By on September 10, 2019

Land Rover’s Defender has returned and, based on the marketing materials furnished by the manufacturer, you’d think every model came with Jesus riding shotgun. The 2020 Defender is all things to all people. Exciting, powerful, comfortable, rugged, efficient, and on the bleeding edge of automotive technology, the new model really gave Land Rover an opportunity to pat itself on the back when it debuted in Frankfurt on Tuesday.

However, we’re not wholly convinced the company deserves to be relentlessly mocked for its enthusiasm — at least not this early in the article. There has been a clear effort made to ensure the off-roader has the broadest appeal possible, which has kind of been the model’s trajectory for as far back as memory allows. Besides, we don’t know for certain that the Defender’s evolution into a Swiss Army Knife is even a problem until we’ve driven one. But there will be a few issues we’ll have to address on principle, especially its move to unibody construction. 

As nice as the new aluminum monocoque is bound to be on road, off-road fanatics are taking to message boards the world over to express their warranted frustration. But perpetual muddin’ isn’t the path Land Rover chose to take and the Defender isn’t exclusively for people who live in large, woodland homes with dirt-track driveways anymore. It’s an urban runabout, chic status symbol, ORV, luxury cruiser, and more.

While still split by size into the four-door 110 and two-door 90 designations (neither of which represent its actual length in inches anymore), Land Rover will also offer four accessory packages for the Defender called Adventure, Country, Explorer and Urban. These packs furnish the model with a diverse array of inclusions that help it establish which part of the world it most wants to conquer.

Adventure adds hard carrying cases to the side of the vehicle and throws an air compressor in the rear. There’s also a water tank that can work in combination with the compressor to spray off any mud that had accumulated during excursions. Mud flaps, scuff plates, and a spare tire cover are also included.

Explorer also gets the brunt of those accessories, minus the air compressor and water tank, whilst adding a roof rack, raised air intake, and larger fender flares.

Country is sort of a bizarro version of the Explorer. It swaps the extra storage (both internal and external) for that air pump and water vessel/sprayer.

Urban focuses on shielding the Defender from potholes and curbs by throwing on some scuff plates in key areas. Mud flaps and cargo features are also absent to ensure a cleaner look. The Urban similarly gussies up the interior slightly but has the least going on overall (making it the cheapest accessory pack). Fortunately, it seems as though you’ll be able to mix-and-match — meaning you can equip the Defender however you’d like.

Now that we’ve gotten the marketing theory behind the new Defender out of the way, let’s look at the platform can actually do. Available engines include a 296 horsepower 2.0-liter turbo with 295 foot-pounds of torque and a 3.0-liter mild hybrid in the inline-six formation. The former will be going into Defenders with the P300 designation while the latter will be slotted into the P400 offering 395 hp and 406 lb-ft. In the Defender 110, those motors are good for a proposed zero-to-60 time of 7.7 and 5.8 seconds respectively. Anticipate examples of the 90, unburdened by accessories, to be about a tenth of a second quicker. Top speed is electronically limited to keep you under 120 mph and, when properly equipped, the automaker said to expect a maximum towing capacity of 8,200 pounds.

Land Rover also said plug-in hybrid and diesel options will be available. Expect more on those powertrains at a later date, probably with us also mentioning the diesels won’t be available in the U.S. All Defenders come with an eight-speed ZF automatic and all-wheel drive. Low range is included, as is a locking center differential and an “Active Rear and Locking Differential” that we’re less certain about. Presumably it’s an automatic locking rear differential with a branded name.

Overhangs are relatively short — yielding approach, breakover and departure angles of 38, 28 and 40 degrees respectively. Ground clearance is 11.45 inches (291 mm) and Land Rover claimed the Defender can ford into waters up to 35.4 inches deep. There’s also been a water-centric, depth-estimating Wade program incorporated into its Terrain Response 2 system, which has been upgraded to allow experienced off-roaders to customize their own settings. Fortunately, those less experienced with rocks and mud can choose presets or simply allow the car to figure out the terrain by itself by switching Terrain Response to automatic.

