The 2021 Land Rover Defender Is the Best Luxury Midsize SUV to Buy This Year

Land Rover’s SUVs aren’t exactly cheap, but they’re definitely some of the best options on the market. Models like the Land Rover Defender prove that they can be capable off-roaders while shuttling passengers in style and luxury. The Defender is even on par with the highly dependable and legendary Toyota Land Cruiser.

It’s also got the chops to compete with luxury rivals, like the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class and BMW X5. Both the Defender and the Range Rover Velar were featured on MotorTrend’s Best Luxury Midsize SUVs list. However, the Land Rover Defender was the one to take first place.

What’s so great about the Land Rover Defender?

Many critics, including MotorTrend, are quick to point out the Land Rover Defender’s fantastic off-roading abilities. It rides on unibody construction and a fully independent suspension, but available air springs can adjust the Defender’s ground clearance. It has a maximum of 11.5 inches of lift and can ford water almost three feet deep.

Every Defender comes standard with locking differentials and 4WD. MotorTrend says its rides smoothly no matter which powertrain you choose, including the base motor. It’s a turbo-four that makes 296 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. 

Drivers can also get their Defender with a turbocharged six-cylinder capable of 395 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. This motor is reportedly nearly two seconds faster than the turbo-four option and has better fuel economy numbers. The 2022 Land Rover Defender has an optional V8 capable of 518 hp, with a 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds.

MotorTrend was also a fan of the Land Rover Defender’s boxy exterior shape, which unquestionably differentiates it from its rivals. Even on the luxurious interior, there are unique touches that speak volumes about the Defender’s rugged character. Screws on the door panels are exposed, door pockets aren’t lined, and there are some sturdy plastic bits inside the cabin.

The Land Rover Defender can seat up to seven riders. The standard seats are nicely padded, leather-lined cloth with intricate stitching. Drivers will appreciate the high-riding position of the front seat, even if visibility is slightly obscured in the back. The side bolsters also make the front seats feel like lounge chairs rather than car seats.

The second row offers plenty of stretch-out space for its riders as well, plus adequate thigh support. The Land Rover Defender is also decked out with some nice tech like an optional 11-inch display and Meridian stereo system.

This SUV’s disappointing qualities

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While the second row is fairly accommodating, the last row is too cramped for adult riders. It only offers 20 inches of legroom compared to the 39 inches in the Land Rover Defender 110’s second row. These models also offer only 11 cubic feet of storage with every seat in use.

The base engine, while capable, also doesn’t get the best gas mileage. At best, it scores 18/21 mpg city/highway. The optional inline-six isn’t much better, rated for 17/22 mpg city/highway. Fuel economy estimates for the V8 haven’t been released.

Is the Land Rover Defender a good value?

MotorTrend’s 2021 SUV of the Year is available in several trims for varying budgets. The Land Rover Defender 90 is the entry-level model, retailing for $47,700. The 90 S and S-Dynamic X stray into the $50,000 range but have more interior trappings.

Every X-Dynamic variation also comes standard with the smoother inline-six and larger tires. The 90 X model comes with even more tech, like wireless charging and a head-up display. The Land Rover Defender 90 V8, with the most powerful engine and a full array of safety features, starts at $97,200.

Although the prices are on the higher end, you definitely get what you pay for with a vehicle that some, like MotorTrend, consider to be the best luxury midsize SUV this year.