A few years ago, when I was camping around Iceland with my friends in a lifted Defender 110, the local hardcore Land Rover fans who built the rig said they will be fine with the upcoming new model, as long as you can put large enough wheels on it. Well, four years and 750,000 test miles into the making, the all-new Defender is here. So far, it looks like it’ll live up to its promise.
Instead of a traditional ladder frame like used to build the Wrangler or, say, the Suzuki Jimny, Land Rover built the new Defender on what it calls the D7x architecture, which is a heavily modified Discovery platform. (That means it can adopt all the mild-hybrid and plug-in electric vehicle options customers expect as we move into the 2020s.) The unibody aluminum construction and the adaptive air suspension also brings comfort to the table, but Land Rover promises that after 750,000 miles of testing all over the world, the Defender is as tough as nails. This chassis is claimed to be three-times stiffer than a traditional body-on-frame design, which should make the coil sprung version surprisingly capable on any surface.
The four-door Defender 110 comes with 5+2 seating in four Accessory Packs (Explorer, Adventure, Country and Urban) as well as with 170 individual accessories straight from the factory. These include a pressurized rinse system, a modular backpack, a trunk-mounted integrated air compressor, or a side-mounted gear carrier, to name just a few. But fans of short overhangs will be much more interested in the two-door Defender 90 on traditional steel wheels, while businesses can look forward to a wide range of equally pure commercial models in both wheelbases.
While commercial 90s may start at £35,000+VAT in the UK, the U.S. market will get higher trim 110s before the short-wheelbase 90s arrive later in 2020, priced like this:
On the outside, you still get “Alpine light” windows in the roof and a big side-hinged tailgate with an externally-mounted spare wheel. That roof can also take loads of 661 pounds when parked, or 370 on the move, unless you choose the full-lenght retractable fabric roof for the full Safari experience. Land Rover cooked up a range of new color for the Defenders, and for the first time ever, you can spec a Satin Protective Film to give that paint a better chance out there.
The paint is also exposed on a number of structural elements and fixings inside, while the rest of the cabin can be wrapped in anything from durable Robust Woven Textile—which feature Decitex fibers for added strength, along with some recycled polyester—to Windsor leather with the HSE trim, which gets additional Steelcut Premium Textile accents for enhanced durability in the range-topping Defender X.
The Defender 110 offers five, six, or 5+2 seating configurations, with room for 38 cubic feet of cargo behind the second-row seats, or as much as 84 cubic feet when that second row is folded. The Defender 90 will be able to accommodate six occupants, despite its small footprint.
Off the pavement, this new platform gives the Defender a ground clearance of 11.45-inches, with the 110’s approach, breakover and departure angles being at 38, 28 and 40 degrees when off-road height is engaged. And with its new Wade program in the Terrain Response 2 system, it will also plow through muddy waters as high as 35.4-inches. Compared to other Land Rovers, the Defender’s body structure has been raised by 0.8-in, with the battery and cooling circuits also relocated to enhance its capability. But on top of the independent suspension, two-speed transfer case, locking center and rear differentials and permanent four-wheel drive, a wide range of driver aids are there to help you out of sticky situations.
While the configurable Terrain Response is only standard on the Defender X, Hill Launch Assist with Enhanced Hill Hold will come handy at any trim level. Land Rover’s Emergency Braking can also be triggered twice as quickly as before. And since the Defender can also tow up to 8200 pounds, Advanced Tow Assist will let drivers steer trailers using a rotary controller on the center console.
U.S. customers will be able to choose between a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, badged P300, and a six-cylinder Mild-Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV) powertrain, badged P400. The P300 powertrain produces 296 hp, while the P400 MHEV packs 395 horsepower and 406-lb ft of torque, harvesting energy during deceleration to then spool up a 48-volt electric supercharger. In this hybrid model, a belt-integrated starter motor replaces the alternator.
Behind the central 10-inch touchscreen is Land Rover’s new EVA 2.0 infotainment, which supports Software-Over-The-Air updates to keep your vehicle fresh throughout the years. In the Defender, 14 individual modules are capable of receiving remote updates. Head-up display, cameras, digital interior mirror and all the USB ports. You name a gadget, and this Defender will have it. So don’t hose it out, but welcome to the Defender of our times.