The Land Rover Defender—rugged, charming, but drinks like a fish

I wasn’t anticipating to be fairly as charmed as I used to be by the Land Rover Defender. We first noticed the brand new Defender at 2019’s Frankfurt auto present, the place it proved to be a success by marrying rugged appears and off-road abilities with a wholesome serving to of tech. Even although I fell for its appears, I used to be trepidatious about spending every week with the automobile, having did not gel with most Land Rovers previously. As I discovered, these fears have been largely misplaced, because the Defender was in no way agricultural in habits, in contrast to its Twentieth-century forerunners.

But earlier than we go any additional, an apology of types—or at the very least a proof. Last September, Land Rover held a media first-drive occasion for the SUV, the place journalists obtained to spend a pair days driving up and down Mount Equinox within the Taconics. Alas, Ars could not attend due to scheduling conflicts—as an alternative, we used that point to check a few electrical autos. So though the Defender is constructed to go off-road, the very best I managed throughout my week with it was some radical parking, as seen within the gallery above.

Therefore, I do not know the way nicely it fords water as much as 35.4 inches (900mm) deep. I do not know the way nicely it approaches breaks-over or departs from obstacles (at angles of 38˚, 28˚, and 40˚, respectively). I can not actually inform you how good the everlasting four-wheel-drive system—with a twin-speed switch case and non-obligatory locking heart and rear differentials—works on tough floor. I can not opine on how nicely the assorted software program methods (Terrain Response 2, All Terrain Progress Control, and Hill Descent Control) handle the duty of conserving you right-side up and transferring within the supposed course. Which makes this assessment considerably missing, as that stuff is mainly the Defender’s raison d’être. Mea culpa.

But sufficient about what I can not inform you—let’s discuss concerning the stuff I can. Our check Land Rover was the range-topping Defender 110 X. At $83,000, this explicit Defender is not any steel-wheeled farm automobile or aid-worker transport—these can be found, with the most cost effective Defender 90 beginning at $46,100. (Expensive although it’s, this Defender 110 X continues to be $9,000 cheaper than the most cost effective Range Rover.)

Unlike earlier Land Rovers, the brand new Defender eschews body-on-frame development for an aluminum monocoque chassis, which JLR says is 3 times stiffer than the old style method. This design is said to the platforms utilized by the Jaguar I-Pace (referred to as D7e)—in addition to the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, and Discovery (D7u)—however is its personal factor (referred to as D7x) that shares no physique panels with these different autos.

In the previous days, Defender 110s had a 110-inch (2,794mm) wheelbase; now the identify merely signifies that you simply’re within the greater of the 2 Defender our bodies. The Twenty first-century Defender 110 really has a wheelbase of 119 inches (3,022mm), though the brief entrance and rear overhangs assist disguise a few of its 198-inch (5,018mm) size. (That’s with the rear tire included; take it off and the size is 187 inches/4,758mm.) The automobile can be pretty huge at 79 inches (2,008mm) and fairly tall at 77 inches (1,967mm). Given its dimension, the 110 is not any featherweight, however at 5,035lbs (2,284kg), it is just a little lighter than I used to be anticipating.

Under the hood—tastefully accessorized with some patches of plastic diamond plate—is a 3.0L turbocharged straight-six engine, which produces 395hp (295kW) and 406lb-ft (550Nm). Per Jaguar Land Rover’s 2017 pledge to affect its complete lineup, the 110 can be a 48V “mild” hybrid; Land Rover has added a plug-in hybrid choice to the Defender vary, however there aren’t any plans to convey it to the United States. Oh nicely.

There’s solely a single alternative of transmission, but it surely’s ZF’s wonderful 8HP eight-speed automated. And as already talked about, there is a two-speed switch case and a bunch of different clever-sounding off-road items, each digital and mechanical.

A constructivist inside

The chunky utilitarian theme—Land Rover calls it “constructivist”—continues on the within. A powder-coated magnesium crossbar varieties a part of the construction of the sprint in addition to offering seize handles to make the automobile simpler to get into (and giving one thing to carry on to throughout strenuous off-roading). Trim items on the doorways and elsewhere have uncovered hex bolts, and the combination of supplies is attention-grabbing each to take a look at and contact. I adored it, however my spouse was much less impressed; she additionally discovered the cabin just a little onerous to climb up into, regardless of the seize deal with.

As befits a Twenty first-century Land Rover, there is a respectable array of tech onboard. The Pivi Pro infotainment system has a 10-inch display screen mounted into that magnesium crossrail, and whereas there was just a little enter lag at occasions, it by no means did something to essentially annoy me. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are each current and proper, and a mess of USB ports will be present in the back and front.

My most nice shock got here from the Defender’s on-road manners. I used to be anticipating loads of physique roll and customarily ponderous dealing with, however actually it rode nicely. The 110 insulated the occupants from bumps and jolts, and its steering was direct. Sitting so excessive up offers a wonderful view of the highway, and the onboard cameras make the Defender simple to park.

So far, this all sounds fairly nice, however the 110 is just not all gravy. Officially, the EPA charges the Defender 110 X at 19mpg mixed, 17mpg within the metropolis, and 22mpg on the freeway. But I by no means averaged greater than about 13mpg, which is unacceptable. The early January climate was virtually actually an element, because the chilly was typically an excessive amount of for the engine’s stop-start operate to function, and the non-obligatory off-road tires could not have helped. Whatever the trigger, the ensuing lack of effectivity continues to be onerous to abdomen.

Listing picture by Jonathan Gitlin

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