All-new 2020 Land Rover Defender: reinventing an icon

  • Promises to be extremely capable off-road…
  • But will be a revelation on-road compared with its predecessor
  • Two sizes, up to seven seats, but what will the purists think?

Many cars will vie for the unofficial title of the most important new car of 2020, but few will have as legitimate a claim to the accolade as the all-new Land Rover Defender. The scale of the task for Land Rover in replacing its most iconic model cannot be underestimated – after all, it’s 71 years since the off-roader which eventually evolved into the Defender in 1990 was originally launched.

The world’s changed enormously since the original Land Rover debuted in 1948, and the new Defender’s arsenal of on-board technology reflects that. Like its aged predecessor, its hardcore buyers demand that it’s peerless off-road, but customers also expect refinement, performance and efficiency when on the asphalt. The omens are good.

Set to rival other capable SUVs such as the Toyota Land Cruiser, Volkswagen Touareg and even the significantly pricier Mercedes-Benz G-Class, the new Slovakian-built Defender comes in two guises: the long-wheelbase 110 which is orderable immediately, followed by the shorter 90 which buyers can place orders for in a few weeks’ time. A commercial version will go on sale during 2020.

Modern styling with a nod to the original

Land Rover has chosen not to trek along the same path Mercedes did with its latest G-Class, a model that was also new at launch, but which slavishly followed the styling template laid down by the late-1970s G-Wagen.

Instead the new Defender is an utterly modern SUV that pays homage to the original in some of the detailing, such as its upright silhouette, the strong shoulder line and the side-hinged tailgate-mounted spare wheel. But there are plenty of twists that herald a new era, not least those body coloured panels seemingly mounted in the rear side glass, that have practical applications, too.

Gold 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 front three-quarter off-road in snow

Inside, the new Defender is utterly contemporary with LCD screens for the instrumentation, an updated infotainment system dubbed Pivi Pro, access to a suite of electronic wizardry to make driving on- and off-road even more of a cinch, yet you can still hose the cabin down if it’s clarted with mud after a day of cross-country adventuring.

Depending upon the colour paint you choose, you can even have a factory fitted protective film applied to the bodywork to ensure the Defender’s better able to stand-up to the rigours of a rough and tumble life.

Space inside for five, six or seven

With the spare wheel attached to the back door, the Defender 110 is a lengthy beast at 5,018mm, but there’s space inside for up to seven people, although the rearmost two will be kids. As standard the 110’s a five-seater, but an optional front centre seat for occasional use is a carry-over feature from the old Defender. When it’s not required it can be folded away for additional storage.

2020 Land Rover Defender 110 front seats

Land Rover’s dialled-up the pertness for the Defender 90 and at 4,583mm – with the spare wheel included – it’s barely any longer than most compact family hatchbacks such as the Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf. Like the 110, the 90’s a five-seater as standard, with the option of the front jump seat to turn it into a six-seater.

Defender customers frequently need a lot of space for their kit and clutter, and here the newcomer is generous – the 90’s boot space ranges from 397 litres to 1,563 litres with the rear bench folded. Opt for the 110 and you’ve got 646 litres to 2,380 litres in five- or six- seat mode, and 231-2,233 litres when the optional third-row seats are fitted. You can also carry up to 300kg on the roof and tow up to 3,500kg of braked trailer behind you.

Mild-hybrid performance and efficiency

From launch, the Defender’s four engine options – two each of petrol and diesel – all feature turbocharging and a mild-hybrid system for efficiency and performance. Other than confirmation it’s coming, there are no official details yet on the Defender plug-in hybrid set to go on sale during 2020, but expect a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine supporting the electric drive.

Green 2020 Land Rover Defender 90 rear three-quarter off-road

Diesels are expected to be the most popular of the initial powerplants. Both are 2.0-litre four-cylinder motors producing 200hp in the D200 and 240hp in the D240. The P300 has a 300hp petrol motor the same configuration as the diesels, while the punchier P400 features a 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol, with – you guessed it – 400hp

All Defenders come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, with low-range capability and – unsurprisingly – four-wheel drive as standard.

