Peter Anderson takes the new Land Rover Defender, fresh off the boat, for its first run on Australian roads (and muddy tracks).
You know the old joke. The second album is always the hardest. Land Rover knew that so put off the second Defender for almost seven decades. We get sniffy about a car that hasn’t been replaced in over seven years (ASX, I’m looking at you) but seven decades? Almost unheard of.
And that’s partly because there was no need. The other reason was that Land Rover was busy diversifying its range from one, then two, then five…yeah, you now what I mean. From one model with no real name to having a huge range of SUVs trading on the original’s name.
We’ve been hearing about a new Defender for almost a decade and now after floods, fire and pandemic have ravaged our fair nation, we got a bright, crisp sunny day to get a taste of what this all-new Defender.
How much is a 2020 Land Rover Defender and what do I get?
As with any Land Rover model range, it’s very complicated and plenty on offer. Bottom line is you can squeeze into a Defender 100 D200 for under $70,000 (before on-roads), with a 147kW/430Nm (!) 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel.
Another $6000 will get you more power in the D240 with 177kW but the same torque figure.
For both of the D200 and D240, you will be waiting a while.
Which is why the cars I drove were all the P400 in S and SE spec and in 110 form – the 90 will be along later on.
Land Rover Defender 110 P400 S – $95,335
A P400 S will set you back $95,335 (you can’t get a “naked” Defender 110 with this engine) and score you the 3.0-litre straight-six turbocharged petrol with 294kW and 550Nm.
The S spec includes a standard body-coloured roof, heated folding power mirrors, alpine lights, puddle lights, trailer stability assist, auto high beam, auto LED headlights, 19-inch gloss sparkle silver wheels (the 18-inch white steelies, currently unavailable (August 2020) are a no-cost option), electric front seats, rubber hose-out flooring, leather steering wheel, leather seats, dual-zone climate control, soft-close tailgate, keyless entry and start, around view cameras, reversing camera, wade sensing and a full-size spare.
Land Rover Defender 110 P400 SE – $102,736
To the above you can add “premium” LED headlights with signature DRL, 20-inch wheels, more electric adjustment on the front seats, electrically adjustable steering column, a Meridian system, blind spot assist and clear exit monitor. Among other things.
Media and Entertainment
JLR’s new Pivi Pro system makes its debut here in the Defender. The new software and hardware is much snappier than the old InTouch Control and is powered by a Snapdragon chipset, if that’s something you’re interested in. Much nicer to use and it feels better than the old one, which got quite good by the end.
The new screen hopefully has a better nav system than before which was famously dim, but we didn’t really get a chance to test its mettle.
The system includes DAB and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both via USB.
It wouldn’t be a modern Land Rover without an options and accessories list as long as your arm. And your other arm. And both legs. And the limbs of the person sitting next to you. I’m not going to go into all of them because zzzzz but also because there are some handy packs to get them all together in what Land Rover hopes are sensible groups.
The Driver Assist Pack is available on the base car and S and SE for $2086 and the SE for $948. It’s cheaper on the SE because a couple of options on the lower-end cars are standard on the SE. This pack includes Blind Spot Assist, Clear Exit Monitor, adaptive cruise control, rear collision monitor (lane keep assist, closing vehicle sensor, reverse traffic detection, rear pre-crash and evasive steering assist) and rear traffic monitor.
Given the base cost of the car, most of this stuff should already be standard, especially bind spot assist and reverse cross-traffic alert.
A Premium Upgrade Interior Pack adds 15-way heated and cooled front seats, electrically adjustable steering column, more leather in the interior and something called an integrated Click and Go base unit. That package is $7547 on the Defender, $6552 on the S and $3713 on the SE.
The Cold Climate Pack brings a heated windscreen, heated washer jets, headlight power wash and heated steering wheel for $1481 on all Defenders but the First Edition.
The Comfort and Convenience Pack – or as classic Defender owners will no doubt call it, the Soft Townie Pack – adds a 10 colour LED interior lighting and more interior lights, front console fridge, Meridian sound system (Defender and S) and wireless device charging for $3036 (Defender), $2740 (S), $1414 (SE and HSE) and $818 on the X owing to some of these features already being on the higher-spec cars.
There are 12 seating options, including the front jump seat for a six-seater configuration ($1853) and a third row for seven seats. Heating, reclining, split options, load-through options, the list goes on.
A head-up display is $1690 (HSE) and has to be specced with the solar attenuating front windscreen ($520).
Off-road and towing options
The Off-Road Pack brings an electronic active differential with torque vectoring by braking, black roof rails and and a domestic plug socket in the boot. That’s $1448 on all Defenders bar the First Edition and X.
Moving up to the Advanced Off-Road Capability Pack you get All Terrain Progress Control, Terrain Response 2 and Configurable Terrain Response, all for $2210, again on all but the FE and X.
Wanna tow? For $3702 the Towing Pack adds the same suit as the Advanced pack as well as a tow hitch receiver and Advanced Tow Assist.
2020 Land Rover Defender Colours
You can choose Santorini white as a no-cost option. Santorini Black, Indus Silver, Eiger Grey, Pangea Green, Gondwana Stone and Tasman Blue, all for $1950.
You can get a Satin Protective Film on some colours for a whopping $6500.
White contrast roof or a black contrast roof is a $2000 option on most specs and black roof rails are $897.
