It was one of the longest farewells on record, but by the time production of the long-running Land Rover Defender ended in 2016 there was no shortage of people mourning the loss of the company’s seminal rugged off-roader, amid perceptions that its cars had become too luxurious and expensive.
Although the Defender name didn’t appear until 1991, the car that ended production only three years ago bore a clear lineage with the original Land Rover of 1948.
Now there’s a new one. The Defender 110, which is a five-door model, will cost from £45,240 OTR and is available to order immediately. The shorter wheelbase Defender 90 will cost from about £40,000 when it goes on sale next spring.
The new Defender is posited as “the answer” to all those who thought that Land Rover was moving too far from its heritage of tough off-roaders that could deal with the world’s most inhospitable terrain.
Even the new car’s names are a nod to the past - between the Series 3 Land Rover of the Eighties and the appearance of the Defender badge, the cars were simply called 90 and 110, denoting (inaccurately) their respective wheelbases in inches.
A break with tradition, however, is that the Defender will be made at Land Rover’s new factory in Slovakia.
Land Rover Defender: inside and out
The longer-wheelbase 110 model comes with five seats as standard, with the option of two fold-out occasional seats in the boot floor to provide seven-seater capability. The 90 is also a five-seater as standard, but Land Rover will also offer a “jump seat” option between the driver and passenger seats in the front to give a carrying capacity of six, in the manner of Land Rovers of yore. When folded down, the back of this extra seat doubles as an armrest with all manner of storage solutions.
Both models feature a side-hinged tailgate, with the spare wheel mounted on the outside. This not only looks rugged, but helps the Defender’s prodigious off-road capability in that a spare mounted under the boot would restrict the angle at which it can approach and traverse obstacles.
At first glance it’s more rounded than the previous Defender, although there’s a clear visual link between the two in terms of the bluff front and especially the flat rear.
In profile both new models are also reminiscent of the older Defender. The front and rear overhangs are minimal, again to help with off-roading, with the added benefit of giving them a very rugged, purposeful appearance; likewise the high sills and squared-off wheelarches are also a nod to their forebear of the same name.
While they might look slab-sided in pictures, there’s actually a great amount of surfacing detail in the main body panels that clearly marks them out as up-to-the-minute products.
They’re very tall, while both feature distinctive “Alpine windows” in the side in the manner of station wagon versions of the old Defender.
The Defender is based on a new, aluminium-intensive monocoque body, unlike traditional Land Rovers which had a separate body mounted on a ladder chassis.
It’s claimed to excel in carrying and towing, which should impress those who require their vehicle to be a workhorse as well as providing family transport; the maximum payload is 900kg and the towing capacity is 3,500kg.
It’s available with conventional steel-sprung suspension or an air-suspended set-up as employed to great effect in other Land Rover and Range Rover models. The air suspension can provide another 75mm of height for off-roading, with 145mm of lift available in all.
Inside, there are a wealth of durable materials that add to the car’s tough mien. The amount of passenger and oddments space is impressive, particularly in the three-door 90.
Exposed structural elements, such as the beam that runs between the windscreen pillars and forms part of the facia, is typical of the blending of form and function. Exposed fastenings on the door trims further enhance the impression of durability and purposefulness.
There’s also a plethora of soft-touch grab handles and arm rests, while durable rubber matting covers the floors (although UK models will have carpet overlays as standard).
The Defender 110 offers five, six or 5+2 seating configurations, with a load space behind the second-row seats of up to 1,075 litres, with 2,380 litres when the second row is folded.
The new Defender debuts Jaguar Land Rover’s Pivi Pro infotainment system. The touchscreen is more intuitive and user-friendly, requiring fewer inputs to perform frequently used tasks, while its always-on design is claimed to guarantee almost instant responses.
In addition, Software-Over-The-Air (SOTA) technology allows the vehicle to download electronic updates immediately, without the need to visit a Land Rover dealer.
Land Rover Defender: engines
Four petrol and diesel engines - all with turbochargers - will be available from launch, including a mild hybrid (MHEV), with a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version to follow.
The diesel units are badged D200 or D240 (denoting their power output in PS or metric horsepower). Both are claimed to deliver more than 37mpg.
The petrol engines are a four-cylinder P300 and six-cylinder P400 mild hybrid, which is already offered in Range Rover models. In short, the MHEV system stores energy normally lost during deceleration. As well as a turbo, the in-line six-cylinder engine has an electric supercharger, with a 48-volt lithium-ion battery to store the energy captured as the vehicle slows. With the battery providing an extra kick of acceleration, the P400 is claimed to accelerate from 0-60mph in 6.1sec and deliver an average of 29.4mpg.
A models have an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox and twin-speed transmission, to provide a set of low-range ratios essential for towing or off-road driving. On the old Defender, the low-range gearing was entirely manual.
Land Rover Defender: off-road capability
Not only does the new Defender look the part, it’s also claimed to be a serious off-roader in the manner of its forebear.
In the original Defender, drivers could lock the central differential manually using the high-to-low range gear selector. In the new Defender, drivers can prevent cross-axle slip using the Centre Slip Limited and Centre and Rear Slip Limited options on the central touchscreen controller; it’s all electronic.
There is also a choice of three settings for the throttle and gearbox response, steering and traction control, allowing experienced off-roaders and all-terrain novices alike to tailor the vehicle set-up; the system allows four individual profiles to be saved.
Alternatively, the intelligent Auto functionality of Terrain Response 2 can recognise the surface and configure the vehicle appropriately with no input from the driver.
In the 110, the new bodyshell provides ground clearance of 291mm along with approach, breakover and departure angles of 38, 28 and 40 degrees respectively.
The new Defender has a maximum wading depth of 900mm. It is the first Land Rover with a Wade programme in the Terrain Response 2 menu. This setting automatically softens the throttle response, sets the heating and ventilation to recirculate cabin air, locks the driveline and adjusts the ride height to its off-road setting while activating the Wade Sensing screen on the infotainment system, allowing drivers to see the depth of surrounding water.
On dry land, Land Rover’s ClearSight Ground View technology helps when off-roading by showing the area usually hidden by the bonnet, directly ahead of the front wheels, on the central touchscreen.
Land Rover Defender: accessories and personalisation
The new Defender will be available in 90 and 110 body designs, with up to six seats in the 90 and the option of five, six or 5+2 seating in the 110.
The model range comprises Defender, S, SE, HSE, First Edition and top-of-the-range Defender X models. Customers will be able to personalise their vehicle in more ways than in any previous Land Rover with four Accessory Packs.
The Explorer, Adventure, Country and Urban Packs each provide a distinct character with a specially selected range of enhancements.
In addition to the Accessory Packs, there is a wide range of accessories - 170 in all. These include a remote control electric winch, a rooftop tent and inflatable waterproof awnings, along with more conventional accessories such as tow bars and roof racks.
An exclusive First Edition model features a unique specification and will be available throughout the first year of production.
NEW DEFENDER IN NUMBERS (Defender 110)
Length: 4,758mm (5,018mm with spare wheel)
Width: 2,008mm (door mirrors folded)
Wheelbase: 3,022mm (2,587mm for 90)
Turning circle: 12.84m
Front overhang: 845mm
Rear overhang: 891mm (1,151 including spare wheel)
Approach angle: 38 degrees
Departure angle: 40 degrees
Ground clearance: 291mm
Axle articulation: 500mm
Maximum wading depth: 900mm
Maximum towing weight: 3,500kg
Maximum payload: 900kg (Defender 110 P400)