optional front jump seat that doubles as the center armrest can expand that to six. The 110 is also available in a seven-passenger configuration with a small two-seat third row.

Roughly the same length as the Jeep Wranglers they will do battle against, the Defenders feature slick bodywork that contrasts with the military-inspired styling of both the American competition and its own predecessor and does not have a removable roof. Optional equipment can be added to give it a more rugged appearance, however, including wheel arch protectors, a roof rack, roof ladder and cargo carriers that mount over the rear side windows and function like motorcycle saddlebags. A pressurized water tank for rinsing off dirty gear and air compressor are also included with some trim packages.

The U.S. market Defenders will be offered initially with the choice between a 296 hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a mild hybrid 395 hp 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder with electric motor assist. Fuel economy figures have not been determined, but all 110s will be able to tow up to 8,201 pounds or carry a payload of 1,984 pounds.

The Defender’s all-wheel-drive system comes with a two-speed locking center differential while off-road-focused models add a rear axle lock. An optional air suspension system can increase the Defender’s ground clearance from 8.6 inches to 11.5 inches and give it the ability to wade through water up to 35.4 inches deep. Land Rover says the Defender is also capable of climbing, descending and traversing 45-degree grades.

The Defender gets a digital instrument cluster and single central display with the automaker’s latest infotainment system, which can display a virtual view from under the vehicle and water depth information provided by ultrasonic sensors. A video-equipped rearview mirror provides a feed directly from the tailgate that bypasses the heads of passengers and gear. The cabin is trimmed in upscale materials like leather strips on the dashboard and wood rails flanking the center console, but also has body-colored inserts on the door panels for a utilitarian touch.

The order books are open now for Defender 110 deliveries beginning next spring.