We’ve ventured off the beaten path in all sorts of vehicles over the years, but one rugged veteran has always stood out, the Land Rover Defender. Now that defender shipped out of the U.S. in 1997, unable to keep up with increasing regulations. Well, the good news, the Defender is back! Now you may think it shares little with the original besides the name, but let’s find out if that’s a good or bad thing.
The Land Rover Defender is quite possibly the world’s most iconic 4X4; yes, even beating out the Jeep Wrangler. The Defender has proven itself just as adept at desert crossings, as it is at forging rivers, and navigating mountain passes. But, 2020 brings an all-new Defender, re-imagined for the 21st century.
As is tradition, there will be two versions, this 4-door 110, and a shorter wheelbase 2-door 90 which will arrive for ’21.
We’ve literally been around the world in Land Rovers over our last 40-years, but of course since the 1990s we’ve mostly been in a Defender. And the last time we were in a 110, it easily surmounted every obstacle we threw at it; yet remained easy to drive in even the toughest of conditions.
And after our recent test run, we feel much the same about this 2020 110; soaking up off-road lumps like a Jag on the freeway.
Helping this Defender work its backwoods magic is a 2-speed transfer case, locking center differential, and an active rear locking diff.
Plus an updated Terrain Response 2 traction management with a new Wade Sensing feature, along with Configurable Terrain Response to dial in the exact kind of assistance you’re looking for.
There are multiple settings to choose from, but we mostly just left it in auto and it seemed to figure things out on its own just fine. Our tester’s 20-inch tires struggled a bit for grip in the sloppiest mud; yet the Defender never got us stuck, or even lost momentum really.
The Defender’s new all-aluminum D7x architecture is the stiffest body structure Land Rover has ever produced; and is apparently so robust that they needed to come up with more intensive testing procedures during development.
Land Rover claims it’s 3 times more rigid than any body-on-frame utility, which allows the fully-independent suspension to do all of the work. So, don’t think for a minute that there’s any penalty to pay for all of that off road prowess.
It’s plenty impressive on the road as well; we’d even say the overall ride was better than other large Land Rovers and even Range Rovers that we’ve tested recently, despite the 20-inch wheels.
Standard engine is a 296-horsepower 2.0-liter I4 turbo; optional is this 3.0-liter I6 turbo with a 48-volt mild-hybrid setup that produces a total of 395-horsepower and 406 lb-ft. of torque.
Combined with the 8-speed automatic, it gets the 110 to 60 in under 6-seconds, and allows for towing a stout 8,200-lbs. We’re not sure if it was done on purpose or not, to befit the rugged nature of the Defender, but the 3.0-liter feels a little rougher around the edges here than what we’ve experienced over on the Range Rover side.
Just as much has changed inside; while not sacrificing durability or practicality. Indeed, the fully digitized, driver changeable instrument display, leather seating, and other luxury amenities on our SE model would certainly be foreign to 1990’s 110 owners.
It’s really a unique space, which we always appreciate; and we’re even more thrilled to see a new Pivi Pro infotainment system.
Weird name, but far more user-friendly than Rover’s previous setup.
Seating areas up front and in back are surprisingly roomy; and there is a 2-place 3rd row option if you need it.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the 3.0-liter are 17-City, 22-Highway, and 19-Combined. Our average, just short of that, at 18.5 miles-per-gallon on Premium.
For a worse than average Energy Impact Score of 17.3-barrels of yearly oil use, with 7.6-tons of CO2 emissions.
A base 4-cylinder 110 starts at $51,250; add $31,000 to that for top X trim with the I6. Halfway between, our SE, with a great balance of what you buy a Defender for, without crowding Range Rover, starting at $63,600.
First and foremost, fans should be happy to know that despite the modern looks, the 2020 Land Rover Defender still hauls the goods when it comes to off-road performance. Yet, the rebirth of this British Empire legend has delivered more than just go-anywhere abilities combined with British sensibilities; it’s a new Defender for a new age, equipped to take you on whatever adventures you have in mind, whether it’s around the block, or around the world.
Engine: 3.0L I6 Turbo
Torque: 406 lb-ft.
EPA: 17 City / 22 Highway / 19 Combined
Towing Capacity: 8,200-lbs