By on May 25, 2021

2020 Land Rover Defender

2020 Land Rover Defender 110 SE Fast Facts

3.0-liter mild-hybrid turbocharged inline six-cylinder (395 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm; 406 lb-ft @ 2,000-5,000 rpm)

Eight-speed automatic; permanent four-wheel drive

17 city / 22 highway / 19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

N/A city, N/A highway, N/A combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $62,250 (U.S) / $65,500 (Canada)

As Tested: $72,180 (U.S.) / $90,336 (Canada)

Prices include $1,350 destination charge in the United States and $2,395 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared. Canadian fuel-economy numbers were unavailable at press time.

Like many folks, I was excited to hear that Land Rover was resurrecting the Defender nameplate. I grew up admiring the boxy go-anywhere Defenders of days gone by, and I was hoping Jaguar Land Rover could recreate that magic.

Imagine my consternation when instead the brand came up with an SUV that seemed to be quite the departure from the old-school Defender. Still, after seeing it up close at auto shows, I became cautiously optimistic about this modern-day interpretation of the Defender. After driving it, I came away mostly impressed – but the usual British reliability issues complicated things.

Let’s start with the oddest part of this Brit – its looks. While the idea of an odd-looking Brit is nothing new, this one is a strange beast, with slab-sided blockiness meeting curved fenders and a two-tone paint job. In pictures, it looks gawky as hell, in person, it actually looks pretty cool.

I think it helped that the available exterior lockboxes weren’t optioned on this test unit. While I don’t doubt those boxes provide utility while tramping around the boondocks, the trucklet looks cleaner without them.

2020 Land Rover Defender

The interior is also an odd mix of lines, with the occasional angle or curve thrown in, and the audio/climate controls are a bit of a mess of buttons. It’s not pretty, but it doesn’t take long to figure out where key controls are located. Functionality is acceptable.

I expected the Defender to be just dandy off-road, but the nearest off-road park was closed. I did subject it to some very light off-pavement driving at a relative’s farm and the Defender seemed right at home, but the terrain wouldn’t challenge most off-road vehicles, so I didn’t learn a heck of a lot. Hopefully, I’ll get another go at the boondocks in a Defender down the road.

A family member did pile up some rocks for a “rock crawl” for photos, and the available rock-crawl drive mode got to work, but again, the challenge was akin to an NFL lineman lifting a pair of brake rotors: No sweat. Still, I can say the electronic trickery does its job.

2020 Land Rover Defender

I also navigated some gravel farm roads and delighted in the Defender’s ability to go tail out, especially in the sand/gravel off-road drive mode.

On-road, though, was a revelation. No one expects a brick-like SUV to handle well, but the Defender was more fun on curvy roads than I’d have guessed it would be, and more competent, too. Long freeway jaunts were quite comfortable, with the off-road mission not compromising on-road ride at all. The average Defender buyer is going to be trawling Redondo Beach and not the Rubicon, and the vehicle is well-suited to suburbia.

2020 Land Rover Defender

Credit the fully-independent suspension, I suppose. My test unit had an air suspension that allowed for ride-height adjustment.

The 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine is part of a mild-hybrid setup, one that’s so seamless I actually forgot it was electrified. With 395 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, there’s grunt a plenty for passing, merging, and presumably for off-roading.

I have to admit, I was starting to jive pretty well with this Land Rover. I could see it being my ride of choice if I made lawyer or doctor money instead of blogger money. Powerful engine, communicative electric-assisted power steering, surprisingly adept handling with mostly muted body roll, composed ride, luxury amenities – I could overlook the weird design.

2020 Land Rover Defender

Then Lucas’s ghost showed up. As it is wont to do.

It started with Apple CarPlay cutting out in the middle of a phone call while I sat in a drive-thru line. OK, CarPlay gets wonky sometimes, no matter what brand of car it’s paired with. No biggie.

Shortly thereafter, though, the radio itself said “good day, sir” in its finest British accent and decided it was going on vacation. Bewildered but not exactly surprised, I soldiered on. About 30 minutes later, the audio returned as if nothing had happened. Like your significant other the day after an argument, trying to put it behind them.

CarPlay came back, too, and the audio system never misbehaved again.

2020 Land Rover Defender

That was issue number one. Issue number two involved the driver’s side rear door – it seemed misaligned and needed a right proper shove to close.

Some things just don’t change, I suppose.

Standard features include terrain-response drive modes, hill-descent control, adaptive dynamics, 20-inch wheels, air suspension, fog lamps, navigation, LED headlights, leather seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and starting, Bluetooth, USB, premium audio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, blind-spot assist, roll stability control, lane-keep assist, driver-condition monitor, traffic-sign recognition, adaptive speed limiter, rear-traffic monitor, and clear-exit monitor.

