The Defender does not have the same illustrious history in India as it does elsewhere, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t elicit a primitive desire to go exploring or seeking adventure whenever you see its simple, rugged exteriors. Most people who buy it would probably satisfy their urges with a ride to the mall or, if they’re very desperate, a trip to the farmhouse. However, appearances are all, and the Defender has already won the fight. The Defender isn’t the average off-roader; it’s more akin to a luxury SUV, with a versatile and finely built cabin that will bring rivals to shame. Is the Defender, then, the pinnacle of competent, high-end SUVs?
Land Rover Defender Platform
As previously said, the Defender isn’t an off-roader in the same way that the Jeep Wrangler, Mercedes-Benz G-Class, or the former Defender 90/110 (1983-2016) are, both of which are built on a ladder-on-frame platform. Instead, the Defender is built on Land Rover’s D7X aluminum-intensive platform, which is the company’s most robust monocoque. It guarantees improved on-road etiquette and comfort right away. It’s also exclusive to the Defender and is claimed to be structurally much stiffer, implying that it’ll be more capable off-road as well.
This is good news, since the 110 (five-door) has a long 3,022mm wheelbase, which means it’s closer to 119 inches than its name suggests, and a 5+2 seat layout. Although the short-wheelbase, three-door 90 (2,587mm) was introduced alongside the 110, it would not be available in India until later. Meanwhile, the Defender has outstanding off-road credentials, with numbers like 38 degrees entry, 40 degrees exit, and 900mm of water wading that can appeal to off-road adventurers with deep pockets and bravery. For most cases, that’s waist height, and it’ll take a bold Defender owner to try that out. Even the 31-degree breakover angle is comparable with the Wrangler’s 28-degree breakover angle.
Land Rover Defender Styling
The purposeful-looking, 5-meter-long Defender attracts attention in a way that few SUVs do. In reality, it’s the kind of publicity that hardcore off-roaders typically get, particularly when they’re seen in unusual urban settings! Gerry McGovern, Land Rover’s production boss, has been working on the replacement for the original for over a decade, with the DC100 prototype from 2011 providing a glimpse at the rough design, while the unreleased LR1 design report addressed some of the negative comments on that concept.
The outcome is a simple, rounded-yet-boxy style that incorporates modern takes on classic Defender features such as the circle in square headlights, flared arches,’squircle’ tail lamps, and even the harder-to-spot Alpine windows over the C-pillar. The front end is very vertical, as is the back with the spare wheel attached, but the raked windscreen means the 0.38 coefficient of drag isn’t as blocky as a G-Class’ 0.54. The Defender has a menacing appearance and a serious demeanour.
It’s also very practical, considering the fact that the anti-skid plate design on the hood is made of plastic rather than real aluminium. After a day at the beach, hosing down the Defender was a lot easier than we had expected, with sand simply rolling off its easy, gently-curved surfaces. It was also easy to clean the slot-like grilles and plastic door sills. If the side air vents irritate you, remember that the one on the left is usable and can be fed with an optional snorkel intake. Despite the Defender’s 20-inch wheels, it’s equipped with Goodyear AT tyres with a 255/60 section and an aggressive enough pattern to take it right from the showroom to every slush trap.
You can order any of four attachment sets, which include anything from external lockable storage to working roof racks with large payloads, plastic wheel arch extensions, mud flaps, reversible rinse systems, an external ladder to make getting to your stuff on the roof simpler, and side steps (fixed or deployable) to assist you in climbing into the cabin. The Defender lowers itself 40mm to its entry height when a door is opened, so it’s not completely necessary, but it’s still a climb up. The Expedition roof rack, which can be combined with a roof-top tent to create an immediate (and legal) overlander, may be the most intriguing accessory.
Land Rover Defender Interiors
The Defender’s cabin, like its exterior style, has an old-school, pared-down sensibility that makes it instantly appealing. And more so when you tower above the traffic inside and it is so well-designed. Also, the materials’ consistency. Wow, that was incredible. In here, it’s like a minimalist’s fantasy log cabin, with exposed aluminium, torx head screws, and open-pore wood signs of ruggedness, combined with incredibly pleasing to touch light textured trim and rubbery plastic everywhere else. The floors are still saturated with the material, and although you can’t hose it off, a quick wiping with a wet cloth cleaned the beach remnants from the cabin. However, some of the lighter-colored materials on the hinges, various grab handles, and steering wheel can attract dirt more quickly than you’d like, so choose carefully from the upholstery options page.
The 10-inch infotainment panel (which runs new applications and can receive OTA updates) is attached to the flat dash in such a way that it appears to be keeping it together, but it also frees up a lot of storage space. Face masks, sanitizers, and the rest of your COVID survival kit can be stored here, freeing up space in the central tunnel for other items. Since you might go for a jump seat in the centre, or none at all, if you didn’t want the two-tier central storage (with a cooled box), the gear shifter is high up and near to the wheel. This will make walking into the second row smoother, extending the Defender’s flexibility much more.