We would be careful not to park it in soft ground, however. Despite using a bunch of lightweight aluminum in the construction, the 2020 Defender is a bit of a pig. Two-door 90s with the 3.0-liter engine aren’t terribly far from 5000 lbs and you’ll easily have surpassed that mark if you option the larger model with a 5+2 seating configuration.

Pricing is pretty steep. The 110 is currently the only model Land Rover feels confident selling in North America and it starts at $49,900 before tacking on the $1,025 destination charge. That comes with the base 2.0-liter motor, white 18-inch steelies (which are actually kind of cool), and a very decent amount of standard tech (blind spot, lane keeping, cameras galore). Navigation is included and all models’ 10-inch multimedia screens come with a online/data plan by default. Land Rover is also hyping its new Pivi Pro infotainment system’s over-the-air updates, suggesting they would “provide the latest software at all times, anywhere in the world.” We’re not sure why the Defender would need this but… it has it.

We’re imagining most people won’t settle for the base model, though. Unfortunately, optioning the 3.0-liter motor immediately tacks on $12,350 and those purposeful accessory packages can add another few hundred (for the Urban) or a few thousand (for the Explorer). That’s all before you start getting into driver assistance packages, wheel options, off-road packs, paint options, and any accessories you might have missed — like bench seats up front, pet packages, an inflatable awning, and personalized tread plates. Just be careful, it’s not a lot of work to get the Defender’s price dangerously close to $100,000 and a lot of those accessories are pretty tempting.

[Images: Jaguar Land Rover]

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45 Comments on “2020 Land Rover Defender Returns as Jack of All Trades...”


  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Oh please.

  • avatar
    lstanley

    Looks like a slightly rounder Honda Element.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Disgusting automatic garbage

  • avatar
    jmo2

    Love the back. The front is just a little bit too rounded.

  • avatar
    shane_the_ee

    8200lbs towing capacity, 1800lbs payload, so far, so good. 300lbs maximum tongue weight! Holy misleading towing capacity batman! What kind of 8200lb trailer has a 300lb tongue weight?

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      The Rover site doesn’t mention the tongue weight limit, so I suspect wherever you got 300 from might be a typo?

      (Or 300 is the “without weight distribution” limit.

      My SuperDuty is rated to tow 11,300 – with a weight distributing system attached.

      Capacity *without* that is 5000, and in both cases tongue rating is 1/10 total.

      The frame and hitch mount itself can take the full weight, physically, but it’s not RATED for towing over 5k without the distribution hitch.)

    • 0 avatar

      In Europe they believe 4-7% is fine for tongue weight but my guess is that will be adjusted up a bit at some point.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    At least the FJ Cruiser was BOF, and offered a manual.

    • 0 avatar
      Jon

      bu-bu-but it has bench seats… It must be utilitarian.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      So?

      Manuals are dead and BOF doesn’t matter. Not even for normal-people offroading and expedition vehicles.

      Hell, the only reason to consider a manual in an FJ was that it was the only way to get full-time AWD and a low range, eh?

      (This is not a purpose-built rock crawler, and that segment doesn’t matter.)

      • 0 avatar
        Jon

        “BOF doesn’t matter”

        Tell that to all the Cherokee users who can no longer easily close their doors.

        “the only reason to consider a manual in an FJ was that it was the only way to get full-time AWD and a low range”

        How about fun to drive. Is that a good enough reason or are we only allowed to drive what you deem as reasonable?

        “This is not a purpose-built rock crawler”

        I think that is rather obvious. But why did they park one on a near vertical surface if not to appeal to the off-road crowd?

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        “and BOF doesn’t matter. ”

        Can you name one example, of this being true?

        • 0 avatar

          I’m not sure it doesn’t matter but I think it matters less then people say. I mean XJ’s were designed 35 years ago and held up amazingly well to most offroad abuse. ( to the comment above my ramcharger and most of my friends late 80’s pickups (Fords and GM) had some issues with door closing after years of offroading.)
          The Grandcheroke was also BOF and does pretty well. I think with modern tech you could make it stiff enough where unless your modifying for extreme offroading it would be a good choice.

          • 0 avatar
            karonetwentyc

            Exactly.

            I’ve owned both BOF and Unibody 4x4s. Both have their plusses and minuses. One is not better than the other. I’ve seen frames bend beyond the point of straightening as often as I’ve seen unibodies do essentially the same thing.

            It’s a pointless argument. Beat anything up enough in the right ways, it’ll break. Go figure.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        “full-time AWD and a low range, eh”

        No, this is very wrong.

        Of course the automatics offered a low range in the transfer case, selected via J-gate shifter just like the manuals except you had a 2WD mode as well to choose. You could also run the automatic in 4H with an unlocked center diff, effectively getting you fulltime AWD mode.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    With the old LR Defender you could pop rivet a piece of sheet metal over a damaged spot without spoiling the vehicle’s looks in the slightest. Arguably they might even be improved. On the other hand, everything else about it was agricultural, and not really in a good way.

    The new Defender isn’t bad looking, but it doesn’t have the utilitarian charm of its ancestor. Maybe that’s a good thing? I’d bet that it delivers the off-road goods though.

    But that weight?

  • avatar
    scott25

    You’re certainly never going to see this thing on any expeditions in Africa

  • avatar
    karonetwentyc

    Speaking as a two-time ex-Series IIA and one-time ex-Range Rover owner…

    I don’t care.

    It’s not a descendant of the Series Land-Rovers, or the Defender. It uses the Defender name, and that’s about it. Really, it’s no different to when the Jeep XJ Cherokee went out of production and was replaced by the KJ Liberty, with the Liberty continuing to be named the Cherokee in non-North American markets. Much of the whining when that happened is the same in this case.

    People griping about this vehicle being built on a unibody platform with independent suspension are missing the point, which is that nobody who buys one of these would spend 10 minutes living with (let alone driving) a Series Land-Rover or Defender – and, if they’d consider buying something more off-road oriented, they’d buy a Wrangler and get modern conveniences into the deal. This is a lifestyle vehicle, the same as any other crossover, which is ultimately what this is – just that it’s a bit larger than the average crossover.

    Will it be good in the dirt? Compared to the rest of what’s in its segment, probably. But that’s not likely to be as important to the demographic it’s aimed at as is the association with the Land-Rover name, and, for them, that’s all that matters.

    All that matters to JLR is that it sells, which is something that the Series vehicles and Defender never did in appreciable numbers in the Americas – and the Japanese marques ate Land-Rover alive in their established markets in Europe, Africa, Australia, the Middle East, India, and virtually all of Asia. They’re well aware of this, and are going for the market segment they can most likely survive in.

    Apples and oranges, though I do wish that my IIAs had had an 8000-lb. tow capacity. That would have been handy on occasion.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Is the the market really big enough for so many “lifestyle” CUVs under the same brand? Maybe it is, I guess we’ll find out, but I have a feeling Defender sales are going to come at the expense of the rest of the lineup.

      • 0 avatar
        karonetwentyc

        Looking solely at pricing, it’s not terribly clear as to what JLR’s strategy is for the Defender within its own lineup. Using the base-model pricing on their website as a guide, we have:

        Discovery Sport: $37,990
        Range Rover Evoque: $42,650
        Defender: $49,900
        Discovery: $52,300
        Range Rover Velar: $56,300

        So while it’s not a threat to the entry-level Discovery Sport, it is positioned to compete internally with the ‘regular’ Discovery and lower-spec Range Rovers. It might even snag a handful of Evoque sales.

        To my mind, it would almost make sense to kill the Evoque, replace it with the Defender, and start the Defender’s base pricing at somewhere in the $43K-$45K range. This would put it in the middle of the $15K gap between the Discovery Sport and Discovery (or $14K between the Evoque and Velar), but then Range Rover would be left without without an entry-level model. Realistically, though, this would essentially be a return to the days when the ascending-order lineup was Freelander, Defender, Discovery, Range Rover, which might not be a bad thing – overlap was minimal, and it was clear how and where each vehicle was positioned in the model lineup.

        The real issue that I see with the Defender is that it’s ultimately a ‘me-too’ vehicle. What I mean by this is that under the skin, there’s not much in its spec that really sets it apart from anything else in its class. Want a 4-door, 119ish-inch wheelbase, 4WD SUV on a fully-independent suspension? That’s the Ford Explorer and its platform variants. Or A Jeep Grand Cherokee. Or a Toyota Sequoia.

        Yes, there will be 4WD hardware in there that won’t be available on some of the others. There will also be plenty of software to back that hardware up for people who believe that going off-road is about the ability to operate an iPad, with a steering wheel and throttle pedal being secondary concerns. There will also be a ton of advertising convincing buyers, both potential and actual, that they’re buying into being a part of an off-road heritage that – quite legitimately – opened up some of the most remote places on earth to motor vehicles.

        Most to all of which, depending on the vehicle in question, is exactly what the competition does.

        This isn’t a vehicle that I want to see fail by any means, but JLR has, I think, positioned it in such a way that it’s difficult to see how it will succeed. First- and second-year sales will likely be brisk, but year three onwards is where we’ll see if the momentum continues. My suspicion is that by that time everyone who wants one will have one, but that’s just speculation for now.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    I think this could rewrite the rules for 4x4s my gut feeling says this will be exceptional off road!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    How many people actually take a $50-100k vehicle off road?

    I’ve never been off road, so for me this would only serve as a cool status symbol – with no more utility than a vehicle half its price. The interior is pretty nice, though.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Me, on both a 2 week old H2 and on my H1s, albeit I bought those used. I assure you their were a lot of us in off-roading groups driving new H1s and H2s when I got started with them. I think we may have been an exception to the rule however, I’m not sure, seemed like a perfectly good idea to me. Trail scars are cool imo.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        The thing is, all of those people that do build overland builds are what inadvertently build the brands reputation and drive the sales of the brand.
        This has none of the capability of the Defender, this is at it’s very core a minivan, with similar capabilities, or lack thereof, you can only sell a brand on badge for so long until it’s irrelevant, see Cadillac, Lincoln. If the core products that consumers lust for are gone, leaving only status buyers left then it’s an empty shell waiting to collapse. LR is at high risk of this being high maintenance and Indian owned, no longer offering any core products that built the brands reputation.

        Jeep Wrangler buyers accept any unexpected failures as “Its a Jeep thing”, 20 year old Wrangler need trans rebuild? Cool no problem, here’s $1,800 bucks let me know when I can pick it up.
        LR Freelander owner lose a trans? Oh brother throw it in the gutter I’ll go buy a nuther.
        One of these vehicles has Cache and commands high resale for its mechanical attributes, the other is a unibody that’s essentially as useful as the car platform it’s based on.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “this is at it’s very core a minivan”

          I wouldn’t take it that far. This seems like a fine replacement for the Discovery compared to the M.C Escher thing currently wearing that badge. I’m certain it will be more capable than a minivan and will probably perform somewhere between GC Trailhawk and TRD Pro level.

          But this for a DEFENDER? I don’t know, not really my segment but it seems to miss the mark.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            A TRD pro Rav4? Sure, we can place it between a RAV4 and a GC trailhawk but we’re not setting a high bar here. Neither of those vehicles are off-road focused either. Can you even buy more than 2 inches of lift for the Grand Cherokee? Just putting tires on the GC that are large enough to not require it to be winched out of every rut is only the first of many obstacles.

            The fact they couldn’t even put decent approach angles on this “defender replacement”, as further evidenced by the ramp that required a “assist ramp” to climb speaks volumes about how far they think this can go off-road.

            As to what you stated, is this right up the line of half-arsed products I would expect from Tata? Sure, not surprising even but in the same vein as the other minivans such as the discovery. But to replace the Defender with this? Come on, spare me, who the fat freak approves this clown car.

            What the hell is a 2.0L carrying a chassis that can supposedly tow 8,000lbs going to do when you try to jack it up to put the minimal of 35” tires required to do any trail within 100 miles from me? This is an exercise in futility that answers a question no one asked.

  • avatar
    Mackey

    I was ready to DESTROY this thing as being a horrible reimagining of what the classic Defender was. And I am ALMOST still there, but at least from a subjective standpoint, I can at least confidently say that id take this over any other Land Rover model these days.

    That irrelevant politeness aside (because that’s assuming I’d ever be sadist enough to WANT a JLR product), I feel like they overdesigned this by a mile. Too much focus on Urban Chic and not enough on the design practicality that made the original so popular. It was sparing in its design elements to the point of beauty. THAT’S what made the urban citizens want one.

    This thing is a beautifully ‘designed’, but loses the charm of the original in the process. I appreciate the steel wheels- truly, but they sadly feel out of place with the rest of the busy language.

    That said- they’ll still sell a ton because, people are idiots.

  • avatar
    RHD

    It will sell, and make money for the company, at least at the outset. It’s a luxurious Jeep for those who will likely never take it off road, much less drive through 35.4″ of water.
    What will make or break this new model will be the build quality. There’s a new factory in Nitra, Slovakia that will produce these. So labor will be cheap…
    LR isn’t concerned, apparently, with how the long-term quality will affect their reputation. They are loaded with computers, and if they fail in the middle of nowhere, you can’t fix them with a Crescent wrench and a stick.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    This is worth revisiting.

    I saw the pictures and could have sworn the headline read “Discovery,” not “Defender.”

  • avatar
    Hank

    I like as a Land Rover, but not as a Defender, which has a very distinct and utilitarian heritage. Jeep has managed to carry the Wrangler forward with various advancement without losing what makes it a Jeep. LR hasn’t. This should have been, essentially, a British twist on the Wrangler. Instead we have another overly-capable (until the warranty is out) shopping cart for the suburbs.

  • avatar

    I Think it’s a decent vehicle but I agree maybe not a Defender? Tow rating is good offroad specs aren’t to horrible and LR has a history of offroad tech that makes up for some physical shortcomings. I like the interior. Inline 6 seems nice. Uni body doesn’t bother me. If I were going to make a defender I would have taken a hard look at solid rear axle or independent portals. I think the new G class might be a good example of keeping at least the rear solid. I would also have given it more clearance. But that’s about it really.

    Remember most of the world has rules preventing you from lifting a truck like we do in America (I know Australia is limited to like 1.5-2″) Plenty of people around the world go offroad with stock height vehicles. Also in the offroad world mud runs rock crawling and other trail rides on the more extreme end, seem far less popular then they were. Overlanding with near stock or slightly lifted vehicles is the new core of the offroad market. This seems like it would fit in fine with that.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Interesting to see my comment disappear…

      Regardless the tldr version is as follows. Jeep XJ is the perfect example of unibody being incapable of dealing with basic off-roading, tons of how to’s online for welding up steel plates to the unibody ‘frame’ rails running the length of the chassis to prevent the XJs from turning into a pretzel. Along with doors that won’t close or require force to get closed is exhibit A on why unibody vehicles are not up to the challenge.

      Additionally the inability to Lift is another nail in this cars coffin. That approach angle is atrocious, coupled with completely replacing this front end with a bumper not off of a hot wheels car, the owner would never be able to stuff tires large enough to keep this from high centering and getting stuck on other ruts.

