Land Rover Defender review

Category: 7-seater

The Land Rover Defender is practical, comfortable and unstoppable off road

Land Rover Defender front right driving
  • Land Rover Defender front right driving
  • Land Rover Defender rear right driving
  • Stuart Milne test driving Land Rover Defender
  • Land Rover Defender 130 boot
  • Land Rover Defender interior infotainment
  • Land Rover Defender 90 right driving
  • Land Rover Defender 110 rear right static
  • Land Rover Defender 130 right driving
  • Land Rover Defender 130 front left driving
  • Land Rover Defender front off road
  • Land Rover Defender badge detail
  • Land Rover Defender alloy wheel detail
  • Land Rover Defender interior dashboard
  • Land Rover Defender interior steering wheel
  • Land Rover Defender 90 interior front seats
  • Land Rover Defender 90 interior back seats
  • Land Rover Defender front right driving
  • Land Rover Defender rear right driving
  • Stuart Milne test driving Land Rover Defender
  • Land Rover Defender 130 boot
  • Land Rover Defender interior infotainment
  • Land Rover Defender 90 right driving
  • Land Rover Defender 110 rear right static
  • Land Rover Defender 130 right driving
  • Land Rover Defender 130 front left driving
  • Land Rover Defender front off road
  • Land Rover Defender badge detail
  • Land Rover Defender alloy wheel detail
  • Land Rover Defender interior dashboard
  • Land Rover Defender interior steering wheel
  • Land Rover Defender 90 interior front seats
  • Land Rover Defender 90 interior back seats
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by
Neil Winn
Published18 January 2024

Introduction

What Car? says...

Reinventing an icon like the Land Rover Defender isn’t easy, and it's something Land Rover thought long and hard about before reviving the Defender name.

To try to keep existing Defender fans happy while attracting new SUV buyers, the British brand decided to leave no room for criticism. So this latest model is more practical, more refined and more capable off road than its illustrious predecessor.

The Defender is available in three body styles. There's the three-door Defender 90, the longer, five-door Defender 110 – which is available as a five, six or seven-seater – and the even longer Defender 130, which comes with up to eight seats.

The Defender 90 is up against other premium family SUV models, including the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3. In 110 and 130 form, it's competing with the Audi Q7, the BMW X5, the BMW X7 and the Volvo XC90. Buyers in search of serious off-road prowess might also be considering the Jeep Wrangler or the Mercedes G-Class.

Read on to find out how we rate the Land Rover Defender, and whether it can hold its own against all those rivals...

"The Defender is far more sophisticated than its long-lived forebear, promising much greater on-road comfort and usability, but without sacrificing off-road ability." – Lawrence Cheung, New Cars Editor

Overview

The Land Rover Defender is a rugged SUV that fuses fantastic off-road ability with decent on-road manners. If that's the blend of abilities you're after, it's effectively in a class of one. It's available in three body styles so you can have anything from five to eight seats. We think the 110 model in seven-seat form makes the most sense for larger families.

  • Comfortable on the road, excellent off it
  • Up to eight seats
  • Slow depreciation
  • Higher trim levels are very pricey
  • Fuel economy and CO2 emissions are poor
  • Tiny boot in 90 models
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

All diesel Land Rover Defenders use a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder engine, which is available in a choice of two power outputs. Both versions have mild-hybrid assistance to smooth out power delivery and increase efficiency.

The entry-level 246bhp D250 has plenty of low-down grunt and is all the engine you’d ever need, while the more powerful 296bhp D300 makes progress even more effortless.

You might be disappointed by its punchy price tag, but you won’t be disappointed by its punchy power delivery – the 0-62mph sprint, Land Rover says, can be cracked in around 7.0 seconds.

Petrol power starts with the P300. It’s a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit producing 296bhp for 0-60mph in 7.0 seconds. Given the Defender’s bulk, we suspect the engine has to work hard and doesn’t suit the car’s comfort-focused set-up.

There's a punchier P400 version, with a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder engine capable of a decent turn of speed. The P400 does still require more revving than the diesels in everyday driving.

The fastest Defender is the exorbitantly priced P575 V8 petrol. Its 0-62mph time varies between 90, 100 and 130 versions, but all are in the region of five seconds, putting it close to the Mercedes-AMG G63.

