It’s been the watercooler talk for most of the year, the brand new and dramatically redesigned Land Rover Defender. What’s it like, why has it changed so much, will it be the same, or is it good on and off-road. So many questions to be answered, all of which we hope to explore as the team at DriveLife get the behind the wheel of the 2020 Land Rover Defender SE

My daily drive is my 2015 Land Rover Discovery 4 HSE and I love it. It’s the perfect vehicle for me and my everyday requirements. I must note that I know my Discovery is a different model, so I wont be doing a side by side comparison, just a yardstick reflection based on my own experiences with it. What I love about my Discovery is that it’s nice enough to be comfortable, while still having rubber mats and a huge boot to chuck all sorts of things in and out without being too worried about damaging the vehicle. My almost 3 year-old daughter also loves it as she can climb all over it without Dad getting too freaked out with her standing all over the seats and treating it like a jungle gym. A good test for the new Defender then is how it stacks up against one of its own and everything that life can throw at it.

The Range

The new Land Rover Defender is available in New Zealand in two formats, the Defender 90 and Defender 110. The 90 is the 3-door model and the 110 is the 5-door model. 

Both of these models come with a selection of spec levels. Defender 90 comes with three spec levels; Defender 90 S ($94,900) Defender 90 SE ($106,900) and Defender 90 X ($159,900). The Defender 110 comes with four spec levels; Defender 110 ($89,900) Defender 110 S ($107,900) Defender 110 SE ($114,900) and Defender 110 X ($169,900). 

The Defender 90 and 110 comes with a wide range of engine options that are linked to the different spec levels. The Defender 90 S D200, Defender 110 D200 and Defender 110 S D240 comes with a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder twin turbocharged diesel engine that creates 147kW of power and 430Nm of torque. 

The next spec level SE comes with a wider selection of engines, one petrol, one diesel and hybrid petrol. The Defender 90 & 110 SE D240 comes with a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder twin-turbocharged diesel engine that creates 177kW of power and 430Nm of torque. The Defender 90 & 110 SE  P300 comes with a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder twin-turbocharged petrol engine that creates 221kW of power and 400Nm of torque. The Defender 90 & 110 SE P400 comes with a 3.0-litre 6-cylinder twin turbocharged petrol MHEV (Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle) hybrid engine that creates 294kW of power and 500Nm of torque. The Defender 90 & 110 X P400 comes with the same MHEV Hybrid engine.

The standard features between the trim levels is impressive, as are the optional extras. Land Rover have really made it possible to customise the Defender to allow you to make it your own. The S spec comes standard with LED headlights, Cold Climate Pack heated windscreen, heated washer jets, heated steering wheel, headlight powerwash, keyless entry, metallic paint, 19″ 6-spoke gloss sparkle silver wheels, 19″ full-size spare wheel, grained leather and robust woven textile 12-way heated semi-powered front seats, light oyster morzine headlining, Click and Go integrated base unit, 40:20:40 folding rear seats with centre armrest, standard leather steering wheel, recessed dash beam in light grey powder coat brushed finish, manually adjustable steering column, interactive driver display, sound system 180W with 6 speakers, driver assist pack with adaptive cruise, control blind spot assist, clear exit monitor, rear collision monitor and rear traffic monitor. 

In addition to this, the SE comes with front fog lights, 20″ 5-spoke gloss sparkle silver wheels,  front passenger seat ISOFIX, Clearsight interior rear view mirror, electrically adjustable steering column and MeridianTM sound system with 400W with 10 speakers plus subwoofer.

The X add darkened tail lights, black contrast roof, gloss black bonnet, sliding panoramic roof, X exterior pack, 20″ 5-spoke satin dark grey wheels, rough-cut walnut veneer, bright metal pedals, carpet mats, Illuminated metal tread plates, premium cabin lighting, domestic plug socket, All Terrain Progress Control, electronic active differential with torque vectoring by braking, Terrain Response 2 and configurable Terrain Response.