2020 Land Rover Defender

Available features include adaptive cruise control with stop and go, heated steering wheel, an off-road package with more-advanced terrain response modes, a separate off-road package with off-road tires, electronic active differential, and a plug socket; panoramic sunroof, two-tone roof, Pangea green paint, tow hitch receiver, heated front seats, and satellite radio.

Overall, the Defender makes for a solid package for the well-heeled buyer – and on paper, it should perform just fine in the backwoods in addition to the suburbs. It’s not just an urban dilettante with off-road pretensions or an off-roader that demands on-road sacrifice. It can apparently do both well – certainly, it was enjoyable in around-town driving. Despite feeling a bit big and more than a bit thirsty.

2020 Land Rover Defender

But those paying over $80 large will find build-quality issues unacceptable, and the time is long past for JLR to try to pass these issues off as charming British quirks. “Oddball Brit with reliability issues” may work well when casting Hugh Grant in a movie, but not so much for a luxury vehicle that has serious off-road abilities.

I’m still excited by this new Defender and its charms, but odd styling and reliability concerns helped keep like from turning into love.

What’s New for 2020

The 2020 Land Rover is all-new, offered in two-door (90) and four-door (110) body styles, and with four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines.

Who Should Buy the 2020 Land Rover Defender 110

The Land-Rover-loving lawyer who might actually go off-road. Maybe. If he can find the just-right pair of hiking boots. And if the vehicle isn’t in the shop.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/Dietrich Rosenwinkel/TTAC]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

33 Comments on “2020 Land Rover Defender 110 SE Review – Charm Overcomes British Quirks...”


  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    So, to be clear, lawyers who learned to drive in a Range Rover where the driver’s door couldn’t be opened from the outside, the rear hatch would randomly pop open at highway speeds, the transmission would occasionally refuse to shift out of first gear in traffic, and the engine would overheat whenever the car went up a moderately long incline should keep looking?

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Are you me? One of my learn-to-drive vehicles was a very-early-production Land Rover Discovery (Euro spec) with a carburetor, constant electrical issues, and a mooshed third-gear synchro.

      In entirely unrelated news, I’ve never owned a Land Rover product.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s the whole point, or I would say “charm”, of owning British car. If it was like Toyota I would be bored.

      • 0 avatar
        redapple

        My reward for making big time money on 2006 was to buy a new LR 3.
        POS
        In the shop 3 times in the first year.

        If i want abuse, i ll buy a Cadillac.

        NEVER
        AGAIN
        Either of them.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Well, now we know where the new Bronco got it’s “look”, not that there’s anything wrong with that, Ford has always been a master at capturing the essence of a British look. I’ll take the Bronco and pocket the $20K difference

  • avatar
    ajla

    It’s fine but don’t sell a hoagie and tell me it’s a cheeseburger.

  • avatar
    jmo

    “reliability concerns helped keep like from turning into love.”

    I liked Doug DeMuro’s take on his Defender. Something like, “Meh, just get the extended warranty and don’t worry about it.” A quick googling has the extended warranty cost of an MDX at $1200/year and the Defender at $1400/year.

    Is there a site that lists extended warranty costs? I figure that would be the best way to gage how reliable (or not) a car actually is.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “just get the extended warranty and don’t worry about it.”

      If you’re a man of leisure like DeMuro then this is fine advice. For many others, your new vehicle breaking can cause frustrating levels of inconvenience even if the cost is $0.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      1200 dollars is noise at this level, hell it’s noise at Honda by now, but warranties only address reliability issues if you treat your time as worthless.

      Which, if I had the obligations of a trust funded YouTube hobbyist, I most assuredly would.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Per jmo’s comment it is $1200 *per year*. Googling around the total price on the ext. warranty seems to be about $6,000.

        My feeling on luxury car ext. warranties is to just lease it instead. But that still doesn’t solve breakdown time commitments.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Why would you need an extended warranty on a brand new vehicle that, in all likelihood, is going to be leased?

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Because you wanted to buy it not lease it. Nothing wrong with that.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Didn’t say there was anything wrong with buying versus leasing, but a) leasing does tend to make sense for luxury car purchases (the monthly payment on a $90,000 vehicle would be absolutely astronomical), and b) if I had a list of cars to buy versus lease, any JLR product would be right at the bottom.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “A quick googling has the extended warranty cost of an MDX at $1200/year and the Defender at $1400/year.”

      I’m surprised at that.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        The B&B would say Land Rovers are in the shop at least half the time and no Honda has ever broken down ever (and if it did it was the fault of the owner). If you look at various sources you’ll find that the reliability gap isn’t nearly that big. That becomes pretty apparent when you start pricing third party extended warranties.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “The reliability difference between a GX460 and Defender is statistically insignificant” is not the same argument as “If you buy a Defender then check out this extended warranty”. For which are you advocating?

          “If you look at various sources”
          Such as?

