Land Rover Defender 90
The Land Rover Defender is a four-wheel drive off-road SUV from British automotive company Jaguar Land Rover. The new model was launched on 10 September 2019 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It is significant for being the first all-new version of the Defender, breaking the engineering lineage with its predecessor, a descendant of the original Series Land Rovers of 1948. This modern monococque 4x4 is aimed at a more upmarket sector than its predecessor.
The Defender replaces the original Land Rover Defender (1983-2016). The cars are to be built in Slovakia at Jaguar Land Rover's Nitra plant, a manufacturing facility which opened on 25 October 2018. The plant covers an area of about 300,000 square metres.
The car, which shares no components or technology with its predecessor Defender model, features permanent all-wheel drive, locking differentials, and a two-speed transfer case. Unlike the previous Defender models, the new model will feature an aluminium unibody instead of a body-on-frame construction. All Defender 110 variants come with air suspension as standard whilst the 90 can be optioned with coil springs or air suspension. Deliveries to customers of the 5-door Defender 110, began in early 2020 and followed by the 3-door Defender 90 in late 2020.
Design review by Jim Holder of Autocar
The new Defender will also be available with a greater breadth of capabilities than any other Land Rover before. The line-up will range from humanitarian and military models through to lifestyle-orientated versions that can be supplemented with more than 170 individual accessories.
“This is a car that needs to look like it can do the business,” said Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern. “It has a silhouette even a child could draw, but there’s nothing simple about it – especially on the surfaces, which on first glance look quite raw and elemental but which are in fact incredibly sophisticated. Flat panels can look very cheap and this is a premium vehicle, so we needed to be smarter than that.”
To emphasise the car’s off-road capabilities, and guided by a mission to make it look “tough but approachable”, McGovern and his team sought to leave many of the fixtures and fittings – from the door handles to door bolts on the interior – visible. They also opted for details such as an inset bonnet over a clamshell arrangement, a side-hinged boot and the option of a spare wheel on the back. The vast flat-top dashboard, cast from magnesium alloy, is a structural part of the car and is set low to boost visibility. It is also notable for its structural grab handles that give occupants a constant visual reminder of the car’s go-anywhere ability.
The 10.0in digital screen is deliberately not integrated into the dash, though. “It’s honest. We didn’t want to pretend this is a high-tech vehicle at its heart,” said McGovern. “There an element of ‘there it is, use it’ about it.” The screen also displays Land Rover’s next-generation infotainment system, called Pivi Pro. It is said to be more user-friendly and intuitive – both criticisms of Jaguar Land Rover’s previous tech – and requires up to 50% fewer inputs to perform frequent tasks than before. Systems updates can also be made to the car over the air.
Notably, the dash-mounted gear shifter (the Defender is not available with a manual ’box) leaves room for an optional central ‘jump’ seat as found on the earliest Land-Rovers. That means the Defender 110 can be specked as a five-, six- or 5+2-seater. “Much as we love the old one, if you drive it for two weeks, you get a bad back. That won’t be the case with this one,” said McGovern, in reference to the quality of the seating in the new Defender.
Boot space behind the second row is 1075 litres, rising to 2390 litres if the second row of seats is folded, figures that eclipse those of the seven-seat Discovery. The Defender 90 will hold up to six people. Non-leather choices are available as trim options.
Engineering overview review by Alborz Fallah (founder) of Caradvice
The 2020 Land Rover Defender is set to redefine what a Defender can do, both on and off-road.
Here, we take a deep dive into what the new super-SUV is made of – and why – with Land Rover's chief engineer, Nick Collins. The new car is based on what Land Rover calls the D7x architecture; the 'x' is for extreme. It’s a 100 per cent new aluminium monocoque, which Collins says is the right choice to deliver the capability required for a Defender today.
It's fundamental to the toughness of the car, and there ‘are no corners cut’.
Land Rover says the Defender’s chassis is three times stiffer than the next best in market, and can withstand a 6.5-tonne recovery load and 7.0-tonne vertical load through the suspension. It can support 300kg of weight on its roof when static or 168kg when on the go. The Defender has a tow rating of 3.5-tonnes. There are two models on offer, the 90 and 110, with the larger five-door model arriving first in June next year and the smaller three-door set to show up before the end of 2020.
The Defender 90 has a wheelbase of 2.59m, the 110 measures 3.02m. Overhangs are minimised to 845mm at the front and 891mm at the rear.
That leaves an approach angle of 38 degrees at the front and 40 degrees departure angle at the rear. Collins says with the 291mm ground clearance, “if you can get the front of the car over an obstacle the rest of the vehicle is going to follow it”.