The 110 also comes with the option of having a 5 or 7 seat configuration.

For a full range of the specs and options available for the Defender 90 and 110, check out Land Rover New Zealand’s website – WEBSITE LINK

First Impressions

It’s definitely a Land Rover, but I am not sure if you would say it’s a Defender at first glance. Our review car was completely black, which was a look I had not seen much of. The international media have been pushing the two tone sand colour with aluminum highlights. The black looked good, but it did seem to highlight some of the other funky design features.

This was the second time I had seen the Defender in the flesh. It’s a very modern style, and it reminds me of the Land Rover truck they made for the Sylvester Stallone Judge Dredd movie. I don’t love it and don’t hate it, as there are things I like and things I don’t. Maybe over the course of the review, this will change. But looks were never a Defenders strong point; it was its ability on and off the road which I was keen to test.

The Inside

The inside of the New Defender is of no comparison to the Defender of old, it’s really not that far away from the other Land Rover and Range Rover products on the market today. It has a clean and up-market luxury feel, while still having a utilitarian vibe. A mixture of soft and hard surfaces, rubber floor matts, to let you know that the Defender still means business. 

The first thing you notice when inside the Defender is that sheer amount of storage compartments. It’s insane, there are so many areas in the front alone to store all sorts of different items. The dash, behind the media screen, either side of the drivers cluster, in the doors, in the centre console, under the centre console, under the cup holders, behind the cup holders, under the arm rest and in the doors. In fact if you accidentally dropped something in this car, there is a good chance that it would land in a storage compartment before hitting the floor. Very impressive and practical.

The seats were great, a mixture of fabric and leather, real easy to get yourself comfy. Compared to the Defender of old, it would be easy to do some long road trips in this. The back seating was similar. As the second row was able to slide, you could (when not using the third row) have a lot of space in the back. The third-row, which is optional, has 2 seats and they looked like airline crew seats, not the same as the rest of the vehicle. The room was tight, and for any adult, the second row had to go forward a good bit for leg room.

From old to new, the level of equipment is staggering; LCD central media screen, and a nice confined space for all the controls and gear stick. Everything from the radio on/off and volume, air-conditioning, off road terrain settings and ride height were all here. It sounds like a lot, but it has been well laid out and thought out. I really liked how the air conditioning controls doubled as controls for seat heaters and dials for other option selections.

I did not like the gear stick, it had an uncomfortable feel to it. Reminds me of a Prius, which I would not have liked if I purchased the vehicle. Feelings aside, I found it clumsy to use, I would often when going into reverse, put it in Park. On many occasions, I would have to pull it down to Drive several times before it would engage. I think a T-bar configuration would have been more ergonomic than the current gear stick.

The central media display was impressive, touchscreen and fast. It was like using your phone, jumping to each section, quickly and easily. The main screen showed nav, device connected and media playing. From here you could access a large menu of apps, your profile, seats, climate, towing & trailers, cameras, valet mode, eco data, Land Rover 4x4i, wade sensing, low traction launch, and voice. As you can see there is a lot of functionality. 

I noticed early on was that the keyless access was not as fluid as it was on previous models. For example on my Discovery, when you grab the handle and it senses you have the key, it unlocks automatically. While on the Defender, you have to press the button on the door handle. A bit picky I know, if you’re right handed, the button is always close to your pinky finger and not your thumb. Most cars at this price level have a single touch unlock system. Everything after that was great, it’s just that small thing. An odd one to change considering they had it set up well in the past. I never got used to this during the review, which I continued to find frustrating. 

The rear tailgate opens from left to right on a single hinge. The door is noticeably light, taking little or no effort to move it. It also stays exactly where you open it, there are no stages to it opening like a car door. This means it would swing away from you with the weight of the spare wheel on there. The boot is a pretty decent space with 916 litres with the third row down. With the third row up, this space shrinks to 231 litres. Not great, but bigger than most 7 seaters. When the second and third row seats are down, the space opens up to 2,233 litres. Something to note though, if you get the 7 seater, the second row does not lay flat when down. Only the 5-seater option does this as the seats move in a different way. I would like to know why they have two different setups, since my seven-seater Discovery can do this. 

