Wrangler vs. G-Wagon vs. Defenders: It’s a 4-Way 4WD SUV Race

Even off-road-focused SUVs have V8 fever, it seems. Not only is Land Rover putting one in the 2022 Defender, but the company is also making a limited run of V8-powered classic Defenders. Jeep recently joined with the Wrangler 392, while the V8’s been a Mercedes G-Wagon staple for years. But all of these four-wheel-drive SUVs also offer humbler, more efficient powertrains, even if not in the US. And recently, the team behind the British YouTube channel Carwow took some racing.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon vs. 2020 Mercedes-Benz G350d vs. a 2020 and classic diesel Land Rover Defender: speed isn’t usually a priority

A red 4-door 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon drives on a forest mountain road
2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon | Jeep

Straight-line performance isn’t usually what comes to mind when comparing a Land Rover Defender, a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, and a G-Wagon. But while these SUVs shine off-road, they’re all driven on paved roads, too. And sometimes, you need to accelerate off that highway on-ramp.

Acceleration, though, isn’t really what the classic Land Rover Defender is known for. Especially not when it’s equipped with a 2.2-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine. Although restomodded and electrified versions pack more grunt, the 2.2-liter turbodiesel makes just 122 hp and 265 lb-ft, AutoExpress reports. Plus, it has a six-speed manual transmission.

A silver 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 with exterior-mounted cases and a roof rack in the desert
2020 Land Rover Defender 110 | Land Rover

The modern Land Rover Defender also offers a diesel engine, though it’s not available in the US. For 2021 it’s a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged mild-hybrid inline-six diesel engine, MotorTrend reports. However, the 2020 SUV has a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine that in D240 spec makes 240 hp and 317 lb-ft, Roadshow reports. And it sends power to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic.

The G-Wagon in Carwow’s test is also another case of ‘can’t have it.’ It’s a 2020 Mercedes-Benz G350d, which has a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six diesel engine, Top Gear reports. It makes 286 hp and 443 lb-ft and is linked to a nine-speed automatic, Car reports. And, like the Defenders, it has 4WD.

A red 2020 Mercedes-Benz G350d in front of an old wooden building
2020 Mercedes-Benz G350d | Mercedes-Benz

Compared to the other SUVs, the 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is the odd one out. Although there is a diesel available, Carwow tested one with a gasoline engine. Specifically, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with an eight-speed automatic. You can’t get it in mild-hybrid trim anymore; but even on its own, the engine makes 270 hp and 295 lb-ft, Car and Driver reports.

How Carwow tested these off-road-ready SUVs

Carwow ran several tests on its runway. The first was a ¼-mile standing-start drag race, followed by a rolling race. And to finish the competition off, the SUVs competed in a braking test from 70 mph.

A dark-blue 2013 Land Rover Defender 90 among green hills
2013 Land Rover Defender 90 | Land Rover

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From a speed perspective, the classic Land Rover Defender is at a significant disadvantage. It’s the least powerful of the four, for one; 0-60 mph takes over 12 seconds, Car and Driver reports. And while it’s not the heaviest, it’s also not the lightest. That would be the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. The 2020 Land Rover Defender D240 is heavier than both the Wrangler and the classic Defender. And the G350d is the heaviest of them all.

However, on paper, the three modern SUVs offer somewhat similar levels of speed. The Mercedes-Benz G350d goes 0-62 mph in 7.2 seconds, CarThrottle reports. And in non-mild-hybrid form, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon goes 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds, Car and Driver reports. The 2020 Defender D240, though, lags a bit behind. MT estimates it goes 0-60 mph in 8.7 seconds.

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However, it’s worth pointing out that the Wrangler Rubicon has different tires than the G-Wagon or 2020 Defender. They’re larger and more knobbly—great for rock-crawling, not quite as good for traction and braking purposes.

Which was the fastest: the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, the diesel G-Wagon, or the new Land Rover Defender?

Rather predictably, the classic Land Rover Defender couldn’t keep up with the modern SUVs. Carwow had to lower the speed of its rolling race from 50 mph to 36 mph so it stood a chance. But even so, it finished in last place in all of the speed tests.

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As for the new Land Rover Defender, it fell behind in the standing-start drag race. It finished 0.5 seconds behind the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and Mercedes-Benz G350d, with the latter two finishing exactly even. However, the 2020 Defender did win the rolling race, with the G350d coming in second. The Wrangler ran into some sort of limiter at 100 mph, possibly related to the gearing or the off-road tires.

However, the classic Defender did manage to eke out a minor victory in the braking test. Although the 2020 Defender finished in first, the classic one came in third, ahead of the last-place Jeep.

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