Land Rover Defender image
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Lastly, there's a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). It's called the P400e and uses a 2.0-litre petrol coupled with an electric motor. Together they produce 398bhp, which is good enough for 0-60mph in 5.4 seconds and an official electric-only range of 27 miles. It's pretty expensive and is only available with the 110 body.

All the 130s and the Defender 110 P400e can tow up to 3,000kg (that's a lot for a PHEV), while other Defenders tow up to 3,500kg.

Suspension and ride comfort

The longer Defender 110 has air suspension fitted as standard. With the entry-level 18in, 19in or larger 20in alloy wheels and off-road tyres fitted, it does a reasonable job of taking the sting out of bigger urban abrasions.

It's more comfortable and shudders less than the Volvo XC90 but is not a patch on the ultra-supple Audi Q7.

The Defender 90 has regular suspension as standard (air suspension is optional) and is still comfortable. Serious wrinkles in the road are dealt with well but it jiggles around more than the 110 over surface imperfections. Adding the optional air suspension helps to smooth out the ride.

The Defender is not quite up there for comfort with the most luxurious SUVs but it's the best-riding of the proper, off-road-ready SUVs. It's much smoother in town and on a motorway than the Jeep Wrangler, for example. Given its huge ability off-road, that it rides comfortably and quietly is remarkable.

You’ll notice a few low speed bumps in the range-topping P525 V8 petrol with its sportier suspension and 22in wheels, but it remains reasonably compliant.

Land Rover Defender rear right driving

Handling

The Defender isn't as unwieldy on the road as its tall body might suggest, but you can’t rush it down a winding country lane the way you can some road-focused SUVs, including the Audi Q7 and the BMW X5.

The smaller, lighter 90 feels a bit more nimble than the longer 110 and 130, but all Defenders sway around a fair bit through tighter bends and don't have a great deal of grip with the optional off-road tyres fitted, even on a dry road.

The steering is slow and doesn't give much sense of connection to the front wheels, but is light and reasonably accurate. 

What about its prowess on the rough stuff? Well, the Defender’s ability to carry on when the going gets tough is impressive and easy to make the most of.

The Terrain Response system makes it simple to set up the car for different conditions and, in its highest off-road suspension setting (if air suspension is fitted), it powers over deep ruts and climbs up muddy hills with ease. In fact, once you've got your head around the myriad controls, serious off-roading is incredibly straightforward.

The Defender 90 has a tighter turning circle and a better breakover angle (the sharpest angle it can drive over without bottoming out), which helps on challenging terrain.

Keen off-roaders will want to tick the box for the air suspension to maximise ground clearance (air-sprung models can jack themselves up by an extra 70mm to avoid scraping the underbelly).

We’d also recommend the optional locking rear differential that provides extra traction on slippery ground. With that fitted, the Defender gets close to the Wrangler for off-road ability.

Noise and vibration

Although the Defender looks like it has the aerodynamics of a brick, wind noise at motorway speeds isn't too bad. There's more gusting around the windscreen and door mirrors than you get with the Q7 and X5 (and even Land Rover’s own Range Rover Sport), but road noise is relatively subdued.

Choosing the fabric sunroof option doesn’t have a huge effect either. You’ll hear more of the rain falling onto the roof and a bit more noise when driving in a tunnel, but that’s about it. It’s not too blustery when it’s folded back, either.

None of the engines produces much noise at cruising speeds or sends disturbing vibrations through the steering wheel. In fact, even the diesels are pretty quiet – not just compared with the noisy Wrangler diesel but also some of the road-biased SUV diesels too, including the XC90.

When it comes to the petrol engines, the P400 has a fake-sounding augmented engine note pipped through the stereo, but the V8 emits a satisfying rumble which is far less intrusive than the soundtrack from a Mercedes-AMG G63.

Of particular note is the mild-hybrid technology that incorporates the start/stop system. It can restart the engine in traffic without a shudder. Every Defender has an eight-speed automatic gearbox that shifts smoothly most of the time.

"Because the optional off-road tyres leave the Defender so short on grip on the road, we’d recommend avoiding them in most cases." – Will Nightingale, Reviews Editor

Driving overview

Strengths Refined; comfortable ride; muscular and quiet engines; strong off-road capability

Weaknesses Rivals are more nimble and engaging to drive

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Driving position and dashboard

Fans of the previous Land Rover Defender will love the latest car's lofty driving position, which feels significantly higher than most of its rivals.

