Used Land Rover Defender 1990 - 2016 review

What is it like?

(1990 - 2016)
Land Rover Defender (90 - 16)
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What's the used Land Rover Defender 4x4 like?

The Land Rover Defender is a favourite among farmers and other countryside dwellers. Okay, so its road manners leave a lot to be desired, and, despite a number of updates designed to add a bit of marketing sparkle and keep it relatively fresh, its styling hasn’t changed much since it was first launched in 1990. Indeed it hasn't much changed since that original concept was unveiled in 1948. It is, however, a very capable off-roader.

Production ended in January 2016, and the all-new, all-singing and dancing, and distinctly upmarket model was launched in 2019. However, numerous variants of this older version were built during the car's life; the range encompasses three wheelbases and 14 body styles.

Don’t expect much in the way of luxury. The dashboard is utilitarian, despite featuring buttons and switches from the larger Discovery SUV, and the driving position is so cramped that you’ll be forced to lower the window if you want somewhere to put your elbow.

Still, it's not all bad news, because there's enough space for a couple of adults in the back, as long as you go for one of the larger, 110 models.

Engine options are mostly confined to gutsy diesels, and although they are loud and unrefined, they do provide the Defender with enough go to get up to speed briskly. Later versions had Euro-5 compliant versions. The Defender is far more at home in the countryside than it is on the open road, though, because the ride is fidgety and unsettled at speed, and to the uninitiated it can feel unpredictable and nervous. 

The compelling figures that make it stand out are its off-road ones, though.  This is a car that will tackle a 45deg slope going forwards or backwards. It will wade through water half a metre deep without modification and traverse a 35deg hill. Its approach and departure angles are each an astounding 47deg. 

These extraordinary stats combine with its huge ground clearance and compact wheelbase to give rock-hopping qualities most alleged off-roaders simply couldn’t imagine. Low range, unswitchable traction control (optional with ABS) and differential locks complete the picture.

Don’t take those on-road criticisms to mean that you shouldn’t buy a Land Rover Defender. Just bear in mind that this is a car for going off-road; a car for farms, jungles and deserts. Next to modern 4x4s it might look outdated, but very few vehicles can match its sheer talent for going anywhere and everywhere. Above all, it's an icon, and a British one at that. 

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Land Rover Defender (90 - 16)
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