The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
Fans of the previous Defender will love the latest car's lofty driving position; it feels significantly higher than most of its rivals'. It’s easy to set everything up just how you want, too, especially with SE trim, which offers 12-way electric seat adjustment with memory recall. This becomes 14-way adjustment from HSE trim. The entry-level trim, called Defender, and the second-rung S trim, have a part-electric seat.
Whichever trim level you choose, there’s lots of up-and-down and in-and-out movement to the steering wheel. Our only criticism of the seat is that it doesn't have enough side support to prevent you from sliding sideways in tight corners.
The Defender’s dashboard is very much fit for purpose, too, with chunky buttons that you can operate even while wearing gloves. Go for entry-level trim and you'll get analogue instrument dials, but move up to S trim and these are swapped for 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 Audi’s similar Virtual Cockpit system, 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 car's outer extremities when threading it through car parks or down narrow country lanes.
However, the Defender's rear-door-mounted spare wheel and – in the longer 110, the sheer distance from the driving seat to the rear window – makes it tricky to see out of the back. Thankfully, all models get front and rear parking sensors plus a 360deg camera as standard.
If you pay a bit extra (or step up to SE or HSE trim), you'll get a Clear Sight rear-view mirror. At the touch of a button, this becomes a digital screen that shows a live camera feed from directly behind the car, so you can still see what's behind even when the boot is loaded to the roof. LED headlights are standard on all versions, although stepping up to HSE trim gets you adaptive Matrix LED headlights. These can be left on main beam without dazzling the drivers in front.
Sat nav and infotainment
The Defender features Land Rover’s latest infotainment system, which is a step on from what you'll find in the Discovery Sport and full-size Discovery. Its responses are swift and the 10.0in touchscreen's graphics are impressively sharp. There’s also lots of functionality, including standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone integration.
As touchscreen systems go, it's one of the best in the class, and far better than the Jeep Wrangler's or Volvo XC90's. We'd still prefer the option of a physical rotary controller, like you get in the BMW X3 and X5, because that would make the system less distracting to use while you're driving.
From SE trim up, you get an upgraded Meridian sound system, while X trim gains an even more advanced stereo, with surround sound, more power and more speakers.
Land Rover has taken a back-to-basics approach with the Defender’s interior design – and it's worked. Certain structural elements are deliberately exposed, such as the front crossbeam that functions as part of the dashboard and also as a passenger grab handle. There are loads of exposed bolt heads dotted around the interior, giving the Defender its desired utilitarian feel, and most of the surfaces you touch are covered in a rugged-feeling, rubberised material.
Crucially, everything seems solidly made and bolted together tightly, and while many of its more road-focused rivals have plusher interior finishes, the Defender still manages to feel expensive inside. 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.
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