After four years, we finally get a brand-new Land Rover Defender. Let’s at a look at what we’ll see when it lands on our shores in the Spring of 2020.
Outside of Jeep, no other platform has had a continuous run of production vehicles like the Land Rover Defender has. For nearly 70 years, the British answer to the four-wheel drive defined what civilian off-road vehicles should be until it was canceled in January of 2016. Now, Land Rover shows off what the new production version of the Defender that will become available in “Spring of 2020.” Let’s take a closer look.
Not Built for the Parking LotsAs someone who has a deep love of off-roading in the United States, it’s hard to admit that Land Rovers are genuine off-road vehicles. It’s not their fault, mostly. Land Rovers here have always had a posh and lavish attachment to them due to their expense. They were SUVs for the upper crust soccer mom with a disconnected trust fund father and spoiled kids. That is, except for one model: The Defender. It was the working man’s SUV in the Land Rover lineup, and it was meant to be driven off-road. Actually, all Land Rovers are very capable off pavement, but the Defender was always especially so. It was bred for it since the Series One was created in 1948. That original truck had an aluminum body on a steel box chassis, the doors and roof were optional extras, the interior was spartan, and featured power-take-off (PTO) drives. It was meant to be a utility or farm vehicle and was even limited to 30-MPH by the British government as it was classified as a commercial vehicle. This would change around 1953 when the Law Lords allowed it to be classified as a “multi-purpose vehicle” and only be classified as a commercial vehicle if it was only used for that.
What’s ComingThe 2020 Defender is being touted as the modern successor to the Series and later Defenders. “The new Defender is respectful of its past but is not harnessed by it,” said Gerry McGovern, Chief Design Officer at Land Rover. “This is a new Defender for a New Age. Its unique personality is accentuated by its distinctive silhouette and optimum proportions, which make it both highly desirable and seriously capable – a visually compelling 4×4 that wears its design and engineering integrity with uncompromised commitment.” It has the design cues of the entire history, that’s for sure. Much like the Jeep Wrangler, I don’t think you could have any other look than the boxy design the 2020 has. That’s because Defender fans and buyers have a lot in common with Wrangler fans and buyers – they just don’t like to admit it. Both want a vehicle that has some modern conveniences without ruining the looks they have come to love. However, the big things the last Defender had, and the Wrangler kept, are something the new 2020 Defender loses: solid axles and a body-on-frame design.
A Unibody is ToughThe new D7x architecture is unique to the Defender and is made of an aluminum unibody. Even so, Land Rover promises that the Defender will have the stiffest body in their lineup. They advertise that the roof can take a static load of 661-pounds, a vertical load of 7.7-tons through the suspension, and up to 19.8-tons of snatch loading at the built-in recovery points. It will also utilize forged steel subframes along with one of the best factory off-road air suspension systems I’ve ever driven on, if the Discovery I drove a few of years ago is anything to go by. The Discovery will use a two-speed transfer case and have locking rear and center differentials as options. It will also come from Land Rover with 32-inch tires as factory parts. This in combination of its 38-degree approach, 40-degree departure, and 28- to 31-degree breakover angles, driving it around the Hammers isn’t going to be an issue until you get to the crazy boulders. I mean, it’s already been tested on Hell’s Revenge, Poison Spider, and Steel Bender trails out at Moab, Utah. That isn’t enough? Land Rover tested it against 7.9-inch curb strikes at 25-MPH at their own headquarters. If you’re in the wetter environments, you’ll be able to wade into waters of up to 35.4-inches in depth.
4-Cylinder Engine and I6 MHEVThere will be two engine choices here in the US. One is the P300 which is a turbocharged, 296-horsepower four-cylinder engine and the P400. This is the top of the line power unit and is considered a “mild-hybrid electric vehicle.” It’s rather impressive from the numbers. It’s an inline six-cylinder engine under the Ingenium family, a modular line of three-, four-, five-, and six-cylinder engines in both gasoline and diesel. Each cylinder is around 500cc’s and use similar head and rotating assembly designs. So, this will be a 3.0-liter displacement engine.