The Drive

The driving experience of the new Defender is where the most extreme change has happened. For anyone lucky or unlucky enough to drive an older Defender, they will know that it’s a bit agricultural, missing many refinements for comfort we may be used too. The 2020 Defender has taken a leap and the driving experience has been dragged forward into the 21st century.

Even in the space of the first 10 minutes on the road, I was amazed at how well the new Defender drives – it could have been a mid level Range Rover, or even any one of the other European luxury SUVs available in New Zealand. It didn’t feel like a tank or a tractor to drive, it was really nice. The engine was nice and quiet too, from the inside, you would easily be mistaken for not knowing it was diesel powered.

The engine in this 100 was the P240, which was a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder twin-turbocharged diesel. This engine creates 177kW of power and 430Nm of torque, and is able to haul the Defender to 100km/h in 9.0 seconds. This is not quick, but it’s not slow either, rather typical for a vehicle of this size and spec. Driving around normally I felt that this 2.0 engine was pretty damn good, with plenty of power. The 8-speed automatic gearbox was ok, it was not great or as good as I was used to on the Discovery, however this may have been due to having more power running through it. The Defender was great at speed, but I did find on many occasions in slow traffic or when asking for more power at low speeds, some turbo lag which made it feel slow and jumpy. It was not a dealbreaker, but it was worth noting. 

One thing that I was very impressed about this engine, was the fuel consumption. Land Rover rates its combined fuel consumption at 7.8L per 100km. Generally we find that manufacturers give a number that can only be reached in perfect conditions. However after a week in the Defender, I had an average of 7.5L per 100km. I did check this many times, to be sure, but I was pretty impressed it was below the manufacturer specs. 

On the road, you could be mistaken to think the Defender was more like a car then a lumbering SUV. It didn’t roll half as much as my Discovery does in the corners, which was great – it felt strong and connected to the road at all times. 

I love innovation, but I also love the old saying, if it aint broke don’t fix it. The digital rear view mirror was just one of those things. I could see why they put it in place, as visibility out the rear or sides was not great at the best of times. The spare wheel on the rear door was the first thing you could see and it blocked a lot of space where cars would be behind you. So you now get a digital rear view mirror. It sounds cool, and it kind of is. However your brain can have problems using it. For example, if you are focused on the road, say 100m ahead of you, and you quickly look into the rear view mirror. Your eyes and brain and still focused at a point 100m away. With a digital screen, your eyes need to focus on the point where the mirror is, to see what’s on the display. This crash focus from far to near and back, can give you an unsettling feeling or headaches. If you are going to buy one of these, best test that out. I just left the rear view mirror in the mirror mode and used the many other cameras and sensors when reversing to ensure a safe environment around the vehicle.

During my time in the Defender, I needed to tow a trailer with a vehicle on it. This is something that I do often with my Discovery, which never finds it difficult or noticeably taxing. The tow kit that came with the Defender had a 50mm tow ball in place, but my trailer used a 42mm tow ball. Not a problem for the Defender as the tow balls can be swapped out very quickly. Within the space of a minute, we had the right ball in place and we started to set up the trailer. Once hooked up, I did notice the load on the small engine. Even though it’s got 430Nm of torque, it’s still a small 2.0-litre engine. When we had a trailer and 2-ton vehicle back there, it had a bit of an effect. It was more than able to do the job, but I would have preferred a bit more power so the trailer had less of an impact on performance. 

