Land Rover Defender Blog

Our thoughts on the new Defender

Ben Gribbin

Ben Gribbin

September 30, 2019

Hello, I'm the editor of FunRover. I'm a massive Land Rover fan. Currently own a TD5 90. 2015 MR Blogger of the Year


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Well, it's finally here. The all-new Defender. While the original Defender shared a handful of parts with the Series One, the new vehicle doesn't even have a single component in common with the Defender Mk 1. That signals the first time in Land Rover's history where the company no longer has a historical (albeit tenuous) connection to its first product.

A Defender for everyone

The Land Rover community exploded into a frenzied discussion across the internet. Some loved the new vehicle, others not so much and still another group decided to wait until they drove one. Interestingly, a whole new camp appears to be emerging too, with it, Land Rover has successfully unlocked a new demographic. We saw people admitting online that the rudimentary, utilitarian design of the old Defender sent them running to more advanced and comfortable rivals in the likes of a Toyota LandCruiser or a double cab pick-up.

Land Rover's marketing team picked up on this, creating different trim lines. Now, there's a Defender configuration to suit all buyers. That could be a city-dweller who wants the street-cred of owning a Defender-badged 4x4 but still wants a mid-tier Range Rover-like spec. Or, it could be the emergency services and utility companies who will no doubt go for the standard 110 and 90.

The accessory packs are a stroke of genius. Factory-fitted options basically pre-configure your Landy for adventure, exploring, camping or your own particular lifestyle. All of the options look really high-end, pairing with the Defender better than bolting on a random assortment of third-party products.


900mm wading depth!

Designing a new Defender must have been one of the most weighty and challenging gigs in the car industry, ever. Land Rover designs, we feel, have done a good job re-imagining the vehicle for this century. From the side, it looks suitably blocky, but with a slight softening around the windscreen profile. Sharp, flat lines from the older model have made way for almost imperceptibly dynamic curves.

Everywhere you look, you get a strong sense of deja-vu. The wheel arches have the same overall shaping as the old Defenders, just now they are more bull-nosed and serve as a place where the paintwork meets plastic trim.

We love the back of the new Defender, it has everything about the old model that made it great. A vertical cliff face, a side-hinged door flanked by two smaller windows and even the lights are reminiscent of the last generation. The great thing now, they're flush with the bodywork, preventing branches from smashing your tail lights.

If you look even closer, there are more styling cues lifted from the old model. The indented groove around the perimeter of the rear resembles the rear body light cappings. There's another strip just below the window that also harkens back to the rear tub mappings. You've still got alpine lights, which is a real classy touch. Even the door and windscreen have the same sort of proportions and offsets than the original, just re-sized to fit with the revised look.

The front-end of a MK1 Defender is unmistakable. If you look closely, many of the key elements are present still. The lights manage to follow Land Rover's current design language and still have a large headlight with two smaller side lights located on the outer boundary. The Puma hump remains and the rounded edges that can be traced back to 1948 still exist. They're just more of a bevel now.

Overall, we think it's clean, clear and unfussy. Just like the Defender should be.

Now, here's what we're not too keen on. There's not much, but there are a few points. We don't like the body-coloured panels that randomly breaks up the rear window. It's too convoluted on a design that is overwhelmingly minimal. By all accounts, this is a sticker, hopefully it can be easily removed. We also think the front upper grille could have been done differently to give a wider opening and a layout that was more faithful to the last model. Other than that, it's been nicely executed. Maybe we can get our hands on one soon?

Specs and safety

We believe the interior also works well. It's elegant and simple. There's still a vehicle-wide two-level dashboard that doubles as a grab handle. The gear shifter is also kind of in a roughly similar place to the old one, it's just way shorter now and way more responsive. From the videos we've seen of it, the materials look hard-wearing. Now though, buyers get a properly modern level of equipment and assistants. A neat touch is you can clamber through from the front of the cabin to the rear.

New Defender interior

Every model features LED headlights, a heated windscreen, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, 8-way adjustable front seats, a 10-inch infotainment system, sat-nav and a six-speaker sound system! Plus, there's a 3D panoramic camera view, all-round parking aid, wade sensor, cruise control and safety assists like lane keeping, emergency braking and traffic sign recognition.

Defender 2020 configuration

Old fashioned coil springs and dampers are done away with in favour of air suspension, which makes perfect sense. You can lift your Defender when travelling over rough terrain, then drop it again for improved handling as you hit paved roads. Of course, this being a Defender, it has a high-lo transfer box, AWD and Land Rover's Terrain Response.

And that's just for the base model! The 2.0-litre diesel will output a crazy (for a factory Defender) 200bhp and a respectable 430Nm of torque. Petrol models have 300bhp and will top out at 119mph! Land Rover lists the maximum wading depth at 900mm, which is on par with best-in-class. We expect you wouldn't have any water ingress at this level as you would on older models thanks to improved door seals.

Our ideal Defender

New Land Rover Defender at work

Here's what our ideal new Defender would look like, thanks to the online configuration tool which is great fun to play with.

Moving with the times

A lot of hardcore Defender fans are upset by the unveiling of the next-generation model. They think Land Rover has forgotten about them. And, to be fair, they had to. Because, 95% of these people never bought a new Defender, instead, they'd purchase second-hand and used examples. Land Rover had to propel the Defender into this century, building a flexible and adaptable 4x4 that meets the needs of a demanding car market. And we think they've pulled that off, distilling all the best bits of the old one and fixing the many, many flaws at the same time.

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