2020 Land Rover Defender revealed and tested

Everything you need to know about the all-new Land Rover Defender which will go on sale early next year and should be equally at home on and off road...

Land Rover Defender Reader Award
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Steve Huntingford
18 Nov 2019 09:00

On sale: Early 2020 | Price from: £40,000 (est)

The word ‘iconic’ has to be one of the most overused in the English language, but the Land Rover Defender is a car that’s fully deserving of the tag, as the descendant of the original Land Rover Series I, and a model that was as popular with farmers as it was the Queen, and with the military as it was fashion-conscious celebrities.

It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that it took the brand so long to replace it. And while the car it’s come up with is designed to be much more upmarket (and civilised on the road) than its predecessor, Land Rover’s engineers are also keen to emphasise that it’s even more capable off road.

The new Land Rover Defender is one of 12 cars nominated for the 2020 What Car? Reader Award. To see all of the contenders and have your say on which is most exciting, just head over to the voting site.

Under the skin, it’s closely related to the current Discovery, Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, rather than the classic Defender, meaning no hardcore separate chassis or rigid axles. However, the suspension has been reinforced, and the new Defender has more suspension travel and ground clearance than its sister cars.

Land Rover Defender new and old

Its capability is  further boosted by permanent four-wheel drive, hill-start assist, a Terrain Response system that allows the driver to optimise the car for different conditions (or just select an automatic setting) and Land Rover’s ClearSight Ground View technology, which displays the area under the bonnet and ahead of the front wheels on a dashboard-mounted screen.

2020 Land Rover Defender design

As with the old car, you’ll be able to buy three-door and five-door versions, called the 90 and 110 respectively (although these numbers no longer correspond exactly to the distances between the front and rear axles in inches). And there are lots of design nods to the classic Defender, including very short front and rear overhangs, squared-off wheelarches and so-called Alpine light windows set into the roof.

Those details sit alongside modern touches such as full LED lights and a square, body-coloured panel in the rear side glass (optional on the 90 and standard on the 110). In addition, buyers will be able to 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).

2020 Land Rover Defender 110 rear

In addition, there will be a host of unusual personalisation options – everything from an electric winch and painted steel wheels to a rooftop tent and a removable body wrap that protects the metallic paint when you’re off-roading and gives the car a distinctive satin finish.

2020 Land Rover Defender interior

Inside, you’ll find exposed metal on the doors and a dashboard that’s more minimalist than those of other Land Rovers. However, while this would be disappointing in a Range Rover (or even a Discovery), it feels right here.

It helps that you still get all the mod cons, including a 10.0in touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, plus digital instruments that can show a wide range of information. Thoughtful touches include USB sockets on the front seatbacks, specifically positioned to allow those in the second row to charge devices while using the optional tablet holders.

2020 Land Rover Defender dashboard

Another notable feature is the dashboard-mounted gear selector (all new Defenders use an eight-speed automatic gearbox), which leaves room for an optional central front seat that allows the 90 model to seat up to six people. The 110 is available in five, six and seven-seat configurations, with the latter swapping the central front seat for two that fold up from beneath the boot floor.

Unusually for a modern SUV, the spare wheel (when specified) is mounted on the tailgate, which has to be side-hinged as a result and therefore can’t be opened if you back the car into a tight parking space or up against a wall.

2020 Land Rover Defender on the move

We won’t get to drive the Defender until later this year. However, we have had a passenger ride in a late prototype, on a test track that featured one pothole and bump after another, and here the ride was certainly impressive. The suspension is brilliant at taking the sting out of bigger impacts, yet taut enough to keep the car feeling composed at higher speeds and through quick changes of direction.

2020 Land Rover Defender 90 front

Initially, buyers will be able to choose from 296bhp four-cylinder and 396bhp six-cylinder petrol engines (badged P300 and P400 respectively), as well as 197bhp and 237bhp four-cylinder diesels (D200 and D240), which both average 37.2mpg and emit 199g/km of CO2. Those figures are comparable with the Discovery’s but fall short of most other rivals’.

The five-door 110 model will go on sale first, priced from £45,240, with the three-door 90 following shortly afterwards and likely to start at about £40,000. There will also be two Commercial models, costing from around £35,000 plus VAT, while a plug-in hybrid will join the range by next year, and a larger 130 model is being developed for launch in 2022.

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Read more: used Land Rover Defender buying guide


Audi Q7

2020 Audi Q7 front
  • Target Price from £48,732
  • What Car? rating 5 stars
  • Pick of the range 45 TDI Sport

Quiet, comfy and plusher than the Defender inside, the Q7 is the benchmark luxury SUV if you rarely (if ever) venture off-road.

Read our full Audi Q7 review or see how much we could save you on a new Q7

Jeep Wrangler

Jeep Wrangler off road
  • Target Price from £39,955
  • What Car? rating 2 stars
  • Pick of the range 2.0 GME Sport 4dr

Sets the standard for off-road ability but, unlike Defender, it’s a strict five-seater. Its one-star Euro NCAP safety rating is very disappointing.

Mercedes G-Class off road
  • Target Price from £94,500
  • What Car? rating 3 stars
  • Pick of the range G350 AMG Line

Similar in concept to Defender, in that it’s much better on road than its predecessor and still hugely capable off it. A pricey, choice, though.

Read our full Mercedes G-Class review or see how much we could save you on a new G-Class

Best and worst luxury SUVs

Are you looking for a prestige SUV, but more interested in luxury than off-road ability? Below we count down the top 10 cars you should be considering – and reveal the models to avoid.

10. Range Rover

Range Rover

The Range Rover is one of the great motoring icons and every bit as compelling a proposition today as it was when it was first introduced more than 40 years ago. Superbly comfortable and refined, it also offers prodigious off-road ability.

The interior is the epitome of luxury, with Oxford leather seats standard on all versions. It has a large digital dashboard that can be switched between three pre-set themes, including putting the sat-nav map directly in front of the driver’s eyes.

Our pick: 3.0 SDV6 Vogue SE

Read our full Range Rover reviewfind a great Range Rover deal or see our Range Rover leasing offers

9. Range Rover Velar

Range Rover Velar D180

With prices starting around £45,000, the Velar bridges the gap between the cheapest Range Rover, the Evoque and the seven-seat Range Rover Sport. It’s the most road-biased Range Rover ever, even though it’s still incredibly capable on the rough stuff thanks to standard fit four-wheel drive and a raft of clever tech.

Although Land Rover isn’t outright stingy with the Velar’s equipment, you have to step up from the base model to S trim to get sat-nav, a punchier stereo, a rear-view camera and leather rather than cloth seats.

Our pick: 300 diesel S

Read our full Range Rover Velar reviewfind a great Velar deal or see our Velar leasing offer

8. Range Rover Sport

2018 Range Rover Sport cornering

The Sport is based on the full-sized Range Rover, so it’s no surprise that it’s a fantastic car for covering long distances, with a smooth engine and a relaxed ride.

The luxurious and generously equipped interior looks and feels classy, and there's the option of seven seats. The Range Rover Sport is pricier to buy and own than rivals, so we’d stick with the cheapest HSE trim, which still provides all the creature comforts you’re likely to need.

Our pick: 3.0 SDV6 HSE

Read our full Range Rover Sport reviewfind a great Range Rover Sport deal or see our Range Rover Sport leasing offers

Next: the best and worst luxury SUVs continued >

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