It’s easy to set everything up so it's comfy, with even entry-level models getting 12-way electrically adjustable seats with memory settings, heating and cooling. All other versions except XS Edition get 14-way adjustment. 

Whichever trim level you choose, the pedals, seat and steering wheel are well positioned relative to each other. There’s lots of up, down and in-and-out movement to the steering wheel, and it's electrically adjustable on all but the entry-level versions. Our only criticism of the seat is that it doesn't have much side support to stop you sliding sideways in tight corners.

The Defender’s dashboard is very much fit for purpose, with chunky buttons that you can operate while wearing gloves. All versions get clear digital instruments that you can configure to display information in a variety of ways.

The menus aren’t quite as easy to work through as they are with the similar Virtual Cockpit system in the Audi Q7 though.

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

Thanks to the Defender’s boxy proportions and high driving position – and despite its substantial exterior dimensions – it’s relatively easy to judge the outer extremities when you're threading it through car parks or along narrow lanes. 

The spare wheel mounted on the rear door (and in the longer 110 and 130, the sheer distance from the driving seat to the rear window) does make it tricky to see out of the back, though. Thankfully, all models get front and rear parking sensors plus a 360-degree camera as standard.

If you pay a bit extra, you can specify the ClearSight rear-view mirror. At the touch of a button it becomes a digital screen that shows a live camera feed from behind the car, so you can see what's there even when the boot is loaded to the roof. We think it's an essential option on the 130, even if it does take a little getting used to.

LED headlights are standard on all versions, while the XS Edition, 130 Outbound and Defender V8 get adaptive matrix LED headlights, which can be left on main beam without dazzling the drivers in front.

Stuart Milne test driving Land Rover Defender

Sat nav and infotainment

The Defender features the latest Land Rover infotainment system. The 11.4in touchscreen responds swiftly most of the time, the screen is crystal clear and the graphics look quite impressive too.

There’s also lots of functionality, including standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration.

As touchscreen systems go, it's one of the best in the class, and certainly far better than anything you get in the Jeep Wrangler. It even pips the Volvo XC90 system.

We'd still prefer the option of having a rotary controller as well as a touchscreen, like the dial in the BMW X5 and X7. They're less distracting when you're driving.

All versions come with a 10-speaker, 400-watt Meridian sound system as standard, which sounds pretty good. Audiophiles may be tempted by X trim though, as that gets an even more advanced stereo with surround sound, 700 watts and 14 speakers.

Quality

Land Rover has taken a back-to-basics approach with the Defender’s interior design – and it's worked. Certain structural elements are exposed, including the front crossbeam that functions as part of the dashboard and as a passenger grab handle.

There are loads of exposed bolt heads dotted around the interior, emphasising the Defender's utilitarian nature, and most of the surfaces you touch are covered in a rugged rubberised material.

Crucially, everything seems solidly made and bolted together tightly, yet, while many of its more road-focused rivals have plusher interior finishes, the Defender still manages to feel reassuringly expensive.

Weaknesses? Well, the dashboard buttons and electric window switches don’t operate with quite the slick precision that they do in the best German rivals.

"The exposed bolt heads may look a bit twee to some, but I think they tie in nicely with the rest of the utilitarian-look interior." – Stuart Milne, Digital Editor

Interior overview

Strengths Solid interior quality; simple control layout; loft driving position

Weaknesses Rear visibility isn’t great

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Front space

One of the benefits of designing the Land Rover Defender with boxy proportions is that it gives everyone on board lots of space in every direction.

So – as in the equally perpendicular Mercedes G-Class – it doesn’t matter if you’re broad-shouldered, long-legged or tall in the body, you’ll have all the room you need in the front.

If you've ever sat in the front of the cramped old Defender, let's just say the current one will be a refreshing change. 

For a reasonable outlay, you can replace the standard centre console between the driver and passenger seat with an occasional middle jump seat.

It means you can carry up to three people in the front, but the seat’s high, narrow base means an adult will only want to sit on it for brief journeys. For tax reasons, you can’t have the jump seat if it would turn your Defender into a nine-seater.

Rear space

Those sitting in the second row of seats in the Defender 110 will find masses of head room, and the sheer width of the Defender makes sitting three abreast pretty comfortable too.