Electric Supercharged, Turbocharged, and Hybrid PowerWhat blew people’s minds earlier this year, when this 3.0-liter was announced in February 2019, was that it was not only going to use a twin-scroll turbocharger, but also a 48-volt electric supercharger and an accessory belt-integrated motor in place of the alternator – it’s a similar style of hybrid system that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles uses. So, it will not only start the engine (it also replaces the starter motor) but also provide drive power and recover energy while the Defender is slowing down. When it all works together, the 3.0-liter Ingenium engine will produce 395-horsepower, 406-lb-ft of torque (105-torque coming from just the starter motor), and a zero-to-60 time of 5.8-seconds with the eight-speed ZF 8HP. Needless to say, it’s not only going to be a bit on the quick side for a Defender but also a great utility vehicle with those numbers as it’s capable of towing up to 8,201-pounds and hauling a payload of 1,984-pounds. There may also be a reason they have chosen this Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV) design as its very easy to integrate into the two chassis lengths.
The 90 and The 110Just like the original Defender, there will be two-door and four-door versions. The Defender 90 will be the shorter, two-door version but we won’t see it until later in 2020. Though, Land Rover promises it will follow swiftly after the 110. The 110 is the longer wheelbase four-door and will be the first to launch in Spring 2020. This is great news as we continue to see bulkier SUVs with four-doors become the norm. It’s nice to see another two-door SUV coming into the market and one with such an amazing history.
Model Lineup and the “Packs”There will be six versions of the Defender for you to choose from at the dealer. The standard and S are the cheapest versions and come with the P300 turbo four-cylinder. The SE is where you start to get that amazing I6 MHEV and from there is the HSE, First Edition, and the nearly $81,000 Defender X. From there, you go further with four different Packs: the Explorer Pack, the Adventure Pack, the Country Pack, and the Urban Pack. Each pack accessories the Defender to match its intended use. For example, the Urban Pack is for the mall crawler and features 22-inch five-spoke wheels in gloss black, brighter rear scuff plate, brighter side tubes, and a cover for the tail gate mounted spare. The Explorer Pack, by contrast, makes sure that the Defender is going to go wherever you want to take it. It has a snorkel, roof rack, side-mounted gear carriers, deployable roof ladders, and front and A-frame skid plates. The Country and Adventure Packs are in between them, but the Adventure Pack includes the portable rinse system and an integrated air compressor.
Individual Option Parts Including a WinchThe nice part about those Accessory Pack parts? You can still get them individually. So, you can get that 1.7-gallon portable rinse system, the side-mounted gear carrier, and even the deployable roof ladder if your Pack doesn’t come with them. Further, Land Rover offers their Remote Control Electric Winch for the Defender. It’s a 10,000-pound winch that comes with 131-feet of synthetic rope that fits without modifying the front bumper. It even features a wireless remote that works up to 147-feet away. When you get it, it also comes with their Winch Accessory Kit that includes two D-rings, a snatch block, tree protector, leather and cotton gloves that all come in a nylon soft case. “We’ve embraced the Defender vehicle’s stunning capability and minimalistic, functional interior to reinvent the icon for the 21st century,” said Nick Rogers, Executive Director of Product Engineering at Jaguar Land Rover. “The new Defender gives us the license to do things differently, to push the boundaries and do the unthinkable, without ever losing the character and authenticity of the original. From the start we had an absolute obsession with functionality beneath the skin, from choosing the right materials through to state-of-the-art connectivity. The result is not only the most capable Land Rover ever made, but also a truly comfortable, modern vehicle that people will love to drive.”
My ConclusionI haven’t been excited by a new Land Rover in a long while. Maybe never, in fact. The 2020 Land Rover Defender has my attention and I can’t wait to see it in real life. It also seems like a more realistically achievable vehicle in the Land Rover lineup, too. The standard Defender 110 with the P300 starts at $49,900 while the Defender 110 SE with the P400 starts at $62,250, the Defender 110 HSE at $68,350, Defender 110 First Edition at $68,650, and the Defender 110 X at $80,900. That starting price is more expensive than the JL Wrangler Sport four-door at around $33,000 but the Moab four-door starts at around $53,000. Yes, I know there will be haggling involved but that’s also the case for the Defender. Depending on how you package each one, the Defender might be a harder choice to pass up considering you get a vehicle that’s potentially better both on and off-road while getting better gas mileage than the Wrangler. The fanboys won’t like to hear that one but it’s probably going to be the inconvenient truth.