Land Rover Defender Hard Top: official details, £35k price for all-new Defender commercial on sale in 2020

  • All the latest details of the van version of the new Defender
  • Defender commercial will come in 90 (SWB) and 110 (LWD) body sizes
  • Priced from £35.5k, Defender Hard Top promises amazing off-road ability, lots of cutting-edge tech 

The commercial vehicle van version of the all-new Land Rover Defender will be officially called the Land Rover Defender Hard Top when it goes on sale later in 2020. This is in reference to the classic Defender Hard Top working model, and comes as part of an announcement that also confirms the new Defender commercial van will be available in 90 and 110 body configurations.

Read on for all the latest info, which includes further details of the Defender van's off-road capability and other technical highlights, info on the passenger 'jump seat' and the 3,500kg towing capacity.

Described as 'Land Rover's most capable and durable commercial vehicle ever,' is it going to be worth the wait and the indicated £35.5k starting price, or should you go for the commercial 4x4 versions of the Mitsubishi Shogun Sport or Toyota Land Cruiser instead?

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What do we know so far about the Defender commercial?

While we're still waiting on full technical details of the Defender Hard Top, Land Rover has finally revealed some more info on this commercial version, which was first unveiled at the public debut of the all-new Defender passenger car during the 2019 Frankfurt motor show.

Land Rover Defender Hard Top commercial 4x4 2020 - side view, 90, Frankfurt motor show 2019

At that point it appeared only as a version of the short-wheelbase (SWB) Defender 90, which, like its predecessor, has side windows replaced with solid bodywork, and the rear seats and carpeted boot swapped for a hard-wearing loadspace.

Now though, Land Rover has confirmed that the commercial Defender Hard Top will also be available as a long-wheelbase (LWB) 110 model. As you can see from the pictures, this will retain its opening rear side doors, though like the 90, all the rear seating will be removed, replaced with a tough working load area.

Land Rover Defender Hard Top commercial 4x4 2020 - side view, 110, blue, construction site

Both versions are being engineered by Land Rover's Special Vehicle Operations division, which is also responsible for creating the current Land Rover Discovery Commercial 4x4. This will continue alongside the Defender Hard Top.

In case you're wondering, the Wilks Bros reference on the original Frankfurt show car is to Maurice and Spencer Wilks, the two senior Rover executives who devised the first Land Rover in the aftermath of World War 2.

Can you remove the roof like the original?

While the Hard Top name was originally used on early series Defenders in the 1950s with a 'demountable' hard top roof, the new van has a fixed metal roof, and is merely painted to follow the lines of the original.

We're sure this will come as a disappointment to some.

Land Rover Defender Hard Top commercial 4x4 2020 - rear view, 110, blue, construction site

As may do the total lack of news about a pickup truck version - there being no news about this or a longer 130 variant that might have a double-cab seating arrangement. In fact, we've heard that there almost certainly won't be an open load bed variant.

Land Rover’s already lost ground to the likes of the Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi L200 and other pickups in the years the Defender name has been off-sale, but it's clear the firm is hoping to respond with outstanding off-road versatility rather than outright practicality.

Will the new Defender be any good as a van?

Here’s one to give you bragging rights down the pub: the Defender Commercial’s based on underpinnings called D7x, which is a hardcore development of what’s also used in the Discovery and Range Rover. This means it is stiffer and even more capable off-road - supposedly three times as stiff as 'the best body-on-frame designs', the kind of construction every pickup rival currently uses.

So whether you’re towing up to 3,500kg, carrying up to 300kg on the roof, wading through 900mm of water or climbing up 38-degree inclines without damaging any of the Defender Commercial’s underside, it should give all of the competition a run for their money.

Land Rover Defender Hard Top commercial 4x4 2020 - D7x frame exposed skeleton

We’re still waiting for an official word on payload, but given the car versions can swallow 900kg of people and their stuff, the potential is promising for the Defender van, given the hefty rear seats will be absent.

Furthermore, the managing director of Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations has now stated: 'We will maximise the functionality and usability of new Defender’s cargo area, with tough materials and clever storage solutions to ensure it surpasses the capability of any previous Defender Hard Top.'

However, the single side-hinged rear door access to the cargo area may be restrictive in some circumstances. With an aperture measuring 898mm at its narrowest point, this isn't especially broad, and is a long way from the ground compared with a conventional van.

How good will it be off-road?

The old Defender was revered by many for its off-road prowess, and Land Rover is making big promises about this new version, saying the 'new Defender Hard Top body designs will bring unrivalled breadth of on- and off-road capability to the commercial vehicle sector.'

Fleshing out some detail here, Land Rover has announced that both the 90 and 110 versions will feature all-round independent coil-sprung suspension. Every pickup on-sale in the UK features non-independent rear suspension (which reduces chassis articulation that's helpful on rough off-road terrain) and most use old-fashioned (but strong) leaf springs on the rear as well.

Land Rover Defender Hard Top commercial 4x4 2020 - rear view, 110, blue, off-road, climbing rocks

What's more, the Defender 110 Hard Top will now definitely be available with sophisticated air suspension, enabling it to vary its ride height for different terrains as well as deliver better on-road performance.

