On the road

Land Rover Defender 110 P400 SE

Does Land Rover’s all-new Defender 4x4 live up to the legend of its iconic predecessor?

Reinventing an automotive icon is never easy. A few nameplates, such as the Porsche 911 and Ford Mustang, created their enduring legacy through successive iterations of the original. Others, such as Volkswagen’s 1997 New Beetle and BMW’s Mini Hatch of 2000, drew on little more than design cues from their legendary predecessors. 

British marque Land Rover chose the latter path with its all-new Defender 4x4, boldly ending 67 years of continuous production of Land Rover Series and Defender models in January 2016, before revealing the all-new Defender in September 2019. 

Front interior console of Landrover Defender
 
Steering wheel of Land Rover Defender
  

Australian fans had to wait even longer to see the Defender, which arrived here in August 2020 in five-door 110 form and with petrol and diesel powertrains. The latter sold out quickly, so until the three-door Defender 90 arrives in the second quarter of this year, along with a new six-cylinder twin-turbo diesel and a four-cylinder turbo petrol, the 110 with turbo inline six-cylinder petrol is it, albeit in a range of variants. 

The smooth, responsive six-cylinder model channels 294kW and 550Nm through an eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive to shift the 2418kg Defender from 0-100km/h in a rapid 6.1 seconds. The drivetrain incorporates a mild-hybrid system that powers ancillaries when the vehicle is moving at low speeds, along with an electric supercharger to minimise turbo lag.

If that all sounds high tech for a vehicle designed to traverse the harshest terrains on earth, then that encapsulates the conundrum at the heart of the new Defender. 

Landrover Defender driving through muddy water

The original Series Land Rovers and later Defenders were rugged, basic vehicles, while this new model is underpinned by sophisticated electronic traction aids, variable-height air suspension, and a battery of cameras providing various off-road views. 

Inside and out there are nods to the Defender’s utilitarian roots, including truncated front and rear overhangs, sturdy grab handles and heavy-duty rubber flooring, which contrast with the digital dash and high-tech underpinnings. 

The new model remains immensely capable off-road and its on-road manners are likewise impeccable. But where the old Defender demanded involvement, this new machine is a more aloof driving experience.

 

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