After being dropped in 1997 in the US and in 2016 for many other countries, the new Land Rover Defender is back for 2020. It’s more advanced, upscale, and also more expensive, but it looks almost like an off-road concept vehicle.
The new Defender still has the cues of its predecessor but in a much more modern approach. “We need to recognize the past but we also need to move on,” says Gerry McGovern, Land Rover’s design director.
Two wheelbases with either a two-door called “90” or four-door configuration called “110” will be offered. These were the original Defender’s model designations for the longer and shorter versions. The 90 wheelbase is 101.9 inches and the 110 wheelbase is 119.0 inches.
The Defender’s Square
One feature that is very prominent is what Land Rover calls “the square’. It’s that body-color C-pillar that really isn’t a pillar at all. It’s merely a styling element and we understand that buyers will be able to order it or opt-out, gaining visibility in the process.
Without the square, we like the proportions of the 90 better, but with it the 110 has a great look. Three-row seating comes with the 110. The center of the front seat in each model folds down to act as a bench seat for three.
Interiors are a bit spartan, at least compared to the more upscale Land Rovers. There is exposed painted metal finishes and clean upholstery without extra designs of stitching which gives somewhat of a throwback look to the cabin. Climate control settings and gear banging are housed in the center console.
A variety of engines are available including two diesel versions for Europe only. The US may get one of these engines in the near future. A turbocharged four-cylinder comes standard with 296 hp. Its 0-60 mph times are 7.7 seconds. Top-of-the-line power comes from the hybrid P400 six-cylinder. It’s huffed by an electric supercharger combined with a motor/generator on a separate 48-volt system. It puts out 395 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. The 0-60 mph times come in at 5.8 seconds.
Backing the engines is an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission transferring the power to an electronically-controlled all-wheel-drive system. The front will also be lockable. The transfer-box is a two-speed, with the Terrain Response system able to change settings for different surface conditions.
The Defender is now unibody which is the mostly aluminum D7 platform the full-size Range Rover is based on. Struts up front and a fully independent rear end handle the suspension, and air springs will be optional.
A 38-degree approach angle, 40-degree departure angle, and 31-degree break-over angle are the Defender’s off-road specs. The Defender can easily trudge through three-feet of standing water.
Land Rover claims the Defender was able to tame Hell’s Kitchen, Poison Spider, and Steel Bender trails in Moab, Utah. Much testing was conducted throughout Utah during the Defender’s development.
Defenders will start showing up in Land Rover showrooms before the end of 2019 with 110s starting at $50,925 for the standard four-cylinder. The SE model is the standard configuration, HSE the middle choice, and X model is the premium offering. A SE with the turbo six starts at $63,275 with the X beginning price of $81,925. The Defender 90 will not be available here until the end of 2020.