The new Pivi Pro infotainment system is particularly noteworthy, as it is much more fluid and simple to use on the go, with one-touch shortcuts to the extremely useful 360-degree cameras while your handset is shown on the wall. Since the field of view does not exactly reflect what you see in the narrow outside mirrors, the cameras take some getting used to, but you quickly learn to trust them. Since the headrests and tailgate-mounted spare leave no vision out the back, the ClearSight inner rear view camera is particularly useful. Multiple USB/12V charging points, keyless access, a fantastic Meridian sound system, 12-way driven front seats, 360-degree camera and ClearSight, two-zone climate control, and more are included in this mid-range SE model.
With a cosy bench that slips and reclines in the second row, you’ll have a perfect view out the panoramic sunroof. The 5+2 seating is ideally matched to children in the third row, but the novel Alpine windows add an extra dimension to the roominess. The full-size spare tyre fixed on the tailgate adds additional peace of mind, and the tailgate swings open to show 231-litres of boot space with the third row in place (916-litres with it down), compared to 295-litres in the Audi Q7, though the latter’s spacesaver negates the greater figure.
Land Rover Defender Engine And Performance
The 2.3-tonne Defender’s 2-litre, four-cylinder Ingenium turbo-petrol engine may seem underpowered, but its 300PS/400Nm outputs are respectable. In the area, the impressively quiet engine performs admirably, with quick, flawless changes from the 8-speed automatic transmission.
If you’re in a rush, the digital tacho can always travel to the opposite side of 3,000rpm, and you’ll begin to wonder why the powertrain lacks paddle shifters. Though the petrol’s torque arrives about 1,500rpm, you just notice it gathering steam at 2,500rpm until redlining at 6,500 revs, as we’ve discovered previously. On the highway, though, the Defender has relatively long legs (with the speed warnings’ bongs being relatively unobtrusive) and gets up to speed easily if you don’t mind revving it up. The Terrain Response system (in the optional second-gen, upgraded with a user-configurable mode and auto mode) does not have a sport/dynamic mode, which is understandable given the Defender’s expected use, but it should have sharpened the gearbox’s responses.
Our roll-on speed checks (times of about 2.2-2.4s between 30-50 and 50-70kmph) give a good idea of where the Defender’s powertrain stands, while its 0-100kmph time of 8.9 seconds is slightly slower than the claimed 8.1 seconds for this engine spec. The six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines are expected to arrive next year, with torque ratings of 550-570Nm sounding more likely to move the Defender’s bulk. Of necessity, the 2-litre engine’s reliability suffers as a result of being required to do more than it can, averaging 5 kmpl in the city and 9.8 kmpl on the highway at a constant 100 kmph.
Land Rover Defender Ride And Handling
You’ll love the Defender’s ride consistency the more time you spend in it. At lower speeds, there’s a mild firmness, with sharp edges just about filtering through but not quite landing the jolt you hope, as is typical of air-suspension fitted cars (in India, the 110 comes with air damping as standard). The Defender’s ride comes into its own about 70kmph and up, with its double wishbones (front), multilinks (rear), air suspension, and high-profile tyres flattening the road underneath you, regardless of the surface. It provides the Defender with an addictive sense of invincibility. Excessive body motions aren’t the trade-off either. The Defender moves a little side-to-side on an undulating path, but it doesn’t detract from the experience.
That doesn’t mean you can throw the Defender into corners, though after leaning in and landing on its tall AT tyres, it manages to keep its own. At lower city speeds, the steering (whether in Comfort or Eco) feels manageably light, rendering lock-to-lock U-turns a breeze, which is impressive given the Defender’s over 5m long footprint. Even while driving through the surf on the sand, there’s ample feedback from the steering wheel to know when you’ve gone too far. Obviously, the Defender is too big to go apex hunting, so it’ll do just fine as a highway hauler.
Land Rover Defender Off-Road
It’s debatable if Defender owners would take their pricey SUVs off road in the first place, but with all-wheel drive, a low-ratio two-speed transfer case, and mechanically locking differentials front and rear, you owe it to yourself to do more than just greenlanding.
First and foremost, all of the Defender’s electronics are IP67-rated, making it water resistant, which is why we felt confident enough to take it to the beach in the first place. The wade sensors (a trick piece of ultrasonic tech) barely recorded 0.1m in the water, with 800mm more to go, at a distance far enough from the shore to make me nervous. Switching to Sand mode on the Terrain Response 2 system (optional) softens the initial throttle response and keeps gears in place longer, ensuring you don’t lose momentum when you least expect it. We may conclude that it performed admirably.
Switching to automatic gave the Defender enough low-speed engine reaction for the kind of technical off-roading that involves scrambling over obstacles, and setting the ride height to its maximum off-road setting gives you 75mm more clearance than the normal 216mm. The ClearSight Groundview camera (currently only available on the Evoque and Defender) has a 180-degree view of what’s going on under the hood of the vehicle, enabling you to precisely position the wheels between and over rocks or kerbs while parking – which is likely to be the most common scenario.
Land Rover Defender Verdict
The Defender is a no-brainer for someone like the Jeep Wrangler, being much better behaved on the road and likely not too far off the road. The Defender surely seems to compete favourably against luxury SUVs if you have the Rs 1.1 crore asking price (on-road, Mumbai), with its stunning cabin and overall durability being highlights, not to mention its distinctive looks and off-road skills that will blow any other luxury SUV out of the water. Most notably, it has that all-important character that makes you want to go out and explore. That is very costly.