Hot Take: The 2021 Land Rover Defender Might Be the Best One Ever

The Land Rover Defender is probably eternally sitting on the throne of off-roading and overlanding trucks. Sure, Jeep and Toyota are to its left and right hands, but no matter how good they are, the Defender remains the King. – but why is it that?

The Land Rover Defender has never really been overly reliable, comfortable, or high performance. Let’s call the old Defenders exactly what they are; the coolest tractors ever made. That being said, the 2021 Land Rover Defender could change all of that. 

Look, before the Defender peeps get too upset, I think the Defender is, hands down, the coolest off-roader in the game. I’ve spent a lot of time in them and really enjoy driving them. To be clear, the driving experience is not enjoyable; They are just so cool looking that the breakdowns, leaky roof and windows, bleak interior, loud cabin, and the rough ride can be overlooked for a while.

How can the 2021 Land Rover Defender flip the script?

MotorTrend just named the 2021 Land Rover Defender “SUV of the Year.” A Land Rover. Let that sink in. Compared to the old Defender 90 and 110, the new one isn’t that cool but compared to its modern-day competitors, the Defender is one of the few that looks like a proper off-roader. 

2021 Land Rover Defender
2021 Land Rover Defender | Land Rover

MotorTrend gracefully points out that while most automakers want to make SUVs, very few are truly capable off-road. Just because a vehicle can fit taller tires, has above average ground clearance, and a driving mode that says “off-road” does not make it an off-roader. While little can be done about what happens after people buy the Land Rover Defender, it can do way more than going to the grocery store. 

But Is the Defender the real deal?

The old Defenders were used all over the world and used hard. They deserve a lot of their praise for being tough. But what about the new Defender? Can it really hang? The Folks at MotorTrend seem to think so. 

2021 Land Rover Defender
2021 Land Rover Defender | Land Rover

The modern age has definitely had its effect on the 2021 Land Rover Defender. The once steel-framed, live-axled, farm machine has made way for independent suspension and lightweight frame materials to ensure a more polite truck.

The Land Rover Defender makes you feel adventurous

The new Land Rover Defender has giant shoes to fill, and it seems like it may have filled them indeed. MotorTrend says The Defender 110 feels great to be in. Though we may have feared it might feel too suburbanite, they say it gives off an authentic sport utility vehicle.

The interior layout was well thought out with a high and aggressive seating position and a nice mix of form and function in the cabin. Land Rover chose to leave some bolts exposed, give copious amounts of storage cubbies for gear, and even matching the door cards to the body color. 

Land Rover Defender 110 off-road 4x4 vehicle interior on display at Brussels Expo
Land Rover Defender 110 | Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images)

Engine and performance 

“I love this engine and transmission,” Evans (MotorTrend writer) said about the 395-hp, 406-lb-ft 3.0-liter turbocharged and electric supercharged I-6 mated to an eight-speed ZF auto sending power to all four wheels. “This thing gets up and runs with no problem. Anyone who thought it needed a V-8 is mistaken.” No one has ever said this about a defender. While they are great over rocks, they have never been accused of being quick or smooth. 

They go on to call the handling and ride “cloud-like” and “supple, yet planted.” We are still talking about a Defender, right? *checks notes* The folks a MotorTrend continue the praise fest for a surprisingly long time.

2021 Land Rover Defender
2021 Land Rover Defender | Land Rover

The Land Rover Defender Is a British Bronco Alternative

After a nearly 500-mile trip across Nambia, one of the MotorTrend Editors gave the Defender the works. Again, this is not just a fancy grocery-getter that makes someone feel like they could off-road; this one will do it. 

Does it have any real flaws?

MotorTrend reports a few interior annoyances along the way like a rattling middle seat, noisy vibrations from the roof rack, and a buggy satellite radio. Although Land Rover doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability and build quality, it is still too early to tell where the new Land Rover Defender will fall. 

Final thoughts

There are so many things about this truck that make it exciting to anyone around the off-roading world. The legacy is one thing, but the change to experience a legendary overlander like this as a new vehicle is pretty special. Yes, it’s different, but it may be different in all the right ways. And hell, old defenders have gotten so expensive, what do you have to lose on trying the 2021 Land Rover Defender 90, which starts at $47,450, and the Defender 110 at $51,850.