- 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 First Editon ($64,100)
- MotorTrend’s 2021 SUV of the Year
- Pro: The Land Rover Defender 90 reboot has tons of useable power and style for days
- Con: Some design elements focus too much on looks, sacrificing practicality
The 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 has so much of the feeling of a tough, no-nonsense body-on-frame SUV but without actually being one. The new generation Defenders has foregone the body-on-frame construction and has turned to the Darkside. Although the Defender 90 is now a unibody SUV, it still retains so much of the rugged, boxy charm that built the brand over the past 70 years. Our 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 review showed me a beautiful 4×4 that blends off-road prowess and comfort nearly flawlessly. However, there are some hard downsides to the new Defender.
Which 2021 Land Rover Defender is best for you?
The 2021 Land Rover Defender line offers both the classic two-door Defender 90 and the larger safari mobile, the four-door Defender 110. After spending some time in our 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 review car, the lack of a second set of doors quickly became a headache. However, the look of the two-door is undeniable. The Defender 110 is clearly the easier choice for a daily driver, especially if you ever plan to take other people along for the ride.
The 2021 Defender line not only has the 90 and 110, but each model has a pile of trim levels. The Defender 90 trims include Standard ($46,100), S ($49,400 MSRP), X-Dynamic S ($57,800 MSRP), First Edition ($64,100 MSRP), and the X ($80,500 MSRP). The Defender 110 comes in Standard ($50,500 MSRP), S ($53,800 MSRP), SE ($62,700 MSRP), X-Dynamic SE ($65,500 MSRP), X-Dynamic HSE ($71,600 MSRP), and the X ($83,000 MSRP)
My tester was the 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 First Edition. This model only comes with the very impressive P400 engine – a mild-hybrid, turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six shared with several other vehicles in the Jaguar Land Rover lineup. This straight-six makes an aggressive 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque.
My 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 review unit came dressed in Pangea Green (which slowly grew on me) paired with a triple Ebony interior. The overall squatted stance, understated paint, and interior colors made for an SUV equally classy as it is tough. Whether gently cruising through Manhattan’s upper east side or digging through the Hudson Valley, the Defender felt perfectly at home.
How comfortable is the new Defender?
The new Land Rover Defender is a far cry from its tractoresq predecessors. The Defender line has long been known for its extremely rugged platform. We have watched defenders make easy work of deserts, ferry soldiers, and bushwhack through jungles. While the 2021 Land Rover is still plenty capable on the rough track, the Defender’s ethos has clearly shifted to a more civilized and modern world.
The Defender’s interior looks great and is surprisingly comfortable for long bouts of interstate travel. The seats and dash are covered in a stylish and tough mixture of leather and canvas that comes off way more stylish than penny-pinching. The mix of textures keeps even an all-black interior refreshing. The interior is all good, but the overall feeling is one of quality and style.
In terms of overall usability, the Defender’s control layout is a bit annoying. From the dash controls to seat adjustments, almost nothing is intuitive or placed in a way that is easily accessible for the driver. For instance, the main volume knob is on the far side of the dash, making a reach for the driver, while the steering wheel volume control action is way too light and feels cheap. The seat adjustments are also numerous and confusing, making mid-driving adjustments perilous.
Is the 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 good in the tech department?
The new Land Rover Defender comes well-equipped. The most notable standard features include 20-inch wheels, a great eight-speed auto, 360-degrees parking assist, and an attractive infotainment interface. More than the luxuries, most tech features rightly focus on off-road capabilities. Features like front and rear fog lights, adjustable air suspension, optional active differential, and mounds of off-road drive settings.
Not sure that it’s exactly techy, but the First Edition Defender 90 comes with a very fun semi-convertible feature that allows a huge portion of the soft-top roof to slide back, revealing an open sky overhead. This feature may seem more gimmicky than valuable at first, but the more time you spend in the smaller 2021 Land Rover Defender 90, the more this open-air feature lends to not feeling too cramped in the back row. It’s a nice touch that is particularly pleasant while running off-road. Even still, the soft-top neither open nor closed is very loud.
