The Defender is Back
The Land Rover Defender is back after a too-long absence from the U.S. market. This boxy off-roader combines the luxury of a Land Rover with the off-road chops of, well, a Land Rover. Available with two-doors or four-doors, if you’re looking for a luxury SUV equally suited to city streets and muddy fields with stand-out styling, then you should take a closer look at the 2020 Land Rover Defender.
Let’s start with the look of the Defender. You’re either going to love this SUV or think it’s odd. We rather like its style because it doesn’t look like every other SUV on the road. It’s boxier than the rest, tall, and imposing. It looks like it should be capable and because this is a Land Rover, it lives up to that expectation.
There’s a tailgate-mounted spare tire that gives it an old-school vibe, but that tire is flanked by rounded square lights that are thoroughly modern. There are inset panels on the hood that look a bit like tire tracks and give what would otherwise be an expanse of sheet metal some visual punch. It’s modern and vintage all at once and it attracts attention.
Inside, there’s seating for up to seven with an airy, open interior. Those in back get a bit of extra light thanks to what Land Rover calls Alpine lights. These narrow, rectangular windows sit at the roofline and not only brighten the interior but add to the Defender’s unique presence.
Nothing in this SUV is delicate or timid. While some luxury SUVs have a level of refinement that make them feel fragile, not so with the Defender. It’s comfortable, with quality materials throughout and feels every bit the luxury vehicle, but it’s not one you’ll be afraid to get dirty. There’s a toughness to the Defender’s interior that won’t have you panicked the first time the family dog runs through it with muddy paws.
And there will be mud if you’re doing it right because the Defender has ample off-road capability. All-wheel drive is standard along with hill descent control, and a range of drive modes to suit most every terrain. The Terrain Response system allows for normal, rock crawl, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, or sand modes. The Defender can also wade through nearly three feet of water. If you have serious off-road plans, then the Defender is ready.
Plenty of Power
Power for the Defender 110 SE we drove comes from a 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine with 395 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission. It’s a responsive powertrain that has no trouble getting the Defender’s bulk up to highway speeds. Much like the interior of the Defender is rugged without the delicacy of other luxury SUVs, the engine in the Defender isn’t a mild-mannered thing.
You feel and hear its power when you step on the gas, but it’s not intrusive or annoying. This capable SUV is still a luxury vehicle, so there’s nothing harsh about the engine or the ride. It’s power with a dose of refinement. As capable as it is off-road, on-road it’s well-mannered and composed making it a relaxing ride for driver and passenger alike.
While there are other vehicles that can handle off-road adventures, there aren’t many that also boast a luxury pedigree. That sets the Defender apart from the rest, as does its price. As tested, with extras including a sliding panoramic roof, heated third row, 14-way heated and cooled front seats, and three-zone climate control with rear cooling assist, our Defender came in at $75,440.
It’s not the most affordable off-road choice, but those looking for an off-road luxury SUV will find it’s well worth the investment.