Provisional performance and efficiency figures are as follows:

Defender 90

  • D200 – 109mph top speed, 0-62mph 10.2 seconds, 37.7mpg, 199g/km CO2 
  • D240 – 117mph top speed, 0-62mph 9.0 seconds, 37.7mpg, 199g/km CO2 
  • P300 – 119mph top speed, 0-62mph 8.0 seconds, 28.5-28.8mpg, 224-227g/km CO2 
  • P400 – 119-129mph top speed, 0-62mph 6.3 seconds, 29.4mpg, 219g/km CO2 

Defender 110

  • D200 – 109mph top speed, 0-62mph 10.3 seconds, 37.2mpg, 199g/km CO2 
  • D240 – 117mph top speed, 0-62mph 9.1 seconds, 37.2mpg, 199g/km CO2 
  • P300 – 119mph top speed, 0-62mph 8.1 seconds, 28.5mpg, 227-228g/km CO2 
  • P400 – 119-129mph top speed, 0-62mph 6.4 seconds, 29.4mpg, 220g/km CO2 

Off-road prowess assured

Based upon new underpinnings that Land Rover refers to as D7x, the new Defender is set to be the brand’s most capable off-road vehicle. It rides 20mm higher than other Land Rovers and combined with moving the battery and other ancillary components to higher locations, as well as mounting the spare wheel on the body rather than under the car, it promises to be very agile off-road, able to traverse sharp inclines with ease.

Coil springs are standard for the fully independent suspension, but an adaptive air sprung system is optionally available, making the on- and off-road experience even more sophisticated. Suspension travel of up to 500mm ensures the Defender can maintain four wheels on the ground in all but the most extreme circumstances. Not only can the air springs elevate the Defender by 70mm over tricky terrain, they can lower it by 50mm to make passenger entry and exit less of a climbing exercise.

Silver 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 side elevation off-roading

Drivers can vary the slip levels of the differentials using the Pivi Pro touchscreen system, affording a much greater degree of precision to maintain traction in the trickiest of conditions. Of course, the Defender can also be left to its own devices leaving the Terrain Response 2 system in automatic mode, where it determines what kind of surface is being driven on and varies the throttle response and traction control accordingly.

Other familiar features such as All-Terrain Progress Control – effectively a slow-speed off-road cruise control and ClearSight Ground View to render the an on-screen image of what’s going on underneath the car are combined with the new Defender’s ability to wade through up to 900mm of water.

The technology behind many of those off-road advances, combined with everything else Land Rover’s engineers have finessed over the past 71 years will ensure the new Defender is significantly superior to its predecessor on-road, too. Precisely how good will become clearer when we’ve had the opportunity to rigorously test it.

How much does it cost?

So far prices have only been confirmed for the longer Defender 110 which starts at £45,240 for the most basic version before the extensive range of 170 extra-cost options is plundered – deliveries begin in early 2020. Expect the shorter 90 to begin at around £40,000, with the Defender Commercial kicking-off from £35,000 plus VAT.

There are five trim levels on offer in the regular range, with increasing levels of equipment and visual differentiation starting at the base Defender, progressing through S, SE and HSE before reaching the range-topping X. Additionally, for the initial 12-month production run, there’ll be a gussied-up First Edition as well.

2020 Land Rover Defender 110 left-hand drive dashboard

Land Rover claims its new Pivi Pro infotainment system is both more intuitive and easier to use than the sometimes frustrating kit featured in recent JLR models, using a 10-inch central touchscreen with voice control compatibility. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also supported.

Also new is an updated version of the wearable activity key that now sports an LCD watch – locking and unlocking the Defender can be done remotely simply by pressing a button on the watch itself.

Immediately ahead of the driver is a 12.3-inch configurable set of electronic instruments can be combined with an updated head-up display system, while aids such as self-parking, adaptive cruise control and ClearSight Rear View – which turns the rear-view mirror into a display screen to provide an unfettered representation of what’s behind the car – make it even easier to live with.

Complementing those trims are four option bundles, combining a range of extras that Land Rover believes customers would benefit from specifying together. In summary, these comprise of:

  • Explorer Pack – a raised air intake, a lightweight expedition roof rack, bodyside-mounted gear equipment lockers, mud flaps, wheelarch protectors and a matte black bonnet finish 
  • Adventure Pack – a 6.5-litre pressurised rinse system to wash-down muddy kit, a boot-mounted air compressor and those side-mounted gear carriers are combined with a rear scuff plate and a 20-litre wearable backpack that fits to the back of a seat 
  • Country Pack – the rinse system, mud flaps and wheelarch protection are paired with a full-height boot partition to keep dirty equipment away from the passenger compartment 
  • Urban Pack – designed to cut a dash in the city with bright interior and exterior detailing and alloy wheels up to 22 inches in diameter.

Silver 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 side elevation with camping options

Parkers will be one of the first to drive the all-new Land Rover Defender 90 and 110, so keep an eye on our website for the upcoming review.

Also read:

>> New Defender not luxurious enough? Read our Range Rover Evoque review

>> How good is Mercedes’ off-road icon, the latest G-Class?

>> We round-up 2019’s best selection of SUVs

Gold 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 rear elevation off-road in snow