The Defender handles well on the road and in the rough stuff
Even the little Defender 90 is a big truck. It’s bulky, wide, and heavy, yet it never felt like it was any of those things. I spent a few days driving around Manhattan to get a feel for how maneuverable it was even when Taxis are coming for you. The result was a surprisingly nimble and sharp SUV. The air shocks soaked up most potholes without much drama, the 395 horsepower made for easy escapes when delivery trucks descended upon us, and the short wheelbase made quick lane changes surprisingly easy.
Once I got outside of NYC, the Defender really opened up. The inline-six gives what feels like unending power. This was great on the highway, but when it came to hitting corners with anything resembling speed, the 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 made its weight known. It never stepped out of line, but a few hard corners felt like I was asking a bit too much of the British box.
The Defender has power for days
Whether you plan to charge trails every weekend or charge your card at the mall while the Defender sits looking pretty in the parking lot, the upgraded turbo-charged 3.0-liter mill gives all the grunt you could ever want. The Defender’s 395 horsepower makes light work of flinging the 4×4 up hills, around corners, and past semi-trucks on the highway.
Not only are their mounds of power behind the new Defender, but the power is also delivered easily and abundantly. The gas pedal doesn’t act like an on/off switch; it’s subtle and poised. However, if you want to put your friend’s heads back, a quick mash of the eager throttle and the slick eight-speed automatic work in concert to get things moving quickly.
As far as fuel efficiency goes, the EPA estimates that the 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 can achieve up to 17 mpg city, 22 mpg highway, and 19 mpg combined. During my week of testing, which included a mix of highway and city driving, I averaged 18 mpg. The city driving really hurt, but the highway driving was nice and efficient.
Is the 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 safe?
The new Defender is loaded with a host of standard safety features. For starters, Defender comes equipped with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and blind-spot warning.
Although the Defender is pretty well equipped with standard safety features, Consumer Reports notes that neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA has rated the 2021 Land Rover Defender 90. This makes giving a definitive statement of safety difficult.
Is the Land Rover Defender 90 expensive to maintain?
The new Land Rover Defender hasn’t been around long enough for there to be much information on the long-term cost of ownership. However, Consumer Reports did give it a one out of five ratings for predicted reliability.
Land Rover/Jaguar doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability. With any luck, Land Rover made a point to shore things up for the new Land Rover. As it stands, we know that repairs for the brand can be pretty costly. Also, knowing that this strong off-roader is on airbags means that blown suspension will likely cost a pretty penny.
The 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 review shows a reliability wild card
The new Land Rover Defender 90 and 110 is a bit of an unknown quantity in this regard. However, it’s not looking great. Land Rover came a disappointing 25th out of 30 manufacturers in our 2020 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, but this still kept it ahead of rivals BMW and Mercedes. Around a third of respondents told CarBuyer their Land Rover had at least one fault within the first year.
Along with those owner accounts, Land Rover/Jaguar doesn’t have the best reliability track record. This has always been a thorn in the side of the British automaker, but luckily for Land Rover/Jaguar, the cars are so stylish that people still buy them.
MotorBiscuit gives the 2021 Land Rover review an expert rating of 7.6 out of 10
The editors at MotorBiscuit gave the 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 First Edition a 7.6 out of 10. There is so much to love about the 2021 Defender 90. The short wheelbase, beautiful design, and, if I’m honest, the Defender name make an otherwise expensive, slightly annoying SUV something that feels special.
The off-road prowess is nothing for any outdoors enthusiast to turn their nose, although it is a bit pricey for real bushwacking. The controls aren’t the most user-friendly and especially for something meant to be adventured in. The last thing you want to do is be fumbling with the seat controls or radio while bumping over some boulders.
We wish we could rate it higher, but the two-door model’s reliability concerns and limited practicality make the price hard to swallow. Overall it is a beautiful, capable off-roader with class and style. If the Land Rover can work out the reliability concerts, the Defender 90 and 110 will be a hard act to follow for any 4×4.