Trucks & SUVs

How Reliable Is the Land Rover Defender?

The Land Rover Defender has a long-standing history of being one of the best cars for off-roading enthusiasts, rivaling even the Jeep Wrangler. For a few years, this popular Land Rover wasn’t available in the U.S. due to strict safety standards. Fans were overjoyed to see the Defender’s return for the 2020 model year, with a new chassis and a two-door version.

However, just like Jeep, Land Rover doesn’t have a reputation for producing reliable cars. According to CarWow, it’s the least reliable brand on the market and its models are the most expensive to repair. Despite this, people still buy the Land Rover Defender for its good qualities.

Why everyone loves the Land Rover Defender

The Land Rover Defender’s interior really sets it apart from other rivals, with design elements that are unique to this automaker. Car and Driver describes it as rugged, especially thanks to the noticeable rivets on the door panels. The cabin is also very functional, with a center console bin that can convert into another seat on some trims.

On the outside, the Defender’s body shape is more rounded compared to the previous generation. For this model year, it’s also available in a two-door model, the Defender 90. All versions of the Land Rover Defender come with comfortable cloth seats, with special two-tone seats available in the pricier models.

The Land Rover Defender’s new unibody construction also enhances its off-roading abilities. With its adjustable air suspension, it has a 40-degree departure angle and over 11 inches of ground clearance. It can also wade through water up to 35 inches deep and all models have a two-speed transfer case.

Both body styles are powered by a turbo-four engine that makes 296 hp, with standard all-wheel-drive and eight-speed automatic transmission. However, Car and Driver recommends upgrading to the optional engine for more serious off-roading. It’s a mild-hybrid turbo-six that makes 395 hp. 

While the Defender 90 has 18-inch wheels and the standard dual transfer case, it doesn’t come with the adaptable air suspension. For that, you’ll have to get a considerably more expensive 90X model. This one also comes with a terrain select system, a bigger sound system, and an electronic differential. 

A few packages are also available to suit all your adventuring needs. The Country and Explorer packs come with mud flaps, a spare wheel cover, scuff protectors, and even a rinsing system. The Adventure package has much of the same, plus a snorkel. Those taking their Land Rover Defender on more civilized roads might prefer the stylish and chrome-decorated Urban pack.

How reliable is the Land Rover Defender?

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In a survey conducted by Reliability Index, the Land Rover Defender got the worst score possible. A majority of owners reported that their car needed repairs within the first three years of ownership. Most of these repairs also took more than five days to complete.

The most common problems reported by owners are leaking rainwater seals, key fob or locking malfunctions, and various engine failures. If your heart is set on purchasing a Land Rover Defender, try to spot these issues before they get worse.

The Defender’s other bad qualities

While the Land Rover Defender has a smooth ride, the turbo-six engine lacks agility. Autotrader was disappointed at the lack of manual transmissions or diesel options. Another reason some might skip on the Land Rover Defender is its price.

While the basic models are relatively affordable, options can quickly ramp up to price to over $80,000. Fans addicted to its impressive off-roading ability probably won’t mind. However, the Defender’s high likelihood of needing repairs is a much greater concern.