Leg room is impressive – there’s lots of space to stretch out – although the floor is a little higher than it is in the Audi Q7 and the BMW X5 so the seats are slightly less comfortable for adults.

The 90 also has lots of head room, and while leg room isn’t as impressive as it is in the 110 or the 130, a tall adult will still have space. More of an issue is the raised floor, which means your knees are bent at an awkward angle with little under-thigh support.

Oh yes, and the lack of rear doors. Their absence makes gaining entry trickier than it is in the 110. Children won't find that a problem but adults will, and it'll make your life harder if you're fitting a child seat.

If you need to carry more than six people, you can either specify the "five plus two" seven-seater variant of the 110, which has two seats that can be pulled up from the boot floor, or opt for the even longer 130, which has eight seats (unless you choose the five-seat Outbound version).

Both the 110 and 130 are particularly useful for the school run and long journeys alike. The former offers leg room that's on a par with the BMW X7 and the Land Rover Discovery in the second and third rows.

Better still, the 130’s extra length brings even more leg room in the third row and a middle seat that, while narrow, will accommodate an adult of average height.

Land Rover Defender 130 boot

Seat folding and flexibility

The Defender 90 and five-seat versions of the Defender 110 have 40/20/40 split-folding second-row seats, but they don't slide or recline.

If you pay extra to have seven seats in the 110, the second row gains the sliding and reclining function, but the seatback switches to a less flexible 60/40 split. It's the same on the 130, although that version's third row folds in a 40/20/40 layout.

Accessing the rear seats in the Defender 90 is awkward. You have to tip the seat back manually, then push a secondary button to slide the whole seat forwards. You need to push and hold another button to move the seat back – and it doesn't remember its original position.

Boot space

The three-door Defender 90 has less boot space than many family hatchbacks. It's really high, which is fine if you're happy to stack items on top of each other, but there's not much room between the tailgate and the back seats.

The 110 has a more impressive boot, with space for seven carry-on suitcases below its load cover. While many rivals, including the Audi Q7 and the Volvo XC90, can swallow quite a few more, the Defender does show up the Jeep Wrangler for luggage capacity.

The seven-seat 110 and the eight-seat 130 lose some underfloor storage and have much less boot space when the rear-most seats are in use, but the 130’s extra length introduces a bit more capacity.

If you need to carry longer, bulkier objects, you can fold down all the rear seats and turn these larger versions into something closely resembling a small van. The resulting extended load area isn’t completely flat, but it’s flatter than the 90's, which has a big step when the rear seats are folded down.

The capacity champion is the 130 Outbound, which does without the third row of seats fitted to other 130s. As a result, it has almost twice the boot space of the 110.

Fans of the original Defender will probably love how this latest model's tailgate opens sideways, rather than lifting up. However, the arrangement does make accessing the boot tricky if you're backed up to a wall or another car.

The same problem afflicts the Mercedes G-Class, and the Defender’s door-mounted spare wheel doesn’t help, either.

"There’s no lip to heave items over, and in most versions you can press a button in the boot to drop the rear suspension, making loading even easier." – Dan Jones, Reviewer

Practicality overview

Strengths Plenty of head and leg room all round; wide range of seating layout options; the 130 can seat up to eight occupants 

Weaknesses Side-hinged tailgate can be awkward; small boot and tricky rear seat access in the 90

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

The cheapest way into a Land Rover Defender is with the 90. The Defender 90 is pricier than an entry-level Audi Q5, BMW X3 or Jeep Wrangler, but by the time you’ve upgraded any of those rivals to match its generous level of standard equipment, it evens out.

The mid-range Defender 110 makes the most sense in terms of price and size, plus if you want a seven-seater version, the price comfortably overlaps with the larger Audi Q7, the BMW X5 and the Land Rover Discovery.

It’s worth noting the seven-seat option is not available with the PHEV and V8 engines, and if you combine these units with a top trim level, you're potentially looking to pay more than BMW X7 money.

The 130’s extra space and practicality commands a significantly higher cost over the equivalent 110, partly because it comes only in a relatively high specification with the more powerful engine options.

The Defender has a massive counter to that, whichever one you choose: its exceedingly slow predicted depreciation should help keep the long-term costs respectable. PCP finance rates are competitive, so check the latest price on our New Car Deals pages.