The new side-hinged boot door, a requirement for off-road driving to remove the spare wheel from beneath the car, can hold itself open at any angle up to 90 degrees and is properly mounted to the right side of the car with supporting structures Land Rover says will stop the ‘saggy door’ problem suffered by previous models.
On the inside, there are plenty of options for how to configure the new Defender. Even in the 90 models there's space for six occupants, even though the car is actually shorter than an Audi A3. There are three console configurations in the car; open space to walk from row one to row two, a larger centre console with a fridge option, and a jump seat for that 3+3 option. Options for seating will be five and six for the 90, and five and seven for the 110.
The driving position is even 35mm higher than that of the tallest Range Rover, and all the handles and internal structures are designed to be as tough as the car.
Collins claims if you leave the car in neutral you can push it forward with the grab handle on the instrument panel.
Independent multi-link front double wishbone and integral link on the rear (optional air) suspension holds the car up. One of the tests Land Rover has done is repeatedly run the Defender into a 200mm block at 40km/h, which gives the 7-tonnes of load into the body structure.
The optional air suspension gives a 500mm articulation, raising the front by 135mm and the rear by 145mm allowing for a 900mm wading depth.
The 815mm wheel diameter for the 18-inch wheel is designed for extreme off-roading when required (Collins says you can drive up a big sand dune in Dubai without lowering the tyre pressures) with 12-wheel designs and three-wheel sizes (18-, 20- and 22-inch).
The extreme structure and suspension are added to permanent all-wheel drive with a twin-speed transfer box, locking centre differential and optional active rear differential.
Power is routed through an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission – Collins says you can drive up a 45-degree slope thanks to the strongest driveshafts ever deployed on any Land Rover.
The brakes are no longer physically connected to the master cylinder, now the pedal connects to the actuator which controls a piston-driven hydraulic system. Collins says it produces far more precise and linear brake pressures on-road and allows the traction control system to work better on-road. The system can brake each wheel individually in 150ms from when slip is detected.
Despite its look and purpose, the Defender is also relatively aerodynamic. It has a flat underfloor compromising of reinforced fibre mats with aluminium protective shields, and sophisticated detailing that has brought an aero efficiency of 0.38 Cd. This is even helped by the spare wheel being mounted on the tailgate.
In regards to powertrains, there are four and six-cylinder engines offered at launch. Two petrols and two diesels, all manufactured and engineered by Land Rover in the UK. The new six-cylinder petrol is electrified as a mild-hybrid (MHEV) with a 48V system, offering 294kW and 550Nm of torque.
It uses an electric supercharger which is a compressor driven directly by the 48V electric motor. The twin-scroll turbocharger helps with reducing lag.
Its engine start-stop can restart in just 600ms, but Collins also says the electrical components don't compromise the packaging of the car.
Other engines include a 220kW four-cylinder petrol which won't be sold in Australia, and two diesel engines – 147kW and 177kW (both with 430Nm of torque) – which we will. There will also be a plug-in hybrid Defender coming in 2021.
The car has been tested for 1.2 million kilometres, more than any other Land Rover before, from Nevada to the Arctic Circle, to Dubai and even at the Nürburgring.
Collins says the new Defender remains analogue in how it feels to drive, however, it is not tiring and can be driven on-road for extended periods of time and become an everyday car and gives it a new "character and personality all of its own but grounded in the history of the cars before it".
Technology review by Alistair Charlton of The Gearbrain
The 2020 Defender is the first vehicle from Jaguar Land Rover to feature the company's all-new Privi Pro infotainment system. This runs on a 10-inch touchscreen display in the middle of the dashboard, and on an all-digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel.
Pivi Pro has a flatter, simpler menu system than its predecessor, meaning fewer taps and swipes are required to access and control the system's core functions. Everything has also been sped up, so it responds more quickly to touch inputs than before. There is also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, a wireless charging pad for your phone, plus a USB-C port and numerous USB-A ports and 12-volt sockets spread throughout the cabin.
Despite the large touch screen, the Defender's climate controls are still mostly physical, thanks to a pair of large rotating dials surrounded by conventional buttons. This is the right move for Land Rover to make; not only does it better-suit the Defender's back-to-basics DNA and purposeful design, but it also feels safer than tapping at a touchscreen.
The Defender driver also gets a web-connected navigation system with live traffic data, and some truly remarkable camera trickery.
The main camera feature is called ClearSight Ground View, and also features on other current models of Land Rover. It uses cameras at the front and back (those that you'd normally use for parking) plus downwards-facing cameras on the wing mirrors. These create an augmented view of what the ground looks like under the front of the car, as if looking through the engine bay.