I got a chance to do some offroading, easy stuff, nothing hardcore. It also doubled as a good location for our photos. Having owned a Discovery 4, the setup was much the same. Lift into off road ride height, select the offroad mode you want and away you go. The 4x4i info screen was very useful. It displayed the altitude, bearing, roll and pitch of the vehicle. It also showed in real time what each wheel and suspension was doing. This is where you could also lock your differential. Along the top of this screen you were able to see some of the settings you had selected, ride height and terrain mode. It was all a bit too easy. 

Taking the Defender across the lake bed was not a strain for it, we could have been driving across a lawn it was that easy. Even up and down to the bed articulated the body a bit, pushing and pulling the suspension to its extremes, and still it carried on. It was obvious to me, who was not an experienced offroader, that the only part of the equation that was lacking ability was the driver. However, the new Defender makes it so easy and provides the driver with a lot of confidence. 

When out taking all of the photos of the Defender on the lake bed, I found it frustrating that each time I would turn off the vehicle, and then just back in, I had to set all the settings again. So if I had it in off road ride height and rock claw, it would then reset to normal height and drive mode when turned off. I hope this can be set to stay in the mode selected, as it would be a bit frustrating to turn it on each time.

Overall I was impressed with the Defender, it’s now an every day comfy and practical vehicle for everyone, not just the die-hard offroaders.

The Competition

As the Defender has changed, so has its competition, it no longer stands alone as it conformed to today’s market. I can see the reasoning behind that too, if they can make something that appeals to a larger market, instead of the extreme offroad and farmers market.

As long as it’s able to do what the older model could, they are recreating a legend that could sell like hotcakes to a much larger customer base.

Brand / ModelEnginePower kW/NmNumber of SeatsFuel L/100kmTowing Capacity, KgPrice Highest to Lowest
Toyota Land Cruiser 200 VX4.5-litre V8200/60089.5750/3500$115,990
Land Rover Discovery SE3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel190/60077.5750/3500$115,900
Land Rover Defender D230 SE2.0-litre 4-cylinder177/43079.5750/3500$94,900
Jeep Wrangler 4DR Rubicon3.6-litre V6 Pentastar209/347510.3750/3500$87,990
Toyota Land Cruiser Prado GX2.8-litre 4 cylinder turbo diesel130/45078.0750/3500$71,990

Pros

  • Head-turning modern styling
  • Tough and ready for anything
  • Out of the box offroading
  • Packed with toys
  • Comfy ride
  • Great build quality
  • High quality interior
  • Road and wind noise

Cons

  • Gear shift lever design 
  • Resets offroad settings when engine turns off
  • Space for 7 seats very tight
  • Expected more power for towing with a diesel
  • Keyless entry door handles
  • Lost its utilitarianism 
  • Review view mirror

2020 Land Rover Defender 110 P240 SE

Vehicle TypeSUV
Starting Price$114,900
Price as Tested$120,150
Engine2.0 litre 4-cylinder twin-turbocharged diesel
Power, Torque
kW/Nm
240/430
TransmissionAutomatic
Spare WheelFull size on rear door
Kerb Weight, Kg2184
Length x Width x Height, mm5018 x 2008 x 1969
Fuel tank capacity, litres90 
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – Combined – 7.8
Real-World Test – Combined – 7.5

Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked750 /3500
Turning circle, metres12.84

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 Warranty3 years or 100,000km warranty
ANCAP Safety RatingsN/A
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Economy
9
Interior
8
Performance
6
Safety
6
Styling
9
Value
6
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It started at a young age with bedroom posters, the Countach of course. This slowly grew into a super car die-cast model collection, fifty five 1:18 models at the last count. At which point it had almost taken full control, the incurable Mad Car Disease ran deep though my veins all the way to the bone. And things for my loved ones just got worse as the cars where now being bought at 1:1 scale, after a BMW, HSV, and couple of Audi's, the disease reached my brain, pushing me over the edge and down the rabbits hole into the world of the bedroom poster.

1 COMMENT

  1. A very nicely written article. I really appreciated the profesional photographs and masses of content. Well done . Love your work and keep it going.

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