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Test Drive column: All-new 2020 Land Rover Defender 110

Greg Zyla
More Content Now
2020 Land Rover Defender 110

Entry price $49,900

Price as tested: $72,780

It’s been 23 years since the last Land Rover Defender was available for sale in the U.S., specifically the 1997 Defender in full 4X4 off-road regalia. Noted for its top line off-road capabilities and unique looks, this Land Rover became a status symbol for the privileged and quickly evolved into cult-like status. Although removed from U.S. dealerships in 1998 due to more safety mandates and its poor government crash test results, those who loved their Defenders were ready and in waiting at Land Rover dealerships when this all-new 2020 Defender arrived.

Our tester Defender is a far cry from the past versions, which ran from 1993 to 1997 in a rugged, rough terrain design that attracted serious off-road consumers. Additionally, the older Defenders cared more about riding up the side of a steep mountain trail more so than a reasonable ride. Amenities that made highway traveling a more pleasing experience were nearly nonexistent. Further, to best sum up what owning a 1995 Defender meant, here’s a quote from an owner I found while doing research on the older models.

“These trucks are leaky, they rattle, they have all sorts of driveline noise, etc., but would I get rid of mine? NO WAY! There’s just something about a Defender that’s difficult to put into words. Thankfully, mine has been very reliable, but even if it weren’t, I would still love it. They look great, and they sound even better! I get more people inquiring about it than I do with my Ferrari! If you ever own one, you’ll know what I mean about all this! Also, I’m not aware of a car that holds its value better than a Defender!”

Fast forward and the new 2020 Land Rover Defender is not only still the serious 4x4 consumers demand, attention to a comfortable ride and the latest in modern technology is built into each and every trim. It impressed me so much, it’s hard for me to be critical of this new, great looking Defender as both mechanically and aesthetically it surpassed expectations. It also received more positive comments from onlookers than any 4x4 tested this year.

Built in Nitra, Slovakia, on an all new unibody platform, our 2020 Defender is styled in a beautiful, rounded motif that is a far cry from the muscular, stocky, high riding design of its predecessor. However, Defender 2020 is still a maximum off-road 4x4 thanks to an 11.5-inch ground clearance and all the necessary heavy duty 4x4 necessities.

The new Defender is available in two-door (Model 90) and four-door (Model 110) offerings. The four-door 110 offers an available third-row seat that is welcome in this midsize luxury 4x4 segment as is all the standard 4x4 equipment and high-end amenities this Land Rover offers.

The all-new Land Rover Defender is offered in six trims including the base, S, SE, HSE, First Edition and X. Five-passenger seating is standard yet easily expands thanks to optional jump seats that fit between the front row upping capacity to six passengers. The Defender 110 can also expand with a two-person third-row seat, but the other jump seat options are not available. Thus, the six passenger format is available in two different ways.

If you choose a two-door Defender 90 or the four-door Base and S trim 110, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder is standard and generates 296 horsepower and 295 lb. ft. of torque. All Defenders come with an eight-speed automatic transmission, standard AWD and a two-speed transfer case. However, under the hood of the SE 110 sits a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine with electric motor assist that puts out an impressive 395 horsepower and 406 lb. ft. of torque. Zero to 60 arrives in 5.8 seconds, and if you need to tow there’s an 8,201-pound capacity that is most noteworthy.

As for safety, all Defenders come standard with impressive features like forward collision mitigation with brake support; lane keep system; a blind-spot monitor; and a 360-degree camera system that allows a top-down view of the Defender and its surroundings.

The $49,900 Defender Base model includes the turbocharged four cylinder, adjustable air suspension to raise or lower the ride height, (great for navigating small streams) 18-inch tires on steel wheels; LED headlights; cloth seating; leather-wrapped steering wheel; power front seats; 10-inch touch screen; six-speaker sound system; and Apple/Android compatibility.

Clearly, this Base model at less than $50K is quite the buy. If you opt for the next level S trim at $53,800 it adds 19-inch wheels; leather and cloth upholstery; and upgraded power-adjustable front seats.

Our SE, with a base price of $62,250, is the recommended choice as over and above the S consumers receive the more powerful V6 engine; 20-inch wheels; power-adjustable steering column; 400-watt Meridian Premium sound system; and a digital rearview mirror that allows seeing out the back even with a fully loaded cargo area.

Three other upper trims include HSE ($68,350), First Edition ($68,650) and top line X ($80,900) all include even more amenities and 4x4 features. Our SE options include a $1,020 Driver Assist package, $700 Cold Climate group, $735 Advanced Off Road Capability pack, $1,345 Off Road Electronic differential with off-road tires, $1,750 Sliding Panoramic Sunroof (very nice) and seven other ancillary options that totaled $3,640 more. With $1,350 destination, the final tally came in at $72,780 which is well under some of the competing SUVs similarly equipped.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 118.9-inches, 5,035-lb. curb weight, maximum 78.5 cubic feet of cargo space with seats down, 42.1-ft. turn circle, 23.8-gallon fuel tank, and 17 city and 22 highway fuel mileage.

In ending, just how much does the motoring press like the new Defender 110? How about Motor Trend magazine naming the Defender the 2021 SUV of the year! That’s a pretty impressive honor as in either two- or four-door dress, this new Land Rover Defender is destined for success. Visit your dealer for current incentive info and if you decide on a Defender 90 two-door, expect some delays due to the Covid.

Likes: Beautiful design, 395 horses, comfortable ride, towing/off-road ability.

Dislikes: Spare tire location, heavy rear door, third row tight.

Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and Gannett Co. Inc. Contact him at greg@gregzyla.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.

2020 Land Rover Defender 110