Are you an off-road enthusiast that cannot wait for the Ford Bronco to appear, but wants something that distinctly stands out from the hordes of Jeep Wranglers that dominate your everyday commute? If so, Land Rover might just have the answer with the newly revived 2020 Land Rover Defender.
This is not a mirage, for the first time in decades, a Defender will rejoin the ranks, and for the first time ever it will be avalible in all global markets (USA included.) The exterior styling will certainly silence any questions of whether the wait was indeed worth it, thanks to its balanced mixture of old and new styling elements. Unlike older Defenders that relied on their brutishness, the motif here is far more refined, with Land Rover designers doing a good job of infusing the Defender with a lot of the design magic that has defined other entries like the bigger Range Rover as well as the Velar. The tributes to the original are everywhere, and they include the headlights that have rounded elements that are enclosed in a squareish shape, the small skylights in the back, the vertical taillights, and the slightly sloping contrast colored roof. The rear tailgate also retains its vertically focused hinge, and as mentioned in our last Defender related item, it still carries an externally mounted spare tire. The front grille is a slim single piece, and it’s clear that Land Rover had the new Jeep Wrangler in mind too, with both the Defender 90 and the Defender 110 being a few inches longer than the American icon.
But wheras the Velar and the rest of its stablemates tend to focus on infusing a lot of sweeps and angles into their bodywork, the Defender has a few exclusive tricks of its own, with the functional canvas being partially dependent on what accessory packs are outfitted to it, with Land Rover offering four different ones that owners choose from. The Urban Pack is admittedly not much to write about, and is designed to appeal to those that see the Defender as a daily commuter versus an overlanding beast of burden. That pack includes items such as a cover for the spare tire, a bright rear scuff plate, front under shield, and bright metal accents for the pedals.
The real meat however can be found in the other three packs, with each one upping the ante in terms of capability, with the Country and Adventure packs focused on intermediate off-roading, and that brings goodies such as an external gear carrier, a portable rinse system with a 1.7 gallon pressurized water reservoir, trunk mounted air compressor, and even a novel 6.3 gallon seat backpack that owners can remove and take with them when they are not busting through a challenging piece of terrain. The Explorer pack is arguably the double or nothing approach, and is predictably, at the top of the packing order when it comes to capability. Designed with some of its predecessors safari ready capability, Defenders equipped in this particular fashion feature a lightweight 57 lb Expedition Roof Rack, the fore-mentioned exterior gear carrier, enhanced protection for the wheel arches, and a matte black hood decal that features bold 90 or 110 cut out detailing. This eye catching appearance will certainly help Explorer pack Defenders stand out from the crowd, and it is a prominent example of just how much versatility has been baked into the revived off-road icon. This is especially true for explorers that need the Defender as a solid blank canvas, and that is arguably something that we can get truly excited about.
The interior of the Defender is much more rugged looking than its corporate cousins, and was designed to take a beating when out on the open road. The dashboard is decidedly more vertical and plain looking, and features a large storage shelf that can house a wide range of items, as well as integrated grab handles to improve access into the Defender. The materials themselves take a no nonsense approach, with Land Rover designers appearing to use durable plastic pieces for the bulk of the cabin, there is some wood trim pieces to spruce things up a bit, and there are numerous exposed bolts that are supposed to be a symbol of utility. The shifter sits on the center stack with the climate controls, and this allowed Land Rover to equip the Defender with an optional full size front bench seat that pitches the center console to enhance interior comfort. This front bench arraignment is also limited to the Defender 90, with the bigger 110 bringing a bucket only seating arraignment that boosts passenger capacity to seven (versus six for the smaller 90.) The Defender also boasts a large pool of accessories, with Land Rover offering more than 170 different pieces of kit. Some of them are clearly tailored towards styling, but the integrated front bumper winch, and the minimalist minded intake snorkel do certainly do a good job of catching our collective attention.
But performance is arguably what the Defender has always been about, and this new incarnation certainly does not disappoint. For starters, it rides on an all new all-aluminum platform that allows the Defender to shed weight while still being very tough at the same time. Dubbed D7x, Land Rover claims that this is the stiffest SUV it has ever built, and accordingly it comes equipped with numerous amounts of bracing and other enhancements to help improve its chances of sustaining some of the punishment that comes with heavy off-road use.
A pair of engines are on hand this time around, with base Defenders being powered by a turbocharged four cylinder that makes a healthy 296 horsepower and an equally balanced 295 lb-ft of torque. This engine is only available on the 110, and Land Rover claims it can move the 110 to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds. Buyers looking for more power can opt for the same turbocharged inline six that is also found in the bigger Range Rover. Equipped with the same 48 volt mild-hybrid system, the engine is brings 396 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque to the smaller Defender 90, and allows the SUV to make the sprint to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. When equipped to the 110, this figure rises slightly to 5.8 seconds due to its slightly heavier curbweight.
Both engines are mated to an eight speed automatic transmission, and Land Rover reps claim that both body styles can tow up to 8,200 lbs (an impressive feat.) For the moment these are the two powertrains avalible, but with Land Rover still comitted to the diesel market, we would not be shocked to see diesel or all out hybrid offerings in the near future.
Another Defender hallmark has always been its off-road capability, and the 2020 Defender doesn’t disappoint in this regard either. Like its higher priced siblings, the Defender has four wheel independent suspension, and also comes equipped with Land Rover’s full time four wheel drive system. This system comes equipped with an active locking differential as well as a manually locking center differential. The electronic air suspension is height adjustable, and can go from the default 8.5 inches of ground clearance, all the way up to 11.5 inches. With all of these driving aides, it can be easy to forget that the old Defender was a very analog machine with solid axles and manual controls (oh how the times have changed.)
The 2020 Land Rover Defender will go on sale in the U.S. during spring of 2020. Initially, only the bigger 110 will make its way to showrooms, with the smaller 90 variant crossing over at a later date. Pricing for the 90 has not neen released, but Land Rover did reveal that a base 110 will start at $49,900 with taxes pushing that figure just over $50,000. Add the inline six, and that figure climbs to $63,275. But despite the sticker shock, we are still very excited to see the return of the Defender to U.S. shores, and the way it will give a new generation of off-road enthusiasts a chance to meet its inner wild child. Land Rover has also released a few videos of the Defender in action, which we have included below.
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