The Defender will be more expensive to fuel than many alternatives. Our favourite engine, the D300 diesel, officially averages just over 30mpg. We saw as high as 34mpg on a gentle motorway cruise before dipping to 26mpg in stop-start traffic. The petrols will fare worse, whichever engine you choose.

Your best bet for low fuel costs is the P400e PHEV, but only if you can do most of your journeys on battery power. That's also the best bet as a company car because it's the only Defender not to attract the top benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax rate.

Equipment, options and extras

The entry-level SE trim comes well-equipped, with power-folding door mirrors, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, climate control, cruise control and heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, plus the infotainment and visibility aids.

HSE is more expensive and adds the upgraded seats, a panoramic roof and a leather steering wheel.

There's also a range of X-Dynamic models, available with their own S, SE and HSE trim levels. They cost a little more than regular trim levels and come with a contrasting black roof and grey wheels.

Strangely, our preferred X-Dynamic S version is only available with the more powerful D300 diesel option.

X trim adds darker rear lights, opening panoramic roof, heated rear seats, a head-up display and orange brake calipers.

The Defender 130 Outbound – which comes as a five-seater only – is finished with matt grey bumpers to make it look more rugged.

With that in mind, the price tags attached to HSE trim and above make them hard to recommend. If you want luxury and do not intend to go off road, we'd argue that a similar-priced, road-biased premium SUV such as the Audi Q7 or the BMW X5 make more sense.

In addition to the trim levels, buyers can choose from four design packs to further customise the look of the Defender. Some are more city-oriented and add glitzy 22in wheels.

Others are off-road-inspired, with features including a ladder, roof rack and off-road tyres. There's even a satin protective wrap for the bodywork, which stops the paintwork getting scratched.

Land Rover Defender interior infotainment

Reliability

This isn’t an area of strength for Land Rover. Indeed, the brand came a lowly 28th out of 32 manufacturers in our 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey (above Jaguar, Vauxhall, Alfa Romeo and Cupra).

The Defender itself wasn’t included in the survey, but fingers crossed it’s breaking the mould and proving considerably more dependable than its stablemates. Realistically, though, be prepared for some form of reliability issue and the need to call on its three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty.

That, by the way, isn't as long as you get with some cheaper SUVs – most notably the Kia Sorento, which comes with a class-leading seven-year warranty.

Safety and security

Euro NCAP awarded the Defender five stars (out of five) overall in its safety tests. If you look at its individual categories scores, it doesn't score as highly as the Q7 or XC90 for adult or child protection, although they were assessed a few years back in less stringent tests.

Nevertheless, the Defender is significantly safer than the Jeep Wrangler – which was awarded just one star. 

All trim levels come with active safety gizmos designed to prevent you from having an accident. They include lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring, traffic-sign recognition and automatic emergency braking (AEB), which can recognise pedestrians and cyclists.

If you upgrade to XS Edition trim, you’ll get a clear exit monitor (to warn you if you're about to swing open the door into the path of a cyclist) and rear cross-traffic alert.

X-Dynamic HSE trim gets a Driver Assist Pack that, among other things, brings adaptive cruise control. The pack is optional with the entry-level X-Dynamic SE.

"The Defender should prove cheaper to own over three years than a Jeep Wrangler or Volvo XC90, mainly because it's predicted to hold onto its value incredibly well." – Darren Moss, Deputy Digital Editor

Costs overview

Strengths Lots of standard equipment; solid residuals; plenty of options available

Weaknesses Relatively high list price; average fuel economy

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FAQs

  • The Defender is a very good car that’s easy to use, offers plenty of space and comfort, and has plenty of off-road ability.

  • The Defender is a great choice for off-roading, with its easy-to-use Terrain Response system and the option of a rear differential to maximise traction. Its relatively limited suspension travel means it's pipped by the Jeep Wrangler off road, though.

At a glance
New car deals
Save up to £5,106
Target Price from £58,310
Save up to £5,106
or from £574pm
Swipe to see used car deals
RRP price range £58,310 - £120,065
Number of trims (see all)7
Number of engines (see all)7
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol, petrol parallel phev, diesel
MPG range across all versions 101.6 - 99.5
Available doors options 3
Warranty 3 years / No mileage cap
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £1,532 / £8,678
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £3,064 / £17,355
Available colours