Land Rover Defender review

Category: Luxury SUV

Section: Costs & verdict

Star rating
Land Rover Defender 2020 RHD boot open
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Costs & verdict

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

The Defender’s starting price matches similarly focused off-roaders such as the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota Land Cruiser, while undercutting more road-focused luxury SUVs such as the larger Land Rover Discovery and Audi Q7. However, if you tick the options boxes for our favoured SE trim level, a few choice options and what we suspect will be the best engine (the D240) and, you’ll be looking at a rather expensive SUV that overlaps the seven-seat Discovery price-wise. 

If you prefer to buy your car via PCP finance, rates are fairly competitive. However, you might be surprised to learn that a similarly specced Discovery works out cheaper in terms of monthly payments. 

The Defender will also prove more expensive to run than many alternatives. Even the entry-level 2.0-litre diesel officially emits at least 234g/km of CO2, and fuel economy is far from impressive. After a day of mixed driving, our D240 test car recorded fuel consumption in the mid-20s mpg. In comparison, we’d expect an Audi Q7 45 TDI to manage a figure in the low 30s.

Equipment, options and extras

Land Rover Defender 2020 RHD boot open

All Defenders come reasonably well equipped, but we’d recommend jumping straight to SE trim if you can. This gives you essentials such as 12-way heated, electric memory front seats, front fog lights, keyless entry, and heated, electric, power fold door mirrors with approach lights and an auto-dimming feature. You also get Land Rover’s brilliant ClearSight camera-based rear-view mirror, as well as luxuries such as Premium LED headlights with signature DRL (this apes the look of the original Defender’s round lights), and a punchy Meridian hi-fi system.

The range topping HSE trim makes less sense as it’s quite a bit more expensive and the only noticeable additions it brings are a heated steering wheel, a sliding panoramic roof, uprated LED lights and fancier alloy wheels. There are also two limited-run models – the First Edition and the X. Both come with massive equipment lists, the X even having a 3.0-litre petrol mild-hybrid engine with 396bhp, but both are simply too expensive to recommend. 

In addition to the trim levels, buyers can also choose from four design packs: Country (which gives the car a classic Defender look), Urban (which adds glitzy details such as 22in wheels), Adventure (with additional underbody protection and side-mounted storage boxes for your gear) and Explorer (featuring a roof ladder, roof rack and anti-glare bonnet). 

If you’re really into your off-roading, you can choose trick additions such as factory fitted off-road tyres and a more configurable Terrain Response 2 system that lets you fine-tune individual vehicle settings to perfectly suit the conditions. This includes a handy Wade programme for fording deep water with complete confidence. You might also want to consider getting your car wrapped with a factory fit Satin Protective film. It’s not cheap, but it will protect your paint from scratches when off-roading and can be removed at the end of your ownership, the idea being that doing so is cheaper than a respray.

Reliability

This isn’t usually an area of strength for Land Rover. Indeed, the brand finished rock bottom (out of 31 manufacturers) in the 2019 What Car? Reliability Survey

Fingers crossed, then, that this latest model will prove considerably more dependable than its brethren, and buyers won’t have to call on its three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty too often.

Safety and security

The Defender has yet to be safety tested by Euro NCAP, but the Discovery on which it is based scored a full five stars, which is reassuring. All trim levels come with lane-keeping assistance, a driver assistance monitoring system, traffic sign recognition (the speed limit of the road you’re driving down is displayed on the dashboard) as well as an automatic emergency braking (AEB) system that will automatically hit the brakes if it senses that a collision is imminent – it can even recognise pedestrians and cyclists. 

Upgrade to SE trim and you also get a blind spot monitoring system, a clear exit monitor and rear cross-traffic alert; the latter warning you of approaching vehicles when you’re backing out onto a road. Meanwhile, range-topping HSE trim gets a dedicated Driver Assist Pack that includes Adaptive Cruise Control and Rear Pre-Collision Monitor, which alerts following drivers who are failing to slow down by automatically flashing the car’s hazard warning lights. 

Second row seats have Isofix mounting points, but only First Edition and X models get Isofix on the front passenger seat. 

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Land Rover Defender 2020 RHD front tracking
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Overview

The Defender is far from cheap, but if you want a rugged, five-seat SUV that fuses amazing off-road ability with accomplished road manners, it's effectively in a class of one: no small feat. Perhaps this really is the rebirth of an icon.

  • Exceptional off road
  • Accomplished on-road driving manners
  • Plenty of interior space
  • High list price after options
  • Fuel economy and CO2 emissions are poor
  • Gearbox is a little dim-witted