This is definitely not your parents’ or grandparents’ Defender. This is a huge, radical departure from the quirky, drafty, creaky, analog truck that the Defender was as recently as 2016. That rig was timeless in the sense that it felt as though it could have been built in 1975 or 1995, and, I suppose, 2015, though it was sorta impossible to tell. It was part of the Defender’s charm. It clanked when you shut the door, the windshield wipers didn’t do anything, it was enormous but hilariously cramped inside, driving it was an absolute chore. But you knew that if the zombie apocalypse ever did arrive, you’d want to be driving away from it in a Defender.
The 2020 Defender appears to have been designed to make you forget all about the rolling ammo can that was the previous generation. Gone is the body-on-frame construction. Say goodbye to the solid axles. In their places, a unibody aluminum frame, independent suspension, and boatloads more comfort and refinement.
Like the beloved previous generation, the Defender comes in two body styles. The Defender 90 is a two-door, and the 110 is a four-door, though those numbers no longer refer to the wheelbase lengths as they did in the past. Full-time four-wheel-drive remains in the new generation, as do locking center and rear differentials. Ground clearance is normally 8.5 inches (roughly the same as a Subaru Outback) but it can be raised to a max suspension height of 11.5 inches when needed. Wading depth is a very impressive three feet when raised to max off-road height. Even more impressive, the Defender has a max approach angle of 38 degrees, a departure angle of 40 degrees, and a breakover angle of 28 degrees for the 110, and 31 degrees for the 90 model. This sucker will climb and descend over some nasty terrain.
Very much unlike the old Defender, the new generation is loaded with computerized off-roading controls with settings for every possible terrain and weather you could run into. Software can be updated wirelessly from Land Rover HQ. This is wild for a Defender. The electronics for the previous generation were limited to, hmm, there was a radio, I guess.
As for power, there are, for now, two engine choices. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a turbo producing 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, or a six-cylinder hybrid, with 395 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. Both motors reportedly return roughly 25 mpg, very impressive for SUVs that weigh more than two tons. Land Rover says a diesel (which appear to already be on offer in Europe) and a plug-in hybrid will be coming to US markets soon.
Because you can’t release an off-road vehicle these days without a bunch of adventure packages, the Defender comes with four. The, um, Adventure package includes a portable rinse system and an onboard air compressor, which is pretty cool. The Explorer package comes with a raised air intake, gear carriers for the side of the rig, and a fancy roof rack. The Country package gets you the same portable rinse kit and a cargo partition so you can throw all the muddy animals you want back there. Finally, the Urban package comes with, well, metal pedals, primarily.
Overlanding? Well, sure. That’s the whole point of the Defender after all. The floors are rubberized, the roof will hold an astonishing 370 pounds (roof tents are optional with purchase), gear racks on the top and sides will store all sorts of add-on goodies, and you needn’t worry about getting to any destination you could possibly want to visit.
The looks of this new one will be polarizing. No matter what Land Rover did, they would be. The squarish shape and beefy, capable look remain, though there is a vaguely mid-2000s Toyota FJ Cruiser appearance to the new model, which makes one wonder if they’ll age as gracefully as the workhorse angular design of the old Defender.
The price is surprising. The full-range hasn’t quite been released yet, but the four-door 110 base price is only $49,900. That’s not at all cheap of course, but a good $20,000 less than most probably expected. The highest-end trim with the six-cylinder appears to have an MSRP of $80,900, making it cheaper than a Toyota Land Cruiser, probably its chief competition until Toyota axes their giant luxury off-roader.
We’ll update this as we learn more about the new rig.