      Also that ramp exhibit with the Defender is an embarrassment to the entire brand, I would be embarrassed to have a LR corporate shirt on near that. Really a “helper ramp” was required to get it on that incline? Pitiful.

      • 0 avatar

        So I owned an 86 XJ Started off as my DD in 99 by 2001 it was my trail toy once I bought my Toyota pickup. I beat that thing hard and it was 15 years old, and never had an issue with doors not opening. Even after a 3″ lift and 32″ tires it was fine. Lot’s of guys run XJ’s the issue now is most have started to rot. A lot of the welding to the floor around the rockers is because the rockers rot out. And were talking about a 35 year old design. A lot can be learned in that time.

        If your market is wrangler buyers or fullsize truck buyers I agree BOF would be better. But given the market of upscale SUV buyers with over landing pretensions it seems to be a good idea to me. Really this seems to be aimed at G class buyers with less cash, Tahoe, X5-X7, Grand Cherokee overland, Lexus GX and LX buyers etc.
        Look most of the Defenders here in NA are summer cars on the Cape and Islands they exist as expensive beach transport essentially.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          “Look most of the Defenders here in NA are summer cars on the Cape and Islands they exist as expensive beach transport essentially.”

          Doesn’t that pretense of go anywhere capability and understated attitude of the OG defender and Wagoneer make those vehicles icons to everyone rich and poor alike?

          Driving a 1991 Wagoneer =/= driving a Jeep Patriot
          Driving a 1994 Land Rover Defender =/= driving a LR discovery
          Driving a 1994 Land Rover Defender =/= driving a crossover named a Defender

          Why do I want the make believe off-roader that is focused on practicality? That doesn’t put off a wealthy vibe, quite the opposite in fact. This defender is trying too hard to live up to an image that it cannot hold up.

          There’s something to be said about a genuine vehicle that doesn’t need marketing hype to create a fan base.

          • 0 avatar
            el scotto

            Easy now, you’re getting all worked up about this. This will deliver enough 4WD capability to get down an unpaved farm lane or a tad closer to fly fishing stream. That’s all the 4WD most people want or need. Most 4wd’s aren’t won’t be driven on slick rock. Never mind the sub genre that wants to LOOK like they drive Moab/slick rock/through fender deep mud. Take a deep breath and think; waders/creel/rod or shotgun/clay pigeons/shells or just golf clubs on the weekend, place to sit briefcase, suit jacket on weekdays.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            “Easy now, you’re getting all worked up about this. This will deliver enough 4WD capability to get down an unpaved farm lane or a tad closer to fly fishing stream“

            I can get through any of these situations with my open differential 2wd Frontier. If I want to get really fancy I can take my 2wd 4Runner with the factory rear almost locker. We (The world) have driven 2wd cars down dirt farm roads and over cow pastures for the better of 120 years.

            Besides if faux off-roading with the capabilities of a Subaru are your thing, literally every other Land Rover product for sell meets this criteria.

            An off-roading brand should have at least 1 off-road capable vehicle, if nothing else as a halo vehicle, doesn’t even have to be pricy. The point is some people do need the capabilities of an actual off-road SUV and not a single product that Land Rover sells now could satisfy those needs.

            Sure if you want to sell unibody minivans to pay the bills whatever, but your core product that defines your brands identity should never ever be cheapened or stand to hurt brand perception. Land Rover just through a nuke into decades of hard earned off-road Cred brought by the defender in one swift move.

            As I said, the Wagoneer and OG Defender didn’t build their legacy and strong following by loading the vehicles with compromise.

            This whole issue could have been avoided if they didn’t try to pretend that this car was a successor.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “But given the market of upscale SUV buyers with over landing pretensions it seems to be a good idea to me.”

          That’s fine, but Land Rover already offered 6(!) different vehicles to serve that segment. 5 of which overlap in price with this to some degree. The new Defender just seems like an Evoque-ized Discovery.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    I like it….but not for $50k base and upwards of $100k.


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