The 2021 Land Rover Defender has been a fairly polarizing SUV. With such a long history and so many die-hard fans of the classic Land Rover Defenders, the new one was never really met with open arms by many. It feels very similar to the newer generations of Jeep Wranglers. Aside from the super-fans, it feels like the 2021 Land Rover Defender has some buyers pretty excited. I, for one, think it is super cool, but Consumer Reports was not pleased with what they found.
Is the 2021 Land Rover Defender a good SUV
Consumer Reports did love what they found when they tested the 2021 Land Rover Defender, but this should have come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Consumer Reports. There are very few utility vehicles or 4x4s that CR likes. CR doesn’t really take the fact that the 2021 Land Rover Defender is one of the coolest SUVs into account when rating vehicles – and coolness matters.
That being said, the things that CR didn’t like about the Defender weren’t crazy. The 2021 Land Rover Defender got an overall score of 45/100. The main killer was the predicted reliability score of 1 / 5. This score is based on reports from owners of previous models. Land Rover has not had the best reliability track record over the years. This doesn’t mean the new Defender WILL have problems, but it suggests that it might. This will kill any vehicle on Consumer Reports.
Predicted reliability aside, there were some other things CR didn’t like, but not that much. They said that the handling was a bit clumsy, but that isn’t an overly useful critique because that is not what these SUVs are meant to do.
CR also mentioned other standard SUV weaknesses like poor fuel economy, stiff ride, and sluggish braking. Again, these critiques are all true but not that applicable to what most people want out of a 4×4 SUV.
The Land Rover Defender is one of the coolest SUVs
Listen, I am fully aware that it almost doesn’t matter that the 2021 Land Rover Defender is one of the coolest SUV off-roaders around. The overwhelming majority of them will spend more time in the coffee shop parking lot than they will be ripping up a dirt track. It’s fine, but just because most of them won’t doesn’t mean that the new Defender can’t raise hell off-road.
The Defender comes in two layouts, the sportier, shorter wheel-base Defender 90 and the longer, four-door Defender 110. The four-door is definitely the more practical of the two, but the two-door Defender 90 is the better off-road truck.
The standard powerplant is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 296 horsepower. If you want more grunt out of your Defender, the optional turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 makes a thumping 395 horsepower.
According to Consumer Reports, the V6 verison makes plenty of power to pull the Defender up and around all sorts of obstacles. Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The V6, as tested, got about 18 mpg which is not all that bad considering the size and power on hand.
How good is the Defender off-road?
Obviously, the Land Rover Defender has a long history of being a rough and tough 4×4, and this new one certainly is trying to milk that reputation with its square sides and optional roof ladder. As you might tell, everything is there for a great off-roader, but the factory tires and ride height is a little limiting. Don’t get wrong, it is still a strong 4×4 from the factory, but to meet most Defender expectations, it will need a little lift and some beefier tires.
Multiple driving modes assist in the off-road prowess of the Defender. There are nine terrain-specific driving modes for the Defender. These modes are cool, but the Rock Crawl mode is largely useless without first modifying the SUV with taller suspension and grippier tires. All of that to say, the Defender, much like a Jeep Wrangler, could be modified to become an incredible off-roader.
Regardless of Consumer Reports’ low rating, the 2021 Land Rover Defender looks like it could be one of the best ones in the history of Defenders. We’ll have to wait and see how these engines and transmissions do in the long run.