Look and Feel
It’s all very rugged. We’ve had a long time to get used to the 2020 Land Rover Defender – I published the launch story about seven years ago in September 2019 – but it was good to finally go toe-to-toe with one.
It looks great, even in white, but you’d be mad not to toughen things up with the 18-inch steel wheels when they arrive. I’d get them, anyway, I’m also very fond of the Tasman Blue (pictured) (not the white one, obviously).
It looks rugged enough without being too much, like those cos-playing Patrol drivers with every accessory known to man.
I really like the interior too. Bold, full of places to put your stuff and again striking a good balance between rugged and modern. Take a look inside a Trailkhawk Jeep of any description, and then this and you’ll see what I mean. It also avoids being self-consciously masculine – a lot of women will own and drive this car and none of it is alienating for the sake of the old masculine ideal of toughness.
The off-road controls are grouped in with the climate control dials. That can take some getting used to, with the dials switching to selectors when you press the Terrain Response button. I’m sure ownership will bring familiarity if you’re the off-road type.
You can see the gear selector sprouting from the console. It’s there so the six-seat option jump seat can go in without re-designing the cabin.
The new Pivi Pro screen is a 10-inch unit in all cars and looks great.
The Defender rolls on a very serious off-roading platform, which should come as no surprise. The D7U platform hosts Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Discovery Sport. The evolution is the D7X, which is where the Defender lives.
The shotgun-and-muddy-welly folks will no doubt gasp when they learn the Defender is now built on a monocoque, but hey, surviving crashes is not frowned upon as it once was.
From the ground up, you’ve got Goodyear Rambler tyres, a standard 290mm ground clearance with an additional 75mm when you select the various chassis modes that suggest more height. And then there’s yet another 70mm for a total ride height somewhere near the summit of Everest.
The standard-in-Australia air suspension does the job there, providing a lot of adjustment and some serious wheel articulation in the rough stuff.
The air suspension also brings adaptive dynamics and, oddly auto-levelling headlights.
Obviously you get high and low-range, centre diff and you can specify an active locking diff with torque vectoring by braking. Configurable Terrain Response let you set traction control, diff and ride height to your own tastes in addition to the also-optional Terrain Response programs.
At offroad height, you get 38 degrees of approach, 28 of breakover and 40 degrees of departure, aided and abetted by those abbreviated overhangs.
I’ve only driven the P400, so we’ll talk about that engine because it’s a new one for the Land Rover brand.
A 3.0-litre turbo straight six MHEV (mild hybrid) system, you get a very decent 294kW and a massive 550Nm.
A twin-scroll turbocharger is joined by an electric supercharger to provide low-rev torque fill and get everything pumping at low revs and making sire that the torque is always there.
The 48-volt system is otherwise very similar to Audi’s with a belt-alternator starter replacing the alternator and a small lithium-ion battery to support the electrics.
Hooked up to the always awesome eight-speed ZF and the updated all-wheel drive system with low and high range, you’ve got some serious hardware here.
There are two diesels, of course, but I haven’t driven one yet.
Even with a hefty 2400kg kerb weight (or near enough), the Defender P400 will streak to 100km/h in 6.1 seconds. Yikes.
The new Defender has a lot more to do than the old one. Everyone was very forgiving of the old girl because, goodness, she was old. Clatter old diesel, bare cabin, old-school looks and very “traditional” safety. Land Rover did well to try and keep it up with the times, but you can’t fit modern into 1948.
Off-road it was near-peerless in the right hands but if you didn’t know what you were doing, it was a challenge. On the road, it was a noisy, wayward machine by modern standards. Still plenty to love, but buyers want more now.
We already know it has all the tech. The off-road stuff is hardcore (see separate story) and you can tow 3500kg along with 900kg on board. You can get away in this thing. But what about the every day that this car has to fulfil?
It’ll do a cracking job. It kneels down to let you in. The cabin is lovely even though it still has the rubber floor. The Pivi Pro system is really good and the cabin has everything you could want for the family to ride in.
The biggest surprise is the on-road capability. It’s terrific. Where I was expecting big body roll and a ponderous steering, I got body control (still rolled, but nothing like I was expecting) and a mildly responsive front end.
Through some challenging bends west of the Blue Mountains, the Defender was…fun. Through the slower stuff and the towns and by-ways, it was impeccable, with a strong low and high-speed performance and a pleasing growl from the Ingenium six.
The seats in the S I drove on the road were very supportive, holding me in the chair without the need to hang on to the wheel. Even with off-road tyres, the noise from beneath was quite hushed and the only irritant was the wind rustle – gentle, yes – from the mirrors.
It might be a big unit at over five metres with the spare wheel in place, but it doesn’t feel anywhere near that big. With good vision, cameras everywhere and only the tailgate-mounted tyre getting in the way, it’s easy to place in pretty much any condition.
So the bit it has to do well it has well and truly exceeded what I thought. It’s probably as good – or even better – than a Disco Sport and I would choose this over the Discovery unless I absolutely had to have the big fella. A P400 90 should be a right giggle.
Never thought I’d say this about an off-roader, but hell yes. All SUVs aren’t created equal, that much we already knew. The Defender has a big reputation to live up to and the P400 lifts the badge into a whole new realm.
Off road is easy to do if that’s all you want, but a modern Defender has to do both. It has absolutely nailed the on-road. Stay tuned for the off-road review…
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.