          “That becomes pretty apparent when you start pricing third party extended warranties.”
          You’re just using Google and documenting what the (sponsored?) link tells you. Hardly airtight analysis.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            What I’m saying is check out the cost as an indicator of the expected reliability of the vehicle. I think you’ll be surprised how modest the gap is between an GX460 and a Land Rover. The GX460 is going to be lower, sure. But it’s not going to be that much lower.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          JD Power thinks a generic Land Rover is about three times as likely to experience problems early in life as a generic Lexus. Given that this particular Land Rover is a brand-new first-year vehicle, and this particular Lexus is older than dirt and has an impressive reputation for reliability even within the Lexus lineup, I suspect the difference between these two models is even bigger.

    • 0 avatar
      Crosley

      $4,200 for a warranty for 3 years outside the original one isn’t exactly nothing. That’s like going in knowing it needs to have an engine replaced and wondering why that might concern someone.

      I’d love to see the terms and conditions on that also (is that a Land Rover factory warranty or some aftermarket junk warranty that no shop will honor?) I bet a lot of things like the very elaborate air suspension aren’t covered as they are considered a “wear” item.

      Also, time is valuable even if repairs are covered. I know someone that just bought a brand new Range Rover for over $110k. Within the first week it had an issue and the Land Rover dealership couldn’t fix it and offered to sell him a different one. He said he wanted a refund, didn’t want the hassle of the brand.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    I spent a few days in the Hamptons two weeks ago, and I can report the Defender had a very strong showing. I must have seen anywhere between six and ten. Didn’t pay attention to their drivers, but if a car can make quick inroads with that crowd…. it’ll do well indeed.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Oh, please, people who spend $10 million for a weekend cottage don’t care about the reliability of their weekend go to clambake runabout. It just needs to have the right label

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I’ve seen a number of these recently in the NYC area as well. Usually driven by long time Land Rover aficionados or folks who didn’t mind springing the extra cash over the Wrangler Unlimited.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Gawd. Memories of Car and Driver’s review of the Stirling. The car was poised, quick, comfortable, ran well, had all the necessary amenities . . . . . . . and then in the middle of the road test the electrics completely cut out, for about three seconds. Totally. As the testers coasted the car towards the curb, the electrics came back on like nothing had ever happened. And ran just fine until the car was returned.

    I’m convinced that Triumph Motorcycles is the only British firm has done away with the nightmare of ‘British electrics’. And did so from Day One, by showing Lucas the door the day they were taking presentations from suppliers wanting to be subcontractors back in 1990. The Lucas rep was told flat out, “there’s no way we can afford to put your components on our bikes.” and was politely escorted out of the lobby. (Heard this story from one of the Hinckley people who was there, at a Daytona RAT party about twenty years ago.)

  • avatar
    Crosley

    Its gorgeous, I’m sure they will sell a boatload of them. It will also be a piece of junk that you have to take to the dealership 12 times for unscheduled repairs.

    And customers (almost exclusively women) will line up to do it again because soccer moms will think it makes them look sexy.

  • avatar
    theonlydt

    Pretty certain I pointed you out (well, the car you were driving) to my partner when it went past me in Halifax. Same colour, trim, and on an out of province/country plate. I don’t remember my exact words, but I lamented what the Defender had become. Selling out the entire brand to high income, flashy, urban types. The old series III with a v8 was 90ish horsepower. The defender v8s for export (3.5) were 135ish? It was never about power or big wheels. It was rugged, simple, usable. Just a brit, in Canada, eyeing the extortionate cost of importing a 15+ year old Landie as the prices in the UK have jumped and getting one prepped for import is costly.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Charm + Quirks = Unreliable

    It’s 2021. Enough with the excuses.

  • avatar
    legacygt

    Land Rover made a mint in the 90s selling brush guards to suburbanites and they’re looking to clean up here with other ways to bolt $thousands in extras onto the outside of the vehicle for all the world to see. I drove next to one yesterday that had the panier thing (big enough to fit a pair of shoes) on one side and a fold up ladder on the other. You could put your muddy boots in a plastic bag and get a collapsible rubbermaid step stool and thrown both in the trunk. Save a hundreds and avoid the mileage/wind noise penalties of those exterior accessories. But then nobody would look at you as the guy who accessorizes his Land Rover so I guess that explains it.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Drew8MR: My Evo VIII only made 215 whp (Mustang dyno) brand new, and no one ever complained it was slow. People are...
  • namesakeone: Why am I thinking this is the 1980s…? “The Bolt! The Bolt! The Bolt is on fire! “We...
  • Dave M.: One of the reasons I love my Outback, matter of fact. It’s a beast in our torrential downpours. And the AWD...
  • Drew8MR: Too much work. But I’ll bet the dealer would trade you in a heartbeat.
  • zipper69: Rather surprised that some enterprising Chinese manufacturer hasn’t created a variable convertor plug...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber