Nov 29, 2020
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About this Deal
Possibly the most Newtonian vehicle ever produced, the 2020 Land Rover Defender is an equal and opposite reaction to other SUVs’ motion to become ever more at home in upscale grocery store lots and valet lines outside restaurants.
Ike Newton’s second law of motion in vehicular form, the Defender is Land Rover’s existential counterpunch, built to ford raging streams and cross burning sands that would devastate other brands' "soft-roaders."
That ability is vital to Land Rover, despite being used by a vanishingly small number of its owners. The British brand has banked big bucks trading on an image for go-anywhere ruggedness while building ever more cushy land yachts never likely to leave the pavement. The Defender was developed as a rolling reminder of how the brand earned its chops.
Jeep, Land Rover’s American spiritual counterpart — and inspiration; don’t forget the U.S. Army Jeep pre-dated Land Rover by, let’s see, World War II — has watered its roots rigorously for 80 years. At Jeep: Job 1 has always been making sure the iconic Wrangler maintained a visual link to the 1941 Willys Jeep and kicked every comparable SUV’s butt when driven off road.
The new Defender’s modern styling makes the play for brand heritage a bit tenuous, but the SUV’s performance and price hit the bull's-eye.
The four-door Defender 110 is on sale now. The shorter two-door Defender 90 should reach U.S. dealerships in early 2021.
Land Rover expects the Defender to compete primarily with the Jeep Wrangler, Mercedes G-Class, Toyota 4Runner and Ford’s upcoming 2021 Bronco. That’s a wide range of brands and prices, but I’d add one more: The new Jeep Grand Cherokee due next year should have a combination of capability and luxury to cover the same ground as the four-door Defender 110.
Vital off-road statistics
· Can wade 35 inches of water
· Climbs grades up to 45 degrees
· 19.7 inches of wheel articulation
· 38-degree approach angle, 45-degree departure
· Can hit an 8-inch curb at 25 mph without damage
· Ground clearance is 8.5-11.5 inches
Defender 110 prices start at $49,910. The smaller Defender 90 is expected to start at $46,100. The base 2.0L turbo four-cylinder will be available in both models. It produces 296 hp and 205 pound-feet of torque.
The numbers 90 and 110 referred to the original 1948 model’s wheelbase, but now they’re just familiar names. The Defender 90’s wheelbase is 101.9 inches; overall length 170.2 inches without rear-mounted spare tire, 180.4 with. The Defender 110 I tested had a 119.0-inch wheelbase. It was 197.6 inches long with rear-mounted spare, 187.3 without.
The Defender 90 seats up to six, while the 110 can accommodate seven with rear-mounted jump seats that are perfect for the colleague who shouldn’t have invited themselves to lunch.
My loaded 3.0L Defender 110 SE had a $62,250 base price and cost $76,425 as tested. All prices exclude destination charges.
The Defender isn’t cheap, but it’s still a pretty good deal. A similarly equipped and capable Mercedes G-Class will cost far more. Jeep Wranglers will be in the same neighborhood. I expect that will also be true of the Ford Bronco and new Jeep Grand Cherokee next year.
Options on the Defender 110 I tested included:
Adaptive cruise control
Heated windshield, washer jets
Heated steering wheel
Electronic active differential
Sliding panoramic roof
Terrain mode control
2-inch five-spoke wheels
Black contrast roof
14-way memory heated front seats
60/40 split, heated rear seats
Third-row jump seats
SiriusXM satellite radio