Although the footage displayed isn't quite live — there's a small delay for the feed to be stitched together — the view it offers, as if the engine and hood simply aren't there, is remarkable. The idea is you use this view to help during a tricky bit of off-road, or when approaching a particularly large curb in the shopping mall parking lot, of course.
The exterior cameras also work together to create what Land Rover calls the 3D Surround Camera, which shows a complete 360-degree view of what your car looks like, as if viewed outside from several feet away, shown in the image below. It's a mightily impressive computer trick, and makes the driver feel like they are looking at their car from a hovering drone, or in a computer game. Again, this helps with spotting obstacles while off-roading, parking, or towing a trailer.
Yet more camera smarts can be accessed while driving in the Defender's off-road mode, which is called Terrain Response and is selected with a press of a button. Now, the 10-inch display can show a view ahead and behind, but also a view from those downward-facing cameras, helping you see precisely where the wheels are. We found this really helpful while tackling an off-road driving course, as part of the new Defender's UK launch event.
Speaking of Terrain Response, the system can be manually adjusted to off-roading presets like snow, sand and rock crawl. But it can also be left to automatically adjust the car depending on what it senses from the surface below.
A particularly smart feature of Terrain Response is Hill Descent Control, which acts like cruise control for driving slowly up or down steep inclines. The system automatically engages, at which point you can take your foot off the brake and leave the car to lower itself, at a constant speed, down the hill. A toggle switch on the steering wheel lets you increase or decrease the speed.
When encountering deep water, the main display can be switched to show a visual representation of how deep the water is compared to the car. The Defender can wade in water up to 900mm (35.4 inches) deep.
All of this technology adds up to make serious off-roading feel like child's play. The car we used was fitted with an optional tire better-suited to off-road conditions, but this didn't appear to hinder the Defender's on-road behavior, or cause excessive road noise. Other than that, it was simply a case of pressing one or two buttons and driving as normal, on- or off-road.
Die-hard fans of the old Defender may feel short-changed here, wishing for more involvement and the opportunity to use skill and judgement instead of relying on computer algorithms. But for an off-roading amateur, it was impossible not to be impressed by how effortlessly the car handles tough terrain, and even gives you a 360-degree view of the surroundings as you go.
More camera technology is found in the central rear-view mirror. It can be used as normal, but with a flick of a switch underneath, the reflection is replaced by a high-resolution display showing a live feed from a rear-facing camera. This camera is positioned above the rear windshield, giving you an enhanced view of the road behind, over the roofs of lower vehicles, and means you can see clearly when you have rear-seat passengers or a full trunk.
Some drivers told me they're not keen on this, but I loved it. The display's refresh rate can very occasionally look like a flicker in the corner of your eye, but after a day behind the wheel I got used to it, and much preferred the wide, pin-sharp view from the camera over the normal mirror..
“ If you can make use of it, there's nothing to match it”
We usually recommend 4WD estate cars over expensive crossovers, because there’s not much a crossover can do that an estate can’t.
But the Defender isn’t a crossover and skittles that argument. If you can make use of it, there’s nothing to match it.
The Top Gear car review
“ World-class capability. Brilliant on and off road, at a price”
That’s what marks it out as an adventuring vehicle. Whether your adventure comprises a day trekking through forests, traversing your farmland or a building site, or is just a solid day of school run followed by motorway schlep to a meeting, you’ll get out of it less tired than you would any of its rivals.
Draw up a list of the most broadly capable cars in the world and the Defender would sit comfortably in the top three. It costs and it’s thirsty, especially in this form, but it’s a triumph.
Autocar review by Matt Prior
“The Land Rover Defender is superbly designed, exceptionally well-engineered and still retains its famous go-anywhere ability”
Land Rover has silenced the doubters and produced a Defender worthy of the famous name. It’s clearly a more modern and luxurious car than before, but the Defender has lost none of its ability to tackle whatever conditions are thrown its way. Customers can be reassured that, alongside the Defender’s core attributes, there’s a level of refinement that will make tackling the urban jungle just as effortless as the steepest of slopes or the muddiest of fields.
You’ll have to pay handsomely for the privilege and there are all kinds of other rivals to consider - none though possess that unique sense of cool and personality that comes with a Defender. It’s a car we wholeheartedly recommend.
Auto Express review
“ The old Defender was almost an impossible car to replace”
Nonetheless, Land Rover has done an outstanding job with the new one. The design hints at the original while being modern, off-road performance is brilliant and on-road refinement is excellent.
It's certainly a car you'd struggle to find rivals for – the Mercedes-Benz G-Class is brilliant, but twice the price, and the Toyota Land Cruiser, especially in commercial form is significantly cheaper.
Parkers review by Lawrence Cheung