As a result, we've been told the Defender 110 Hard Top will have a 38-degree approach angle, 28-degree breakover angle and 40-degree departure angle at it's 'Off-Road Height' setting - which means with the air suspension.

All have a nominal 291mm of ground clearance, and that reference to wading 900mm above wasn't a joke either. All models will have the Terrain Response 2 electronic traction system, which includes a Wade mode. It also reads the road surface to automatically adjust accelerator response and traction settings, too.

There's been no mention yet of the ClearSight Ground View system, which renders images of what’s going on under the vehicle on the infotainment screen. But the Defender commercial will be offered with the 3D Surround Camera system to help with manoeuvring - useful off-road and for positioning the vehicle suitable for loading.

It should be significantly better on-road than the old version, given the modernity of its underpinnings, plus a cabin that won’t require you to lower the driver’s door window in order to be able to sit comfortably behind the wheel.

What engines will the Defender Commercial have?

There's no official confirmation yet, but it’s not unreasonable to expect the Commercial to share up to three of the Defender 90’s four engine options – it seems unlikely there will be much call for the 400hp petrol motor.

That leaves a pair of 2.0-litre turbodiesels – the D200 and D240 (the numbers relate to their horsepower outputs) being the most obvious choices, but it’s possible the P200 petrol may be offered for those who don’t require such lusty levels or torque or don’t cover significant annual mileages.

Land Rover Defender Hard Top commercial 4x4 2020 - front view, 110, blue

An eight-speed automatic gearbox with low-range setting and four-wheel drive will be standard fit.

Passenger car versions of the Defender are rated up to 31.7mpg with a diesel engine. Land Rover’s also confirmed that a plug-in hybrid version of the Defender will be offered, a powertrain that’s also likely to be available for the Hard Top.

How many people can it carry?

To qualify as a commercial 4x4, the Defender Hard Top has to be stripped of all seats behind the driver and front passenger. In every rival that leaves room for just two people, a disadvantage compared with a conventional medium-sized van, which will often be available with seating for three.

The Defender Hard Top, however, can be fitted with an optional 'jump seat', offering occasional use for a third front passenger.

Factor in climate control for the air-con and the convenience of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto depending upon your smartphone via the latest Land Rover Pivi Pro infotainment system, and it’s positively revolutionary inside compared with its ancient predecessor.

Any other clever technology?

The Defender Hard Top will also be available with Land Rover's ClearSight Rear View mirror system. This uses a live feed from a rear camera that appears within the conventional rear view mirror to give you an uninterrupted view of the road behind, regardless of whether the jump seat is occupied or the load area is full to the roof. Clever.

Land Rover Defender Hard Top commercial 4x4 2020 - rear view, 110, blue, being loaded by forklift

Fitted with 'twin eSIM technology', the Defender has permanent internet connectivity (subject to signal, if you plan to venture properly off-road), which supports a Software-Over-The-Air (SOTA) feature. This means the vehicle's on-board electronics can be updated remotely, theoretically reducing downtime caused by dealer visits previously needed to carry out the same.

You probably won't be surprised to learn that you'll be able to check on your new Defender Hard Top via a smartphone app called Remote, nor that it will come loaded with driver assistance features - such as the Wade program and Terrain Response 2 mentioned earlier.

It will also come with 'a raft of technologies to help hitch, drive and reverse safely while pulling a trailer', turning it into what Land Rover calls a 'world-class tow vehicle'. This includes Intelligent Advanced Tow Assist; similar to the Trailer Assist available on some Volkswagen Vans, this allows you to carry out low-speed trailer reversing while steering using a rotary controller on the centre console.

As stated, the maximum towing capacity of the new Defender Hard Top is 3,500kg (3.5 tonnes).

How much does the new Defender commercial cost?

The latest 'indicative' starting price for the new Defender Hard Top is £35,500 plus VAT. For that you'll get a base-spec D200 with steel wheels and rudimentary trim - although even that will seem like immense luxury compared with the original Defender commercial.

Dress-up packages and equipment designed to support more extreme off-road adventures will also be available, but are unlikely to be cheap. Full details of all this and the rest of the range will be announced once the vehicle is on sale and available to order, which is set to be later in 2020.

Compared with a Toyota Land Cruiser Commercial 4x4, the Defender is likely to work out quite expensive - but that isn't to say it will ultimately be poor value. But if you just want a highly capable off-road 4x4 with practicality at heart, don't be blinded by the Defender's style and brand recognition.

And if you don't think this new model lives up to the image of the old one, there's always the British-lead Ineos Grenadier, which looks like a reborn version of the original Land Rover with modernised underpinnings and BMW engines, and will be offered as a pickup...

Also read:

>> Toyota Land Cruiser Commercial 4x4 review

>> Mitsubishi Shogun Sport Commercial 4x4 review

>> Land Rover Discovery Commercial 4x4 review

>> Ford Ranger pickup review

>> Ford Ranger Raptor review

>> Jeep Gladiator pickup review