Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5
  • Diesel, petrol and hybrids
  • Refined and capable
  • Brilliant off-road

What engine options are there?

The Defender 110 has a choice of five engines – two diesels, two petrols and a plug-in hybrid. Diesels are already proving to be the most popular with buyers. The range was heavily updated in 2021 to introduce six-cylinder engines for all of the diesel options with different power outputs: 250hp and 300hp with the petrol choice being a 3.0-litre ‘six or a 5.0-litre supercharged V8.

There’s also an electrified Defender in the range – a P400e plug-in hybrid. This has a total power output of 404hp.

All Defender 110s come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, with low-range capability and – unsurprisingly – four-wheel drive as standard. Those who found the Defender’s predecessor a little too agricultural will be pleased to hear how relaxing and simple this one is to drive. You simply nudge the gearlever into D, and off you go.

Petrol engines

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The petrol-engined Defender P400 is pleasingly quick, with more than enough performance on road to show a clean pair of heels to most traffic away from the lights. But for those not interested in hooliganism, it’s an easy cruiser, with more than enough muscle to settle down into an easy motorway slog. 

If it’s performance you’re after, the Defender P525 V8 does a very fine job. It’s not as loud as other V8-powered models in Jaguar Land Rover’s range – namely the Range Rover Sport SVR and Jaguar F-Pace SVR – instead having a growly soundtrack rather than one that sounds like you’re being chased by a thunderstorm. Its performance is impressive given its size, but there are far faster SUVs out there if you’ve a need for speed.

Diesel engines

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We tried the D250 and think it generates enough shove for most owners – it’s not fast by any stretch and yet it can get up to speed in a comfortable distance, when pushed, without feeling flustered. We’d say it’s the best all-rounder as it does need to work hard on occasion to haul this heavy vehicle, but the gearbox helps by keeping you in the middle of the rev range to best access the shove available.

Besides, we generally found ourselves wanting to drive a little more casually in the Defender anyway, which suits its comfort-biased nature. If you did want a bit more poke for towing duties or just annoying hot hatches, the D300 is a good but not essential upgrade.

Electric and hybrid engines

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The plug-in hybrid model uses the same engine combination as the Discovery P400e and Range Rover Sport P400e – a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine paired to an electric motor. Land Rover claims the Defender P400e is capable of covering up to 27 miles on electric power alone. The PHEV Defender starts up silently, and allows you to save battery power later, or exclusively, via a mode switch button on the dashboard.

It’s also the second-fastest Defender you can buy, using the combined engine and electric power to launch it into the middle distance. Interestingly, Land Rover has configured the Defender PHEV in such a way that you still feel gearchanges from the eight-speed automatic even when you’re in electric mode, so as to not hamper the car’s off-road abilities. We prefer the smoother approach taken by other manufacturers such as BMW and its X5 45e.

Handling

  • Highly accomplished on road…
  • …and very impressive off it
  • Variable traction and driver assistance settings

Land Rover Defender 110 (2020) off-road driving

The Defender is an astonishingly capable vehicle on and off road. It is capable enough on-road to make a great job of tackling family car duties as well as adventuring across Africa.

The independent suspension also absorbs bumps with ease making it particularly comfortable. The Defender V8 also introduces a Dynamic mode to the Defender’s large suite of drive modes available to you – that firms up the suspension more and adds extra weight to the steering wheel. It’s remarkably impressive, dealing with hard, fast cornering better than a comparable Mercedes-AMG G63.

The upshot is that on gravel or corrugated roads, the new car can be driven much faster and with much greater confidence, comfort and stability. On road, the new car handles more precisely than a big Range Rover or Discovery, reflecting its smaller size. You’re less inclined to really push the Defender anyway, so while the steering is a little slow off-centre and there is some bodyroll, the 110 doesn’t feel like it will fall over at any point or behave unpredictably.

Its square style and high driving position – more ‘command view’ than the recent Land Rover or Range Rover norm – also makes it an easy car to thread through town and to park. The latter is helped by various external cameras that also help off-roading.

What’s it like off-road?

On the rough, rutted and supremely muddy off-road test course, the sophisticated electronic traction controls, permanent four-wheel drive, active centre and rear diff locks, low range, supple height adjustable air suspension, short overhangs and long wheel travel all combine to produce a car that has truly brilliant ability.

The traction and controllability on offer, working in unison with the impressive Terrain Resonse system, mean that even inexperienced off-road drivers can confidently tackle the roughest of obstacles you’ll typically find in the UK.

The sophisticated traction systems and huge ground clearance (that’s improved by air suspension that can be raised when needed) mean the new car needs considerably less driver input and skill to traverse the roughest tracks. It can also climb rocks, sand and sludge with much greater precision and deftness.